The Cardinal Virtues; the Cardinal Sins
In Catholicism, they are faith, hope and charity -- or "love." ("And of these three, the greatest is love.")
These virtues are so central, in fact, that it has been common in the past to name little girls for them. "Hope" still remains, by this measure, but "Charity" largely relegated to Amish country. "Faith" clings by her fingernails. Was it not Faith, though, who danced with one of the big black guys at the roadhouse rocked by Otis Day and the Knights in "Animal House"? Faith whom our hero told that his girlfriend had just died, so as more likely to get her to unhook her bra? (It worked.)
And in the Russian Orthodox Church as well. The three ever-virtuous girls are "Vera," "Nadezhda" and "Lyubov." Вера, Надежда и Любовь. ("But the greatest of these is Lyubov.")
It is odd that these virtues are mere dispositions. And it follows that each obverse disposition is a great sin. They are not, truth be told, the classic, "Seven Deadly" sins, but they are great sins nonetheless.
It's easy to see why the faithless and the hateful should be excluded from Heaven. It is less obvious why those without hope should be denied entrance. Does it not make the failure to embrace hope a self-fulfilling prophesy? And are there no circumstances in the world that justify the abandonment of hope, otherwise, I mean, than the circumstance of passing through Milton's Gates of Hell themselves?
In Catholicism, sin begets guilt. So those without hope do not only bear the burden of hopelessness; they bear the burden of a deep guilt about their hopelessness as well. And, it must be said, a sort of meta-guilt -- a guilt about feeling guilty. And so on, ad infinitum, unless and until there is belief in an Eternal Life, a life sitting not exactly at the Right Hand of the Father, but in the cheap seats, the bleachers, with nothing to do but to keep on hoping, for a modest, a subtle change of scenery if for nothing else.
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