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excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 2: Septuagesima to Easter Eve
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
The Eucharistic readings of the day continue last week's theme of the virtues, speaking of courage or fortitude, prudence, and faith. 

Fortitude can be defined as courage in adversity for the sake of a good cause.  Being a Christian takes fortitude. Whether at work or in the marketplace of among our neighbours, we as Christians increasingly find that our principles are no longer society's principles.  The Christian wants to do what he should; society wants him to do whatever fits into the ways of the world. 

Yet, living the Christian life has always required a soldierly valour in the face of the world's antagonism.  The Church has been very clear about this.  Thus, when a child is baptized, he is signed "with the sign of the cross that he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world and the devil, and to continue Christ's soldier unto his life's end" (Book of Common Prayer, 1962 Canada, p. 528).  This virtue of Christian soldiers, begun at Holy Baptism, is then later strengthened at the child's confirmation (BCP, 1962 Canada, p. 557). 

Fortitude of courage consists in the control over fear and confidence.  It prevents both cowardice and recklessness.  It also assists us in confronting and in suffering evil.  Perhaps, however, fortitude is more clearly manifested in the latter, in the patient endurance of evil.  Thus, the most perfect form of Christian fortitude is martyrdom for the faith.  Yet Christian fortitude is more commonly displayed in those forms of suffering for the gospel, which fall short of death.  Fortitude can also be shown in the endurance of quite ordinary kinds of misfortune and pain if we learn to seek God's will in them. 

While fortitude keeps one faithful to the gospel in adversity, prudence is the proper expression of faith itself in one's daily circumstances.  Thus, prudence is the subject of today's Gospel.  Those of an honest and good heart will keep the Word and do good works so as to pass through things temporal, that they finally lose not the things eternal".  (See Collect for Trinity IV) 

Prudence is a virtue of the intellect.  Its purpose, however, is not to contemplate the revealed truth of God.  Rather, its purpose is to discover in any given situation the best means of acting virtuously, so that the promise contained in God's revelation may finally be attained.  Prudence is thus the chief of the moral virtues, in that its guidance is necessary for the proper exercise of the other virtues. 

Faith, too, is a virtue of the intellect bestowed by grace.  To have faith is to think that the revelation of God is true, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.  Our own willing decision to believe is what makes faith different not only from the kind of knowledge we have of mathematical formulas, but also from opinion. 

The object of our faith is everything which God has revealed to us' (Taylor).  That revelation is found in all its fulness in Jesus Christ.  Its inspired record is found in Holy Scripture, of which the authoritative interpretation is found in the three creeds of the Church (BCP, 1962 Canada, pp. 10, 71, and 695).  The Book of Common Prayer, being scriptural and apostolic, serves as the standard of faith for Anglicans. 

Scripture says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1).  Let us, therefore, pray God for the grace of faith, that we may believe though we have not seen (Jn 10:29), and may embrace God's promises, which are yet afar off (Heb. 11:13).