Fortitude – Endurance in clinging to the good

Today I listened to a talk given by a friend on the virtue of fortitude. The subject of this talk reminded me of Sandro Botticelli’s depiction of Fortitude (1470), which is in the Uffizi in Florence. While it’s displayed in a set with six other paintings of virtues, this panel is the only one in the cycle that was painted by Botticelli.

It has been suggested that Fortitude appears first in the series because her “gaze is intended to literally and figuratively watch over the other virtues as well as the viewers. Without strength, one can never fathom taking on the other six virtues.”

My friend’s talk centred on Josef Pieper’s analysis of fortitude in his book The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance. In it, he discusses how “the virtue of fortitude protects a person from loving his life in such a way that he loses it.” This means that fortitude protects a person from attachment both to disordered affections but also to certain goods that are meant to be subordinated to higher ones. Continue reading “Fortitude – Endurance in clinging to the good”

“Laish” by Aharon Appelfeld

It might seem that Aharon Appelfeld’s novels are mystical. Yet, with the enchanting characters – whose blindness, deafness, muteness, psychic unrest, vulnerabilities of age, and moral defects serve to “exaggerate purposely, to make things visible” (as a character says in a different one of his novels) – there is the splendorous reality of the human condition on full display. Continue reading ““Laish” by Aharon Appelfeld”

“Be a Jew, forever!”

On this date in 1977, Shimon Peres became the 8th Prime Minister of Israel. As Shmuel Rosner wrote in this New York Times article, “Mr. Peres began his life in Vishneva, a village on the border of modern-day Poland and Belarus. When he left for Palestine in 1934, under his original name, Shimon Persky, his grandfather told him, ‘Be a Jew, forever!’ The grandfather, along with much of his family, perished in the Holocaust.” Continue reading ““Be a Jew, forever!””

Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart?

Today, I spent a little time reflecting on Exodus 7:3 which says, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will increase My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.”

And of course I had the obvious question that people have had for millennia which is: Why would God need to harden Pharaoh’s heart since he was already obstinate? Continue reading “Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

“Do you want to be made well?”

I’ve always been struck by Jesus’ question to the man he encountered who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus finds him at the pool called Bethesda and asks him, “Do you want to be made well?” (Today’s gospel, John 5:2-18)

The strange question would seem to elicit one obvious answer – ‘Yes.’ However, this is not what the man responds.

Instead he says, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

Maybe this means what the man wanted was to have someone to help put him into the pool. Continue reading ““Do you want to be made well?””