By Paul Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
—1 Corinthians 13:13
May you have the spirit of Christmas which is Faith, the joy of Christmas which is Hope and the heart of Christmas which is Love. The VIRTUS® family wishes each of you these blessings of Christmas in the truest spirit of the season. May each of these gifts come to you and those you love in abundance.
Christmas is a time of warm memories that are best evoked through the senses. The smells of freshly baked cookies, woodsy pine and balsam and sweet candy treats bring us back immediately to the place of our happiest experiences from childhood. Each of us has our own unique and special way to recreate those magical moments for ourselves and for those presently in our lives. Keeping the spirit alive through sharing our own traditions is a special way to continue the great gift that Christmas is. Christmas draws us to this place of giving deep within us and beckons us to share generously with others. The joy in our hearts is teeming over and sharing that joy comes naturally and freely. In the act of giving, we are transformed into angelic messengers of God's great gifts of Faith, Hope and Love.
Part of the miracle of giving is the great gift of peace and joy we receive through reaching out to others. The more we give, the more we receive. Of course, we aren't counting the material things here, but bounty results in many ways. What is more important are the less-tangible, but nonetheless real and lasting gifts of Faith, Hope and Love. These are the gifts that sustain us the year through and come to us in the darkest hours when we need them the most.
The many precious and valuable gifts we have received over the years cannot compare to the sentiments behind them and the spirit in which they were given. What lasts far longer than any physical gifts are the warm and generous feelings of appreciation, understanding, warmth and love that accompany them.
We see that our best virtues come forward at this time of year. "A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions" (Catechism, 1803). The material gifts we receive, no matter the size or cost, are the fruits of virtue.
Our human virtue is rooted deeply in the theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. "The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being" (CCC, 1813).
"By faith man freely commits his entire self to God" (CCC, 1814). In the spirit of Christmas, may the Faith you live be professed with joy and witnessed by others vividly in the many good deeds you do. May the gift of Faith be returned to you many times through the generous witness of others.
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit" (CCC, 1817). May the gift of Hope inspire you in all of your actions and be your inspiration throughout the year as you face the challenges of everyday life.
"Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God" (CCC, 1822). May the great gift of Love this Christmas permeate, bind and unite all of the other gifts. May Love propel you to go beyond yourself, trusting and believing in God all the while, clinging to the hope of heaven which brings peace to all.
We wish you the gift of Faith, the blessing of Hope and the peace of God's Love this Christmas. May Love rule over all of your Christmas season and remember that "No misfortune can disturb it" (St. Augustine, cf CCC, 1809).