In the Christian world the Theological Virtues represent the set of values and behaviors that permits the human being to get closer to God. They are based on Christianity and characterize the morality of Christians.
In contrast to the Four Cardinal Virtues, Faith, Hope and Love refer straight to God and symbolize the Holy Trinity. They all represent the foundation of the Christian action: thanks to them, our capacities are appropriate to participate in the Divine Nature.
The Holy Trinity Mosaic, Savelli Religious
The Theological Virtues
From the Christian theology’s point of view, the Theological Virtues are inspired by the Holy Spirit, that permits the faithful to behave as Sons of God.
All the human virtues are rooted in the Theological Virtues, which have as origin, reason and object the One and Triune God. They give life to all the moral virtues and are transmitted by God in the souls of the faithful, in order to let them act as His sons and deserve Eternal Life.
Faith produces Hope and moves to Love; Hope stirs up Love and it is enhanced by Charity in the desire of a union not yet realized; in order to be authentic, it has to join charitable works.
But what is the meaning of Faith, Hope and Love?
The word Faith, from latin fides, refers to who trusts, who confides and relies on something. Faith is the Theological Virtue for which men believe in God and in His word that, according to the Christian Catholic doctrine, represents the Absolute Truth. It permits the men to completely rely on God and carry out His will. This fundamental Christian virtue presupposes spiritual opening, in order to recognize the Manifestation of God in daily life. If it is not accompanied by Hope and Love, it does not fully unite the faithful to Jesus Christ.
Hope, from latin spes, is the Theological Virtue which responds to the attainment of Eternal Happiness of human beings.
Hope is the confident waiting of a specific event that, in the case of Christian Theology, refers to the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s promises: the Kingdom of Heaven and the Eternal Life. Hope, powered by Faith, permits men to commit themselves in building the Kingdom of God and find a sense to work, find strength to face the difficulties and patience while waiting.
Love, used as a synonym of Charity, is the Theological Virtues that permits man to love God above all else and his neighbor as himself, for God’s sake. Just as God loves any creature, in the Catholic doctrine Christians are invited to love their neighbors unconditionally, especially children, poor people and enemies.
According to Saint Paul Apostle, Love is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres and it will never end because Love never fails.
Without Love, human existence does not make any sense. Love is superior to all the virtues and it is the first of the Theological Virtues.
And now these three remain:
Faith, Hope and Love;
but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13,13
Symbology of Faith, Hope and Love: the Carmague Cross
The symbols of the three Theological Virtues are represented as well by the Cross of Carmague, also known as croix gardien or Cross of the Guardians.
Faith is associated with the cross, symbol of Christianity; to Hope with the anchor, to whom man clings to in his everyday life; Charity is represented by the heart, symbol of love that elapses among Father, Son and Holy Spirit that permits men to realize the Kingdom of God in this world.
Faithful that most recognize themselves with the Theological Virtues and the Christian doctrine, not only take as model the life of the Messiah, but are even used to wear the representative symbols of Faith, Hope and Love, with a pendant or a bracelet that depict them.