Virtue of the Week; Enthusiasm

posted Oct 8, 2012, 8:33 AM by   [ updated Oct 10, 2012, 9:54 AM by ]
Dear Friends,

We will be celebrating the feast day of our beloved patron, St. John
of San Francisco, on Friday with Divine Liturgy in the morning,
followed by a picnic in the park.  How providential, then, that this
week is dedicated to a virtue which strengthened St. John throughout
his earthly life; indeed, he was glorified by practicing it.  The
virtue of enthusiasm means something very different to Orthodox
Christians, who are called to be saints like St. John, than it does
for folks in the world who are called to be little more than loyal

Ordinarily, enthusiasm is taken as a kind of emotional roller-coaster
ride; a souped-up, frenetic version of that foundational American
"virtue": fun.  One thinks of the "enthusiasm" of crowds at a rock
concert or a football game, the kind of nervous excitement aroused
when losing one's mind and giving one's heart to the waves of passion
stirred up by a noisy crowd. (This word only began to take on this
sense after the 17th century under the Puritans who used it to refer
to excessive religious emotions, so it is an acutely American
phenomenon).  Business and commerce thrive off the mindlessness that
arises from such "enthusiasm" for their brands and products, for it is
in such a social climate that otherwise needless (and sometimes
spiritually harmful) services and products are sold.

For the Orthodox Christian, enthusiasm is understood literally as
"entheos" or "divinely inspired, possessed by God,"  In other words, an
enthusiastic Christian soul is not one who is drowning in overwrought
emotionalism, market hype, and cultish fanaticism, but entirely sober
due to her intense awareness of the presence of God.  When we are
enthusiastic, we are even more grounded than usual in the peaceful joy
of the present moment. It is as times like this that the Holy Spirit
visits us and we are able to bear qualities that St. Paul called the
"fruits of the Holy Spirit":  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In Christ,

Seraphim Winslow