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How Virtue Happens

Origen explained why the disposition of the agent is essential to the virtuous life. It is true, he says, that “if someone is just he pursues justice.” But it does not follow that “if someone is just he pursues justice.” For one must “pursue justice justly” [LXX of Deut 16:20]. Origen explains that the adverb is essential for it is possible to pursue justice unjustly. Some persons do things that are good, giving to the poor for example, but only to be praised [or to stay in political power!]. They act out of vanity, not because they have the “disposition of justice.” Virtue required a conversion of the affections.

As Orgien’s disciple Gregory described the nature of things, “The virtues are great and lofty, and can only be attained by someone in whom God has breathed his power.”

Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, 271 (emph. added).