A Jagged Contention: Virtuosos of Holiness

“Prayer and asceticism are the two powerful weapons of faith for the preservation of the life of the new man and the mortification of the old. Their neglect inevitably strengthens the yoke of sin and endangers the existence of faith, just as their use increases our strength against sin and establishes the faith we have received. But even though prayer and discipline are commanded and great promises have been given in connection with their use, there still remains a last mysterious danger. In the end, all this can be made to serve our own pious enjoyment and personal glorification. If the ability and talent necessary to become knights, orators, or artists or to gain the fame that goes with these positions is lacking, can we not perhaps become virtuosos of holiness, on whom the multitude will gape as on some acrobat? If we have traveled the path of purification, does not the sweet intoxication of virtuosity beckon us? The purifying corrective to an egoistic sanctification that is otherwise always given by a belief in justification is not present in this case. For the one who is wrapped up in himself can find a sentimental consolation for his conscience in the teaching of the cross as he applies it only to his own person. Faith is only sound when it understands that all the statements concerning God and all that has been received from God are a reality that applies just as truly to our neighbor as to us, and that it must be imparted to him.”

– Adolf Koberle, The Quest for Holiness, pgs. 194-195


How does one maintain a life of prayer and discipline without slipping into self-righteousness? Is it even possible? Is it always necessary to start a discussion on prayer and discipline with justification?

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