Kirk says the Roman concept of virtue was one of “energetic manliness.”
T.S. Elliot points us to the three main concepts of Virgil’s concept of Roman virtue: labor, pietas, fatum.
Virgil emphasized the dignity of labor. Physical, manual, even menial labor is not servile, but builds fortitude, builds virtue. Work is a necessary virtue, not a necessary evil.
He [Virgil] knew that we must find our happiness in work, or not at all. […] Action and contemplation, labor and prayer, are both essential to the life of the complete man.
For us, also, action is required. It is working the planned order that is satisfying and fulfilling, not the planning part.
By pietas, Virgil meant more than our word piety. His word encompassed “a humility before the gods, a love of one’s country, and a sense of duties that are not adequately expressed by any English word.”
- A humility before God: God directs circumstances, not us. We must accept God’s sovereignty and submit to it, not fight it or try to manipulate it with our own supposed order, our own attempts at control.
- A love of one’s country: Being a virtuous citizen and working for the common good rather than living “each for himself” is the best way to love our country, as well as our church and family.
Sense of duty: What are our own responsibilities? It is our duty to determine that and then to pursue them, to fulfill them to our utmost, not to “just barely good enough to count.” This is where I constantly fail and fall short.
Virgil deeply felt “the Roman imperial destiny […] to bring peace to the world, to maintain the cause of order and justice and freedom, to withstand barbarianism.”
Do we have any destiny? A purpose? A grand design and reason for being? The USA does not have any explicit, prophetic, anointed Fate. But the Church — corporate, universal, and individual — does have a divine mission, a destiny, a reason for being:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.