I recently read the following passage about the practice of interior and exterior virtues.
Finding in it so many profound points, which people in our present day and age overlook; I thought it would be well worth sharing here with everyone.
The text comes from the Venerable Louis of Granda’s book, The Sinner’s Guide.
CHAPTER 44 – The Relative Importance and Values of the Virtues
When people purchase precious stones, they need to know the value of each one. In like manner, you need to know the value of each virtue to make proper choices. To help with this, I divide virtues into two groups, interior spiritual virtues and exterior sensible virtues.
I place the three theological virtues in the interior spiritual group because they focus on God. They also include the virtues that help you accomplish your duty to God, such as humility, chastity, mercy, patience, prudence, devotion, poverty of spirit, contempt of the world, denial of your will, love of the cross, mortification, and many others.
The exterior virtues, or sensible virtues, include fasting, mortification, pious reading, vocal prayer, chanting of the Psalms, pilgrimages, attending Mass, assisting at the offices of the Church, and all outward ceremonies and practices of Christian life. Though these virtues reside in the soul, they always act exteriorly.
The virtues of the first group please God more than those of the second group. We know this because Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 23-24)
However, do not conclude that the others have no value. Though not so noble as the former, they help acquire and preserve them. For example, retreat and solitude guard against innumerable sights and sounds that endanger the peace of your conscience and imperil your chastity. Fasting while in a state of grace expiates your sins, subdues the inclinations of the flesh, repels your enemy, disposes you to prayer, and preserves you from passions. Pious reading, the recitation of the Psalms, assisting at the Divine Office, and hearing sermons enlighten you and make you desire spiritual things. This, strive for the interior virtues by practicing the exterior virtues. The first group represent the health of your body and the second, the medicine to attain it.
By practicing both interior and exterior virtues, you can avoid two equally lamentable errors, one made by the Pharisees in the time of Christ and the other by non-believers today. The Pharisees were carnal, ambitious, and accustomed to the literal observance of the law, disregarded true justice and interior virtues. They concealed their corrupt and wicked hearts under a virtuous exterior. The non-believers of today, trying to avoid this error, go to the opposite extreme and have contempt for exterior practices. However the Catholic Church preserves a happy medium between both and, while maintaining the superiority of the interior virtues, recognizes the merit and advantage of the exterior.