It might be Lent. It might be my continued struggles with gluttony. It might be the number of friends and former students struggling with alcoholism. Whatever the cause moderation has been much on my mind.
Prudence used to be a popular name. Other virtues, hope and charity, still retain their cachet, but being “prudent” hasn’t been popular since the first President Bush was a young man fighting World War II.
Even youth groups I visit advertise that they are “radical” for Jesus. This is a bad idea, because immoderate religion has caused at least as many problems in the world as immoderate secularism. Christianity is not revolutionary, because virtue can only come to fallen men gradually if it is to come at all.
A revolution in the name of virtue is like killing a man in order to save him. Ask the Iranians.
Christian religious immoderation can lead those of us in ministry to ignore our family duties to “love God.” We forget that we cannot love God we have not seen, if we fail to love the brother we have seen.
Moderation says: “I will have enough, but no more.” Moderation demands of the cosmos only “daily bread” and does not think every day is a feast day. Moderation says to Eros, “Don’t ruin future loving by demanding more today than you should.”
An economy based on consuming will never say: “be prudent.” It will demand the latest Apple product and spend millions mocking the saver. Advertisement is so ubiquitous that we freely wear it on our clothing as a mark of status.
Love is the greatest power in the Cosmos, but Love requires Moderation in order to last. The lover wants total passion, but Love wants the beloved to flourish and to love forever. Moderation aids Love in making this possible by her virtuous advice.
The recent Jane Eyre movie reminded me of the role of Moderation in romance. As a younger man, my natural passion wanted a Grand Romance and led me to a God-defying totality of love that was pagan and not Christian. Moderation told me to seek intimacy and to let love grow slowly and appropriately.
The lesser Eros of my sinful nature demanded an absolute commitment to some beloved, either a god, a cause, or a woman. Love wanted cosmic romance and that meant being less romantic today so that love could last forever.
The man truly in love will give up today’s feast for tomorrow. It will acknowledge Lent in order to gain Easter. The slow moderate intimacy of marriage is smaller at first, but grows weighty indeed after twenty-five years of shared pain and pleasure.
The man who drinks too much will soon not be able to drink again. The glutton, as I know too well, eventually derives more pain than pleasure from his feasting. Immoderate love soon makes toxic the very object of desire for the lover.
Moderation is no pinched prude, but a fecund Mother who loves feasting so much she councils this fast. She adores Beauty to the extent that she will urge me to turn my head from Beauty I cannot yet appropriately experience. Moderation turns a Lenten Spring into bountiful summer.