Throne Bernini Holy Spirit Dove, Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome

Courage does not consist in defeating and oppressing one’s neighbor; for this is overbearingness, which oversteps the bounds of courage. Nor again does it consist in fleeing terrified from the trials that come as a result of practicing the virtues; for this is cowardice and falls short of courage. Courage itself consists in persisting in every good work and in overcoming the passions of soul and body. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, that is, against men, as was the case with the Jews of old, where to conquer other nations was to do the work of God; it is against principalities and powers, that is, against the unseen demons (cf. Eph. 6:12). He who is victorious conquers spiritually; otherwise he is conquered by the passions. The warfare described in the Old Testament prefigures our spiritual warfare.

These two passions of overbearingness and cowardice, though they appear to be opposites, are both caused by weakness. Overbearingness pulls one upwards and is outwardly something startling and frightening, like some powerless bear, while cowardice flees like a chased dog. No one who suffers from either of these two passions puts his trust in the Lord, and therefore he cannot stand firm in battle, whether he is overbearing or cowardly. But the righteous man is as bold as a lion (cf. Prov. 28:1) in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and dominion throughout the ages. Amen.


Excerpt from the Philokalia – St. Peter of Damaskos: Book II: Twenty Four Discourses XIX “Courage”