Simplicity, Virtue of

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In ordinary speech the word "simplicity" sometimes designates an undesirable characteristic, namely, an incapacity for dealing with ideas or situations of any complexity, an inadequacy that stems from either a defect of intelligence or a want of native shrewdness. In reference to the spiritual life, however, simplicity has two uses, in both of which it signifies commendable qualities. One of these is necessary to the virtuous man, and the other is of counsel. As a necessary quality, it is a disposition firmly opposed to deceit, double-dealing, hypocrisy, dissimulation, and duplicity of every kind. Jesus noted this trait in Nathaniel (Jn 1.47; for other scriptural references, see Jb 1.1; Prv 2.2122). As a counsel of perfection, simplicity signifies the indivision of heart and the singleness of purpose of those who are free from voluntary imperfection and who seek God with great purity of intention. By those who lack this quality, God is not loved perfectly, ex toto corde; the eye of the soul is not full of light (Mt 6.22); and intentions that are less worthy, even if they are not strictly opposed to the love of God, clutter the heart.

[p. k. meagher]