The Imitative Life

Do you remember the words Jesus said after seventy of His apprentices triumphed over demons? 

“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning (Lk 10:17-24).”

Notice He didn’t say this at the Crucifixion or Resurrection, but now. It was His virtue, expanding inside of  them, that set in motion the collapse of Satan. And it was their imitative life with Him, the one they’d been working on for years, that made it possible. In the same way, we must imitate His life, we must let it all the way into ours, absorbing His eternal action and recreating it in our actual living. This principle of absorption, intrinsic in the act of imitation, is crucial. Because virtue isn’t learned like an academic discipline. We learn virtue like we learn to ride a bicycle, not by someone lecturing on balance or memorizing some formulas of forward motion. But by being given a little push, by being held as we get the pedals round, by being lifted up when we fall down—and then repeating that process over-and-over. That’s how we learn virtue, in relationship, in collaboration, or to put it in the words of our Christian ancestors, by imitation.