Christmas dietrich von hildebrand

To Build on Value Response

10:56:00 AMMeredith Kuzma

Last Friday I started reading The Art of Living and covered Chapter 1, Reverence. This week I will go over the second chapter, entitled Faithfulness. There can be a broad sense or a narrow sense of fidelity; in this chapter von Hildebrand focuses on the narrow sense. This includes marital fidelity, fidelity to a friend, to one's country, or to oneself.

The building up of one's personality is only possible if one holds firmly to those truths and values which one has already discovered” (p 12). The response to truth and value unfolds in man's life with a certain rhythm, as new situations arise and new impressions replace one other. Man's attention constantly shifts to new points.

Fidelity is an essential virtue because moral values demand a continual response. This response to value must be built upon, brick by brick, in order for man to possess real depth.

This rhythm is easy to see when looking at man's biological sphere, where hunger is replaced by satisfaction, fatigue replaced by rest and renewed strength. This is also true of man's spiritual life, where von Hildebrand says “a certain rhythmical change is proper to the course of our spiritual life” (p 14). But this constant rhythm and change of focus—occurring as different aspects of life catch man's attention—does not mean that man cannot hold on to some responses or impressions. Here fidelity enters to build on value response.

While we proceed to another impression and give our attention to another mental object, the preceding impression or object does not vanish, but will, according to its significance, be retained and will continue to live on a deeper level” (p 14).

Fidelity, then, works to help man retain important responses and pursue growth in those areas while carrying on with daily life. A good example of this is the love that a man has for his wife. His love remains in the depth of his soul even though he goes about his work and daily tasks.

For the secular world, Christmas is simply one day. When it's over, the decorations come down and the radio stations stop playing the music. But the Church has an entire season dedicated to Christmas. This gives the faithful the opportunity to retain the significance of Christmas and reflect.

Love, ultimately, needs faithfulness in order to survive and, indeed, to thrive. This Christmas season, we can all work on fidelity by keeping the meaning of Christ's birth in our minds.  


Von, Hildebrand Dietrich, and Hildebrand Alice. Von. The Art of Living. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 1994

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