25 November 2019

25 November, Antonio Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

The Blessedness of the Meek

1. Charity, as St. Thomas says, is the source of all the virtues. (S. Th., 11-11, q. 157, a. 2) This includes meekness, or that quality of moderation by which a Christian ought to govern his passions, especially anger, and keep them subject to the control of reason. This virtue is opposed to pride and to vanity in that these passions, when wounded, culminate in outbursts of anger and in quests for revenge.

Meekness is not simply a form of apathy or of good-natured affability. On the contrary, it is based both on humility and on fortitude. It feels insult and ingratitude, and does not remove the suffering which accompanies them, but it demands the heroism of silence and of charitable behaviour towards those who hurt us. For this reason it is not identical with weakness, but requires spiritual fortitude because it makes a man complete master of himself. (Cf. S. Th., 11-11, q. 157, a. 4) Anger is not always sinful, as the Holy Spirit indicates. (Ps. 4:5) If it remains subject to the control of reason and of charity, indeed, it is only a reaction against evil and can exist alongside Christian meekness. It is fatal, however, to allow anger to become blind and tyrannical, for it will then betray a man into hatred and vengefulness. It will grow noisy and vulgar, give scandal to others, and leave in the soul a sense of restlessness and of vexation." (Cf. "Philothca," Bk. III, c. 9) “If the Holy Spirit may be called the peace of the soul, uncontrolled anger may be called its disturber. Nothing is more hostile than anger to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us.” (St. John Climacus, "Scala Paradisi," P. 286)

Let us resolve never to allow ourselves to be led away by immoderate anger, but to preserve at all times our peace of soul.

2. “Learn from me,” said Jesus when He proposed Himself to us as our model, “for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt. 11:30) “By your patience,” He said on another occasion, “you will win your souls.” (Luke 21:19) “Love your enemies,” He said also, “do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Mt. 5:44)

If we obey this lofty teaching, we shall have peace of soul. We shall not be easily annoyed, but shall rather regret the misdeeds and unhappiness of those who unjustly offend us. Moreover, we shall be able to persuade our fellow-men to follow the path of virtue. This is why the Psalmist says that “the meek shall possess the land, they shall delight in abounding peace.” (Ps. 36:11) “Blessed are the meek,” Jesus repeats in the Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall possess the earth.” (Mt. 5: 4)

What is meant by this promise? Tyrants, persecutors, and evil-doers have passed away and are remembered with bitterness and execration. But the Saints still hold sway over the world and dominate the minds and hearts of millions, winning universal love and veneration. We should imitate the gentleness which can give such peace and exert such influence.

3. St. John Climacus notes that there are three levels of meekness. (Scala Paradisi, pp. 296-298) The first grade, he says, consists in enduring with difficulty the injuries done to us. The second consists in enduring them without displeasure, and the third in regarding them as an honour. Those who reach the first level are to be congratulated, those who reach the second are to be applauded, but those in the third and highest category are really blessed by God. "One day," he says, "I saw three monks receiving the same insult. The first was offended but said nothing; the second was not displeased on his own account, but regretted the offence against Almighty God; the third wept for the fault of his neighbour." The first monk, the Saint comments, feared God; the second loved God; and the third loved both God and his fellow-man.

At what stage of perfection in this virtue can we claim to have arrived? If we desire to be sincere Christians, we must realise that we ought to have achieved at least the first level and should hope to advance eventually as far as the third and most perfect grade.

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