09 December 2009

The Immaculate Virgin's Example of Meekness

“Meek among mankind” is how our Blessed Lady is described in the praises of her evening Office. Everything that Mary is comes from God and reflects God as in a mirror. And like us, she is a creature which should make her example compelling to meditate upon and deeply immerse ourselves in. Meekness is the topic of this Carthusian monk's reflection and is most appropriate for the season of Advent as well as for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception which the Church celebrated yesterday.

Virgo singularis, inter omnes mitis (Virgin all excelling, meek among mankind)… It is thus that Mary is described in the hymn we say every day (Ave Maris Stella, Vespers of Our Lady), and it is concerning her meekness that I would meditate with you for a few moments.

The Gospel tells us that the meek shall inherit the earth; but it also reminds us that the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and that the violent shall bear it away (cf. Matthew 11:12). The paradox disappears when we realize that in this spiritual warfare we must be meek towards others, but violent in the unhesitating promptitude with which we answer the call of divine love. It is exactly the opposite of what the unspiritual man does. He is brutal towards others, but interiorly without any zeal for justice or passion for truth. The violence of the spiritual man is inseparable from his meekness, which is quickly lost if he does not know how to meet with a categorical refusal the lie which hides itself in all excuses or softness towards oneself. To dismiss all interior discussion with a Yes or No, that resoluteness which our Lord recommends to us, is the very first condition that must be fulfilled if the soul is to disentangle itself and be given the marvelous grace of meekness.

This virtue which distinguished our Blessed Lady among all women, cannot but be a most necessary virtue. Note first that Mary’s meekness is, as it were, a reflection of God’s. Mary is, indeed, a pure mirror, so free from all shadow of self, that the divine Essence finds its perfection fully reflected in her humility. That is why the Immaculate Virgin can be an object of contemplation, since her purity so mirrors that of God that we see Him, Who is Pure Act in her.

For meekness is a disposition truly divine. Violence proceeds from an authority conscious of its weakness. God has no need to break us in order to impose His will; His meekness is only another name for His all-powerfulness. Mary, on the other hand, is all-obedient, and it is in her total abandonment that she comes very close to God’s omnipotence. To abandon all pretensions to self-love without a struggle; to consent quietly to all that is asked of us: it is this that makes us resemble Mary, and allows us to partake of her graciousness and power. For God refuses us nothing – provided we abandon ourselves to Him with all our heart.

Meekness towards creatures is the result of patience and of respect for them. It has been said of meekness that it is the crown of the Christian virtues: indeed almost more than a virtue. It is, indeed, a unique grace, which penetrates one’s whole being, and influences one’s whole conduct; it even extends its influence to beings lower than man, to things inanimate. A meek person does even the simplest things in a different way from those who are not meek. Wisdom is meek; so too is understanding, since one must necessarily respect an object if one is to understand it. What is more, meekness implies sympathy; it wrests their secret from beings who would withdraw into themselves in face of impulsiveness as they would from violence. Meekness is both virginal and maternal; without it the approach to souls can never be deep or effective.

We have said that meekness is the fruit of patience and of respect – of patience above all. A soul will not be meek unless it is firmly resolved repeatedly to forgo its rights, and to suffer continuously, at times cruelly. On the other hand, it is true that meekness disarms our adversaries, and robs suffering of its venom. Our suffering, for the most part, comes from revolt, from a want of adaptability and abandonment.

It is true that we must do violence to ourselves if we would cease to be violent; but in a manner more general and profound, the respect and patience which, in imitation of Mary and even of God Himself, we must acquire in our relations with others, we have need of also towards ourselves. We need much patience with our own soul, to say nothing of the body. All the natural energy in the world will not enable us to change to any appreciable degree the character, unsatisfactory as it is in general, which our nature and upbringing have provided for us (cf. Matthew 6:27). But anyone who recognizes himself frankly for what he is, who by that fact alone is freed from the temptation to criticize others, and who in spite of his self-knowledge does not omit to renew his effort every day, keeping his eyes fixed on God, persevering for God’s sake alone and counting solely on His bounty – such a one, I say, does more than grow better; he leaves and abandons himself to God, to Whom such loving humility gives more glory than all success. Each one of us must respect his soul, remembering that it comes from God and belongs lovingly to Him; welcoming the action of the Holy Spirit in it, whatever form that action may take. The soul is so delicate that only God can handle it.

Let us, then, beg our Blessed Lady something of her meekness. It is she who shields us for God, and makes us chaste in the highest sense: that is to say, free from all resistance, awaiting the coming of our Spouse.