11 December 2009

The Lord Finds Rest in the Hearts of the Meek

The words below are excerpted from “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” by Saint John Climacus. Saint John was a late sixth-century, early-to-mid-seventh-century hermit who early in his life left the world for solitude near Mount Sinai, where at the foot of that mountain he lived in a hermitage, studied the Christian virtues, the lives of the saints and lived a life of penance with mortifications. Late in his life the monks at Sinai wanted John Climacus to be their abbot to which he agreed. He did this for about four years before retiring to his hermitage. In this particular excerpt you’ll see the name of Paul the Simple. If you’re unfamiliar with him, Paul was a disciple of Saint Anthony of the desert. Paul searched for Anthony because he wanted to become a monk after he discovered that his wife was unfaithful to him. Under the tutelage of Anthony, Paul would eventually receive miraculous graces, one of which he successfully performed an exorcism on a demonic spirit that not even Saint Anthony was able to exorcise.

Meekness is the precursor of all humility, as the light of dawn comes before the sun. Listen to the Lord, our Light, with the order these virtues enter into the soul: “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of Heart” (Matthew 11:29). Thus, before gazing at the sun of humility we must let the light of meekness flow over us. The true order of these virtues teaches us that we cannot contemplate the sun until we have first become accustomed to the light.

Meekness is a consistent mind amid honor or dishonor. Meekness prays for a neighbor quietly and sincerely however troublesome he may be. Meekness is a rock looking out over the sea of anger that breaks the waves which come crashing on it and stays entirely unmoved. Meekness is the bulwark of patience, the door, indeed the mother of love, and the foundation of discernment. For it is said: “The Lord will teach His ways to the meek (Psalm 24:9). Meekness earns pardon for our sins and gives confidence to our prayers. Meekness makes a place for the Holy Spirit Who has spoken through Isaiah: “To whom shall I look if not the meek and the peaceful?” (Isaiah 66:2).

Meekness reinforces obedience, is a guide for brotherly love, curbs impulsiveness, appeases anger, is a source for joy and is the imitation of Christ. Meekness is a characteristic of the angels, it shackles demons, and is a shield against bitterness. The Lord finds rest in the hearts of the meek while the turbulent spirit is the home of the devil. According to the Gospel, the meek shall inherit the earth (cf. Matthew 5:4), indeed, rule over it; and the bad-tempered shall be carried off as a booty from their land.

The meek soul is a throne of simplicity but a wrathful mind is a creator of evil. A gentle soul will make a place for wise words since the “Lord will guide the meek in judgment” (Psalm 24:9), or rather, in discretion. The upright soul is the companion of humility while an evil one is the daughter of pride. The meek souls shall be filled with wisdom while the angry mind will cohabit with darkness and ignorance.

If you wish to draw the Lord to you, approach Him as disciples to a Master, in all simplicity, without duplicity, but openly and honestly. He wants the souls that come to Him to be simple and pure. You will never see simplicity separated from humility.

The evil man is a false prophet. He imagines that from words he can catch thoughts, and from outward appearances the truth of the heart.

I have seen good souls turn to evil by the example of evil people, and it amazed me that they could so quickly shed their natural simplicity and innocence. It is as easy for the honest to lapse as it is difficult for evildoers to change for the better. But a genuine turning away from the world for a life of obedience and silence has wonderfully healed wounds that seemed incurable.

If knowledge can cause most people to become vain, then perhaps a lack of learning contributes to humility. Paul the Simple was a shining example to us. He was the measure of blessed simplicity, and no one has ever seen or heard, or could see so much progress in so short of a time.

A simple monk is a rational and obedient animal. He lays his burden on his superior; and like the animal who never answers back to the master who yokes him, so the upright soul does not talk back to his superior. Instead he follows where he is directed to go to the utmost sacrifice for God.

“It is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom” (Matthew 19:23). It is also too hard for the foolishly wise to enter simplicity. A lapse often saves the clever man, bringing him salvation and innocence in spite of himself.

Fight to escape from your own cleverness. If you do, then you will find salvation and uprightness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.