The Bulwark of Patience

From The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 24 (ca. 600) 

The light of dawn comes before the sun, and meekness is the precursor of all humility. So let us listen to the order in which Christ, our Light, places these virtues. He says, “Learn from me because I am meek and humble of heart.” Therefore, before gazing at the sun of humility, we must let the light of meekness flow over us. If we do, we will then be able to look steadily at the sun. The true order of these virtues teaches us that we are totally unable to turn our eyes to the sun before we have first become accustomed to the light. 

Meekness is a mind consistent amid honor and dishonor. Meekness prays quietly and sincerely for a neighbor, however troublesome he may be. Meekness is a rock looking out over the sea of anger which 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.” And it is meekness that earns pardon for our sins, gives confidence to our prayers, and makes a place for the Holy Spirit. As it stands in the prophecy of Isaiah, “To whom shall I look if not to the meek and the peaceful?” 

Meekness works alongside obedience; it guides a religious community, checks frenzy, curbs anger. It is a minister of joy, an imitation of Christ, the possession of angels, a shackle for demons, a shield against bitterness. The Lord finds rest in the hearts of the meek, while the turbulent spirit is the home of the devil, for “the meek shall inherit the earth.” 

St. John Climacus (ca. 579-649) was a Syrian monk, abbot of the Monastery of Mount Sinai. His treatise, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, is one of the great classics of Byzantine spirituality, and describes the steps by which a believer may grow in holiness, approaching deeper unity with God. His feast is on March 30. 


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