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Pope Shenouda III
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Life of Humbleness and Meekness

Pope Shenouda III | 14 August 2011

 Some people are born from their mother’s wombs, meek by nature. They never need to exert any effort to acquire calmness; they have perhaps gained it genetically, or as a gift from God. Some others are born with a fiery nature inclined to nervousness or violence. We are not going to debate the meek by nature, by birth, or as a gift of God; rather, we will consider how to acquire, or get habituated to, meekness.

A person who attains meekness through struggling, self-control, and attempts to subdue nerves and will, shall earn a greater reward from God. 
Such a person struggles tirelessly, perhaps through manifold exercises, to control himself, his thoughts, his words, and his movements, attaining entire calmness, ridding himself of anger and irritability.
It is an acquired meekness, not one that came by nature. Consider St Moses the Black. He was irritable, quarrelsome, and hot-tempered, indeed a frightful person. But through self-control, training, patience, wise guidance, and God’s help, he became extremely gentle. He passed the test on the day of his ordination as a priest.
God required us to be meek. We can thus be sure that He has provided our nature with the ability to attain that virtue, thus obeying his commandment (Matt 11: 29).
 
Train yourself, brother, to attain calmness of voice.
Start with a low, and gentle voice, trying to avoid loudness. This will not be difficult. Then advance gradually towards a voice free of sharpness, violence, and harshness. Control your speech, and rule over the tone of your voice.
 
Proceed then to strive for calm features.
Anger shows on one’s features, in one’s look, in one’s frown, and in one’s gloomy countenance. If you have become such a person, showing such symptoms, tell yourself: my image is not good now, it might even be ugly. Try to free your features of any inner agitation.
 
...Then for calm movement.
Anger shows in one’s excited movements, especially in gestures. In the military, a soldier should stand steady, and never gesture with his hands while addressing a superior. You should also strive to control, not only your hands, but also your body. Sit or walk calmly, avoiding any appearance of irritation. Let no one see you excited.
 
Train yourself to use peaceful language. 
Do not use harsh violent language, or mock or insult others, arousing their anger. Some people do not choose their words well, using rude, ill-mannered language, far removed from sobriety and decency, and hurting others. All of which is strongly opposed to meekness. 
Try then to control your language, if you cannot, try to control your anger, and if not, at least keep silent. Say, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps 141: 3).
 
Above all, maintain the calmness and meekness of your heart.
Meekness is mainly in the heart. A meek heart is reflected in the voice, in the countenance, in the words, in the nerves, and in the movements, all of which are external manifestations of the heart’s feelings. However, through training, the heart may become steadfastly meek.
 
Meekness of the heart relates to many other virtues.
Foremost among the virtues related to meekness, is humbleness. The humble behaves meekly, and the Lord placed the two virtues on equal footing when He said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt 11: 29).
Love is also closely related to meekness, for a loving person certainly leads a life of meekness. The qualities of love are those same ones of meekness, as the apostle says, “Love suffers long and is kind...does not envy...does not behave rudely...is not provoked, thinks no evil... bears all things... endures all things.” (1Cor 13: 4-7).
Meekness is also related to gentleness, calmness, forbearance, indulgence, tolerance, winning souls, cheerfulness, and wisdom. Whoever acquires these virtues acquires meekness.
 
Meekness nurtures the work of grace in the heart.
One needs to pray for it, to respond actively to the work of grace, and to take part with the Holy Spirit as It leads us to meekness.
 
And once meekness has been acquired, care should be taken never to lose it. 
 
How can meekness be lost?
Meekness may be lost, or may never be acquired in the first place, if power, position, wealth, and all aspects of grandiosity, are abused.
Some people may consider it a prerequisite of high rank to command, to reprimand and scold, or to look down upon others. But that would be the surest way to lose both meekness and humbleness, the spirit of dominion prevailing.
In fact, high rank never was a hindrance to meekness, since many great people were able to attain both. David the prophet was the leader of the army of King Saul (1Sam 18: 5) and was yet meek. He mingled with the masses in love, “But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them” (1Sam 18: 16).
The Holy Virgin attained the highest rank among women. She knew that, “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1: 48). Yet she never lost her meekness.
 
Christ the Lord Himself, in all His glory, was meek.
 
People who abuse their high rank or position lose meekness, such as the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23), and Haman (in the book of Esther).
 
Wealth may also result in lost meekness.
A poet once said: “When my friend got rich, I was sure I had lost my friend.”
Nevertheless, History tells as of some rich meek people, such as the brothers Ibrahim and Girgis Al-Gohary, who mingled with the poor and needy, helping and supporting them.
 
Some may lose their meekness if they correct others.
They might imagine that correcting others can be only achieved through violence or severity, or that defending the truth can only be achieved through defaming or condemning people. They might insult anyone whom they believe to be at fault, inciting people against him, believing themselves to be  gathering tares, whereas they are in fact uprooting the wheat with them (Matt 13: 29). They would do better to put the words of the Lord before their eyes, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7: 5).
The problem with such people, besides losing their meekness and falling into many sins, is that they pride themselves on what they do. They may even consider themselves heroes and reformers!
This reminds me of those usually in charge of organising meetings.
Under the pretext of keeping order, they scold, shout, and drive people away, sometimes cruelly. No noise might be heard in the meeting except the noise of the organisers! Why should they not keep order quietly and without violence? They should learn from the shepherd, whose rod keeps order among the sleep by a mere touch or signal, without beating the sheep. The Psalmist thus says in the Psalm of the shepherd, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps 23: 4). 
 
Some others may lose meekness on grounds of mistaken candidness.
Through imagined candidness, a person might hurt others’ feelings. Amazingly, he might even boast, saying: “I am frank; I accuse the blind of blindness to his face!” Why brother, do you hurt and offend the blind on the pretext of a frankness void of love and decency? Could you not use any another way?
The Lord was candid with the Samaritan woman, kindly and decently, without hurting her feelings, recognising something praise-worthy in her (John 4: 17-18). He thus drew her to Faith.
Frankness may involve blame. Someone may win a brother through blame, whereas someone else may lose a brother through blame.
One poet truly said: Let blame aside, for evil may start with blame.
 
And yet others may lose meekness because of firmness.
Firmness does not necessarily equate with violence. One may be both firm and meek. One may be resolute, but may at the same time expound his reasons convincingly, gaining people’s love. A father adopts the same attitude towards his children; he is firm, with love and conviction. A supervisor may also be firm with his subordinates, yet without anger or rage, but with a prudent calm wisdom.
The Lord was firm when He stopped David the prophet from building the temple. Yet He explained the reason with love, without hurting David’s feelings.
 
Some lose meekness out of concern for their dignity.
Dignity may be a mistaken track, for real dignity is maintaining the divine image in which we were created (Gen 1: 6). To be in God’s image and after His likeness, we should be meek, as He is.
 
If God wills it, we will debate the loss of meekness on the pretext of courage, next week. 
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