Life of humbleness & meekness (32)
Pope Shenouda III | 9 April 2012
Meekness involves kindness, gentleness, and calmness. However, it should not be misunderstood as if the meek lacks strong personality or influence or is like a dead body with
Courage & Gallantry (A)
Meekness involves kindness, gentleness, and calmness. However, it should not be misunderstood as if the meek lacks strong personality or influence or is like a dead body with no movement. With such misunderstood the meek is portrayed as one subject of ridicule, or a lazy person not concerned about anything!
This is unacceptable, and does not conform to the teaching of the Scripture. It robs meekness of its attribute as a virtue, and contradicts the biographies of the holy fathers and prophets.
A meek person is calm and kind, this is true, but this is half the fact. The other half is that meekness is not separate from or contradicting other virtues like gallantry or courage for instance.
Yet "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." (Eccl 3: 1) Yea, the Scripture teaches us that there is "A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted … a time to keep silent, and a time to speak." (Eccl 3: 2, 7) The meek actually knows when to calm down and when to rise, when to keep silent and when to intervene.
St. Anthony the Great once was asked about which virtues are the greatest, whether prayer, fasting or silence, and he answered that the greatest virtue is discerning: which means wisdom in acting or discerning what ought to be done.
Goodness is the prevailing nature of the meek, but when there is something that calls for gallantry, bravery, or witnessing to the truth, the meek will not abstain under the pretext of holding to meekness! For if the meek refrains from acting in a situation that calls for courage, he will not be truly meek, but will rather be slackness and misunderstanding of meekness and of spirituality in general. Spirituality in fact gathers between all virtues together, not holding to one and keeping away from another. It is all virtues together, in harmony and cooperation in an atmosphere of perfection. The Holy Scripture gives many examples of such combination of virtues foremost of all is the Lord Christ – Glory to Him.
The Lord Christ:
He was gentle and lowly in heart (Mt 11: 29), "A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench." (Mt 12: 20)
When He saw the Jews defiling the temple, selling and buying in it, "He drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, 'It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a 'den of thieves'.'" (Mt 21: 12, 13; Jn 2: 14- 16)
Could He, in the name of meekness, let them make of His Father's house a house of merchandise! His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." (Jn 2: 16, 17)
As He cleansed the temple, He also rebuked the scribes and Pharisees.
Indeed there is a time for everything under heaven; a time for calmness and a time for holy zeal, a time for silence and a time for teaching. The scribes and Pharisees led the people astray by their wrong teaching. Therefore the great Master had to expose them to the people and not leave them sitting on the seat of Moses in the new Christian community. He said to them, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." (Mt 23: 13)
Could He, in the name of meekness, let them shut up the doors of the Kingdom!
Meekness is a great virtue, but it does not prevent holy zeal, nor witnessing to the truth, as the Lord Christ – glory to Him, did. Witnessing to the truth is an important matter which God wants, as appears from His words on the mouth of Jeremiah the Prophet, "Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know and seek in her open place if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her." (Jer 5: 1) The Lord Christ likewise said to His disciples, "You shall be witnesses to Me." (Acts 1: 8)
Does meekness prevent witnessing to the truth? We have St. Paul the Apostle as a model: how he acted towards St. Peter the Apostle when he behaved in a way which St. Paul considered hypocrisy, St. Paul said, "I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed … I said to Peter before all of them, 'If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?'" (Gal 3: 11, 14)
St. Paul was known to be meek and gentle, for he says in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, "Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you." (2 Cor 10: 1) See how meek he was to describe himself as "lowly among them", and when he uses his apostolic authority he considers himself "bold toward them"! Did he not have authority over them as a spiritual father to them?!
Yet, this meek Paul, when there was necessity, rebuked St. Peter the Apostle who was a senior apostle and a pillar of the church (Gal 3: 9). His meekness did not prevent him from rebuking a senior and facing him before all people.
The virtue of meekness shall not hinder other virtues. We have a model of combining between meekness and gallantry: Abraham the Patriarch.
No doubt our father Abraham was meek; he even bowed himself to the people of Heth while asking them for a burial place to bury his wife Sarah. He bowed himself to them although they were speaking to him with great respect and saying, "You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places." (Gen 23: 6, 7)
Our father Abraham, meek indeed, but when informed that Lot was taken captive in Sodom in the war between four kings against five, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. "He divided his forces against them … and pursued them as far as Hobah … he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people." (Gen 14: 14- 16) Was the gallantry of Abraham contradicting to his loving kindness? God forbid.
Another model of combining between meekness and gallantry and bravery and strength is that of young David in his fight against Goliath the Valiant.
No doubt David was meek, for he says in the Psalms, "Lord, remember David and all his afflictions." (Ps 132: 1) David was a calm shepherd, the player of flute and skillful player on the harp, the ruddy with bright eyes, and good looking (1 Sam 16: 16, 21, 12). When this David went to the battle field to see how his brother fare and bring news from them and saw Goliath reproaching and defying the army and all are silent in fear, he felt holy zeal, and with all courage, power, and faith, said, "Let no man's heart fall because of him." He suggested to go and fight with him (1 Sam 17: 32) Then he advanced with courage towards that valiant who caused fear to everybody and said to him, "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand." (1 Sam 17: 46) God assisted him, and he could kill him.
In spite of the power and courage of David, his meekness and humbleness did not quit him, for he said to King Saul who kept pursuing him, "After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead do? A flea?"! (1 Sam 24: 14)
There is much to be said on the same topic, but let us stop here.