O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

Patience is the virtue by which we refuse to retaliate against that which is disagreeable to us. That the thing is disagreeable doesn't mean that it is a good or an evil, but only a perceived evil. A child might reluctantly obey his parent; that is patience. A husband might restrain himself when his wife cheats on him and pray for her instead of yelling at her and giving her what she deserves; that too is patience.

Our refusal to retaliate does not mean we agree with the disagreeable thing. The child does not agree with the parent, but still, in patience, obeys him. The husband really does not agree with his wife's infidelity, but still bears the wrong with patience. However, because the husband's disagreeable thing is evil, the husband has an obligation the child does not: to change the disagreeable thing. The child cannot morally change the parent's orders, since the parent is right. However, since the wife is (very) wrong, the husband can go about changing it and in fact has an obligation to change it, just because the thing is wrong. He has an obligation to God, as her husband, to get his wife to heaven. That obligates him to eliminate the thing that is disagreeable to him, even though, in patience, he must not retaliate against it.

Icon of Extreme Humility
He has as his example Christ the Bridegroom, who, in patience, opened not His mouth (Is 53:7) and offered Himself to the Father to be used to sanctify His Bride the Church. This sacrifice is the essential element of Matrimony: the sacrifice of yourself to God to be used to sanctify your spouse. This sacrifice on the part of Christ, offered on Calvary for the sins committed against Him, is the perfect fulfillment of the verse, "Instead of making me a return of love, they detracted me: but I gave myself to prayer." (Ps 108:4) This is the perfection of christian patience. Christ did not retaliate against the disagreeable thing (sin), but still was obligated by the moral law to stop it (for this disagreeable thing happens to be evil), so He offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for the atonement of the thing which was both disagreeable and evil. To bear a wrong patiently (i.e. not to retaliate) is charitable, but to bear it patiently while working to stop it is even more charitable for then you are working to save the soul of the one committing the evil act. To bear a wrong patiently while refusing to stop it is sinful because then you are refusing to stop evil. If one can stop an evil act under his own power then he must do so and in patience, such as stopping a thief without beating him until he has only blood and pus coming from his mouth. You are only trying to convert him; God can inflict His wrath on him by Himself. If however, one does not have the power to stop the evil, such as the man whose wife plays the harlot, then he can only bear his wife patiently while giving himself to God for her conversion, which is his whole vocation in the first place.