Meekness and Humility
Late H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
The Lord Jesus says: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light " (St. Matthew 11:28-30).
Dearly Beloved, humility and meekness are noble and divine virtues which complement each other. For, by our humility, we glorify God, confessing His great benevolence toward us. Because He is our Creator, Who cares for us. Thus, it behooves us to continually offer thanksgiving to His majesty, admitting our weakness and need for His mercy. Furthermore, we ought to be confidently assured that all the gifts we own, be it heavenly or earthly, and whatever grace we enjoy in this life, are but free gifts from Him, glory be to His name. Hence, we have no right to be proud, but ought to give all credit to God, avoiding pride which separates us from Him. For pride causes us to be deaf to God's holy word and leads us to self-adoration and atheism. Henceforth, let humility rule our minds and our hearts be filled with the light of Christ, thus enkindling within us the flame of faith in God, to trust in Him and accept all the tenets of faith He inspired unto us through His Holy Bible, God’s living word. In so doing, we glorify His holy name, just like David who said: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory" (Psalm 115:1).
Humility is the foundation and the culmination of all Christian virtues. Moreover, meekness is the ripe fruit of humility, and its companion in the spiritual struggle. The virtue of humility, when established in the heart and mind of a person, becoming a part of him, directs his behavior and others see it in him through his behavior. As that person acquires meekness, he is given enough spiritual courage to wrestle the cursed devil and overcome hard temptations. God grants him sufficient strength for self-control to overcome raging anger, limit evil thoughts and keep away from hatred, jealousy and enmity, thereby obeying God’s commandments: "Do not resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also." (St. Matthew 5:39-40). Also, "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (St. Matthew 5:44). Only in this manner, meekness becomes our second nature by which we deal with others in kindness and charity.
This is how we may imitate Christ, our Lord, Who bids us to learn from Him, for He is meek and humble of heart. These two virtues were evident in all His dealings during His divine dispensation in the flesh. He loved children and they, in return, loved Him and were comfortable in His company. He had compassion towards women and had pity on sinners, opening the way for them to return to God through sincere repentance. He also forgave His enemies and those who hated Him. Indeed, He taught us these two virtues through His words, deeds and parables. Therefore, if we imitate and follow Him, we attain peace with God through complete surrender to His divine will, during bad and good times. We will also find peace with ourselves, which leads to a clear conscience, enabling us to love God Who loved us first, obey His laws, avoid what He forbids and to fulfill our religious duties. We should also be at peace with our neighbor, showing him love by countering his bad behavior with forgiveness and by praying for him, as St. Paul commanded Timothy his disciple, saying: "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
By His meekness and humility, our Lord Jesus corrected the world’s understanding of heavenly virtues and noble values. Before the birth of the Lord Jesus, meekness was regarded a weakness; however, in Christianity it is considered a great spiritual strength. Similarly, in the past, humility was regarded a weakness, while in Christianity it is considered rising above iniquity and triumphing over the devil and his boastful followers, and condemnation of their pride which caused them to fall into disobedience, making them enemies of God and man. Pride also led mankind to fall into the sin of rebellion against the Creator, meriting the punishment of death. Consequently, in order to save mankind from rebellion, and to bring them back to life, the Lord Jesus treated them with humility and commanded them to be meek, saying to His disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (St. Matthew 10:16).
Indeed, the Lord’s disciples did comprehend the majesty of their divine Teacher. They also understood the weakness of their condition and realized their constant need for the Lord. This became evident when the Lord explained, saying: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (St. John 15:4-5).
Dearly beloved, in these difficult times, our Holy Church is going through a critical juncture which constitutes a dangerous turning point in her modern history. Disorganized immigration has exposed our people to foreign ways, leading them away from their cultural roots and sources of spiritual values inherited from their esteemed fathers. Moreover, the enemies of truth lurk around them to ensnare them in their nets. They have set up evil traps for them both in the homeland and overseas. There are those who follow old heresies and those who follow new sects who claim to be Christians, though they are not. They come like ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing to snatch Christ’s sheep. Then there are those lay persons, who through their evil pride, have formed false ideas trying to control the Church in order to meddle with her administration system, which is divinely instituted. For the Church is a spiritual institution and the mystical Body of Christ. Christ is the head of the Church Who appointed His holy apostles and gave them the authority to serve the children of the Church. They are put in charge of her administration, the management of her affairs and to provide care for her members. They are also her legal representatives and defenders of her religious tenets, name, heritage, language, traditions, culture, attributes, aspects and definitions granted from heaven and confirmed by history throughout the generations.
The Church will not be shaken because Christ is with her, and has promised her, saying: "and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (St. Matthew 16:18). Whoever rises against her shall be defeated, because the Church’s authority comes from above. In the spirit of humility and meekness, it is our duty to offer instruction and advice to those who have gone astray. If they return to obey the Church, heaven will rejoice over one sinner who repents, and we will welcome them back into the Church. However, if they insist on opposing the Church and causing division among her ranks, in order to divide her followers, and disobeying the true shepherds, then it becomes our duty to use our spiritual authority to defend the noble faith and honorable tradition, and to chastise those who rebel against the Church system, in order to fulfill what St. Paul has urged us to do in such conditions, saying: "Therefore, put away from yourselves the evil person" (1 Corinthians 5:13).
Dearly Beloved, The coming of the holy Lenten season is a golden opportunity for us to spiritually strive to emulate the Lord Jesus in His humility and meekness. Moreover, it provides us the opportunity practice noble virtues and join our faith with good deeds and especially with works of mercy such as the distribution of alms, helping the poor and caring for the orphans and widows. Let us also show our love to our Holy Syriac Orthodox Church, to her administrative structures, her Syriac language, liturgical traditions and the teachings of her Holy Fathers.
May God accept your fasting and prayers, and may He make you worthy to celebrate the feast of His Holy Resurrection from the dead with joy and happiness. May His grace abide with you forever.
Our Father Who art in heaven, ...
Issued at our Patriarchal Headquarters.
January 20, 2007
The 27th year of our Patriarchal reign.