Confess to the Lord my God that I certainly have courage, not to say
presumption, to have dared to write on patience, a virtue which I am utterly
unfit to practice, being, as I am, a man of no account. For, those who undertake
to set forth and recommend any virtue should first give some evidence of
practicing this virtue, and they should give proper direction to their constant
admonition by the example of their own conduct, lest they be put to the blush at
the discrepancy between their words and deeds.
And would that the blushing brought an improvement, that the shame (we feel)
at not doing what we have suggested to others would teach us to do it! But, of
course, it is with certain virtues as with certain vices: their greatness is so
overwhelming that only the grace of divine inspiration can help us to attain and
For, that which is in the highest sense good belongs in the highest degree to
God, and no one dispenses it save He who possesses it, to each one as He sees
It will be, then, a comfort to discuss that which it is not granted us to
enjoy, somewhat in the manner of the sick, who, when deprived of health, cannot
refrain from proclaiming its blessings.
Thus, in my pitiable state, ever suffering from the fever of impatience, I
must sigh after the health of patience which I do not possess, and I must beg
and beseech it, remembering and reflecting, as I consider my weakness, that one
does not easily attain the good health of faith and the soundness of the
discipline of the Lord unless patience lends assistance thereto.
Patience has been given such pre-eminence in matters pertaining to God that
no one can fulfill any precept or perform any work pleasing to the Lord without
Even those who do not possess it pay recognition to its excellence by giving
it the honorable title of 'the highest virtue.' In fact, the philosophers, who
are regarded as creatures possessing some degree of wisdom, attribute such value
to it that, while there are disagreements among them because of the various
inclinations of the schools and their opposing tenets, they are, nevertheless,
of one mind with regard to patience alone, and in this alone of their interests
they enter into agreement. With regard to this they are in accord: for this they
band together, with one mind they apply themselves to it in their efforts to
attain virtue; every display of wisdom they usher in with a show of patience.
A great compliment it is to this virtue to be the moving force behind even
the vain pursuits of the world to their praise and renown! Or is it rather an
insult that divine things are involved in the doings of the world?
Let them see to it who will one day be ashamed of their wisdom when it is
destroyed and brought to disgrace along with this world!
There has been given to us as a model in the practice of patience no (merely)
human product fashioned of the dullness of Cynic indifference, but the divine
ordinance of a life-giving and heavenly way of life which points out as an
exemplar of patience God Himself.
Long has He been scattering the brilliance of this light (of the sun) upon
the just and unjust alike and has allowed the deserving as well as the
undeserving to enjoy the benefits of the seasons, the services of the elements,
and the gifts of all creation.
He endures ungrateful peoples who worship the trifles fashioned by their
skill and the works of their hands, who persecute His name and His children, and
who, in their lewdness, their greed, their godlessness and depravity, grow worse
from day to day; by His patience He hopes to draw them to Himself. There are
many, you see, who do not believe in the Lord because for so long a time they
have no experience of His wrath (directed) against the world.
This is, indeed, a picture of the divine patience which exists, so to speak,
far away from us, the patience, we might say, which prevails on high. But what
about that patience which exists openly among men on earth, which is, as it
were, within our reach?
God allows Himself to become incarnate: in His mother's womb He awaits (the
time of birth) and after His birth suffers Himself to grow into manhood, and,
when an adult, shows no eagerness to become known, but bears reproaches and is
baptized by His own servant and by His words alone repels the attacks of the
When He, (begotten) of the Lord, becomes a master teaching man how to avoid
death, He teaches him for his own good how to offer reparation to outraged
He did not wrangle or cry aloud; neither did anyone hear His voice in the
streets; a bruised reed He did not break, a smoking wick He did not quench.
(Now, the Prophet--or, rather, the testimony of God Himself, placing His own
spirit in His Son with all patience--has not lied!)
He did not force one who was unwilling to stay close to Him; He scorned no
one's table or dwelling; in fact, He ministered personally to His disciples by
washing their feet.
He did not despise sinners or publicans, He showed no anger even toward that
city which refused to receive Him, even when the disciples wished fire from
heaven to fall upon such a shameful town; He healed the ungrateful, yielded to
More than this, He even kept in His company the one who would betray Him and
did not firmly denounce him. Why, even when He is betrayed, when He is led like
a beast to the slaughter--for thus (is it written): 'He does not open His mouth
any more than does a lamb in the power of its shearer'--He who could have had if
He wished, at a single word, legions of angels from heaven to assist Him did not
approve of an avenging sword on the part of even one of His disciples.
It was the forbearance of the Lord that was wounded in (the person of)
Malchus. And so, He actually cursed for all time the works of the sword and by
healing him whom He had not Himself struck, He made satisfaction by forbearance,
which is the mother of mercy.
I say nothing about His crucifixion; it was for this that He had come.
Still, did there have to be such insults attending the death He must
undergo? No; but as He went forward to His death, He willed to have His
fill of joy in suffering: He is spat upon, beaten, mocked, disgracefully
clothed, and even more disgracefully crowned.
Marvel at the constancy of His meekness: He who had proposed to escape notice
in the guise of man has in no degree imitated man's impatience. For this reason
particularly, you Pharisees, you should have recognized the Lord! Patience such
as this no mere man had ever practiced!
Such were the manifestations (of His patience), the very magnitude of which
is the reason why pagan nations reject the faith; for us they are its rational
foundation. For those to whom there has been granted the gift of faith they
suffice to make it very clear, not only by the words our Lord used in His
precepts, but also by the sufferings which He endured, that patience is the very
nature of God, the effect and manifestation of a certain connatural property (of
Now, if we see that all servants of righteous character and good disposition
live according to the mind of their lord--obedience, as you know, is a facility
in rendering service, but the principle of obedience is compliant
submission--how much more does it behoove us to be found modeled upon our
Lord! Servants indeed we are of the living God whose sway over His (creatures)
consists not in manacles or the granting of the slave's cap, but in allotting
everlasting punishment or salvation.
To escape His severity or to invite His liberality one needs diligence in
obeying which is proportionate to the threats uttered by His severity or the
promises made by His liberality.
Yet, we ourselves exact obedience not only from men who are bound to us by
the bonds of slavery or who, because of some other legal bond, are under
obligation to us, but also from our flocks and even from the wild animals.
We understand that they have been provided and granted by the Lord for our
I ask you: in the practice of obedience, shall those creatures which God has
made subject to us surpass us? In a word, creatures which obey (their masters)
acknowledge (their condition as creatures): do we hesitate to heed Him to whom
alone we are subject, namely, the Lord? Why, how unjust it would be, and in
addition how ungrateful, for you not to make a return of what you have obtained
from others through the kindness of a third party, to him through whom you
But, no more about the manifestation of the obedience which we owe to the
Lord our God. For, in the act of recognition of God one understands sufficiently
what is incumbent upon him. However, lest we seem to have inserted something
irrelevant to this discussion of obedience, (let me remark that) obedience
itself also stems from patience: never does one who is impatient obey nor does a
patient man ever refuse obedience.
Who, then, could deal adequately with the value of that patience which the
Lord our God, the model and patron of all that is good, has displayed in
Himself? Who would doubt that those who belong to God have an obligation to
strive with their whole soul for every good, since it has reference to God? By
these considerations our recommendation and exhortation on the subject of
patience is briefly established in a summary, as it were, of the prescribed
Now, to thrash out a question about essential points of faith is not
wearisome, since it is not without profit. Verboseness, though a fault at times,
is no fault when it tends to edification.
Therefore, if some good is being discussed, the matter demands that we
examine also the evil which is its opposite. You will throw a better light upon
what one should strive for if you discuss in connection with it what should be
Let us, then, with regard to impatience, consider whether, as patience
(exists) in God, its opposite was born and discovered in our adversary.
From this it will appear how impatience, more than anything else, is
opposed to faith.
For, that which is conceived by God's rival is certainly not a friend to the
things of God. There is the same hostility in the things as there is in their
authors. Furthermore, since God is infinitely good, and the Devil, on the other
hand, is superlatively evil, by their very difference they bear witness that
neither one effects anything for the other; it can no more seem to us that some
good is produced from evil than some evil from good.
Now, I find the origin of impatience in the Devil himself. Even when the Lord
God subjected to His own image, that is, to man, all the works He had made, the
Devil bore it with impatience.
For, he would not have grieved, had he endured it, nor would he have envied
man, had he not grieved; he deceived man because he envied him; he envied him
because he grieved; he grieved because he certainly had not borne it with
What the angel of perdition was first--I mean, whether he was first evil or
impatient--I do not bother to inquire; it is clear that, whether impatience had
its beginning in evil or evil in impatience, they entered into combination and
grew as one in the bosom of one father.
For, as soon as he perceived that it was through his impatience that he had
committed the first sin, having learned from his own experience what would
assist in wrong-doing, he availed himself of this same impatience to lead men
Without delay, and would say not without forethought, he contrived a meeting
with the woman, and simply and solely through their conversation she was touched
by his breath, already infected with impatience. But never would she have sinned
at all had she preserved her patience according to the divine command!
And what of the fact that she could not endure having met (the Devil) alone
but, being unable to remain silent about it in the presence of Adam--he was not
yet her husband, nor as yet under any obligation to lend her his ear--she makes
him the carrier of that which she had imbibed from the Evil One?
Thus, a second member, too, of the human race falls through the impatience of
the first; and his fall, too, results from his own impatience committed in two
ways: with regard to the forewarning of God, and with regard to the deceit of
the Devil; for he was unable to observe the former or to oppose the latter.
Condemnation began with him in whom sin originated; God's anger began with
him by whom man was induced to offend Him. God's patience began with him who had
aroused His indignation; for at that time He was content with simply cursing him
and He refrained from inflicting punishment upon the Devil.
What sin previous to this sin of impatience can be imputed to man? He was
innocent and a close friend of God and a tenant dwelling in paradise. But,
when once he yielded to impatience, he ceased to relish God and could no longer
endure the things of heaven.
From that time on, as a man delivered up to the earth and cast away from the
eyes of God, he began to serve as an easy instrument for impatience to use for
everything that would offend God.
For, immediately, that impatience which was conceived by the seed of the
Devil with the fecundity of evil gave birth to a child of wrath and instructed
its offspring in its own arts. Since it had plunged Adam and Eve into death, it
taught their son, also, to commit the first murder.
Vain were it for me to ascribe this sin to impatience, had Cain, the first
homicide and the first fratricide, accepted it with equanimity and without
impatience when his offerings were refused by the Lord; if he had not been angry
with his brother; if, in fine, he had killed no one.
Therefore, since he could not commit murder unless he were angry, and could
not be angry unless he were impatient, it proves that what he did in anger is to
be referred to that which prompted the anger.
Such was the cradle of impatience which was then, so to speak, in its
infancy. But to what proportions it soon grew! And no wonder: if it was the
prime source of sin, it follows that, being the prime source, it was therefore
also the sole fashioner of all sin, pouring forth from its own abundant
resources the varied channels of crimes.
Homicide has already been mentioned. It sprang originally from anger, and
whatever causes it finds for itself afterwards, it ascribes them to impatience
at its origin. For, whether one commits this crime through enmity or for some
gain, the original cause is that one is overwhelmed by hatred or greed.
Whatever is the motivating force, a crime could not be perpetrated unless one
lacks patience. Who has ever attempted adultery save one who was unable to
withstand his lustful desires? Even the fact that (disgrace) is forced upon
(some) women for a price, that sale of one's honor is certainly set in order by
an inability to set at naught despicable gain.
Impatience is, as it were, the original sin in the eyes of the Lord.
For, to put it in a nutshell, every sin is to be traced back to
impatience. Evil cannot endure good. No unchaste person but is intolerant
of chastity; no scoundrel but is irked by righteousness; no negligent person but
resents his obligations; no agitator but is impatient of peace. Although anyone
may become evil, not everyone can persevere in good.
Why, then, should not this hydra-like generator of sins offend the Lord, who
condemns all wickedness? Is it not clear that Israel itself, through its
impatience, was ever sinning against God?
Forgetting the heavenly arm whereby it had been rescued from the afflictions
of the Egyptians, it demanded of Aaron gods to be its leaders, while it poured
its contributions into an idol of its own gold. For, it had borne without
patience the delay necessitated by Moses' meeting with the Lord.
After the rain of manna as food, after the water that followed and flowed
from the rock, they gave up hope in the Lord, unable to endure a three-days'
thirst. For this, too, they were charged with impatience by the Lord.
But, not to range over individual instances: never would they have been
destroyed had they not fallen into sin by impatience. Why did they lay hands on
the Prophets, except that they could not bear to listen to them? And more
than that: they laid hands upon the Lord Himself, being unable to endure even
the sight of Him. But had they acquired patience, they would now be free.
Such is the patience which is both subsequent to and antecedent to faith.
Accordingly, Abraham believed in God and it was credited to him by God as
justice. Now, he proved his faith by patience, when he was commanded to offer in
sacrifice his son--I do not say for a trial, but rather for a typical
attestation, of his faith.
But God knew the man whom He had reputed for his justice. This severe
command, which the Lord did not intend should be carried out, Abraham heard with
patience and, had God so willed, he would have fulfilled it. Rightly, then, is
he blessed because he was faithful; and rightly was he faithful because he was
Thus faith was illuminated by patience, since it was sown among the heathens
by the seed of Abraham which is Christ and added grace to the Law, and it has
made patience its helpmate in amplifying and fulfilling the Law, because in
times past this was the only thing lacking to the teaching of justice.
Heretofore, men demanded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and they
returned evil for evil. As yet, patience was not found upon the earth, for as
yet, you see, there was not faith. Meanwhile, impatience was enjoying the
opportunities occasioned by the Law. It was easy when the Lord and Teacher of
patience was not on hand.
But after He came and united the grace of faith with patience, no longer was
one permitted to do injury with so much as a word, or even say 'Thou fool!'
without being in danger of the judgment. Wrath was forbidden, passions were kept
in check, unruly hands were restrained, the poison of the tongue was removed.
The Law acquired more than it lost when Christ said: 'Love your enemies and
bless those who curse you and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may
be children of your Father in heaven.' Just see what a Father patience acquires
The entire practice of patience is compressed within this fundamental precept
whereby not even a lawful injury is permitted. But now, as we run through the
causes of impatience, all the other precepts, too, will correspond in their own
Is the mind disturbed by the loss of property? In practically every passage
of the holy Scriptures one is admonished to despise the world, and no greater
exhortation is there to an indifference toward money than that our Lord Himself
is without it.
He always justifies the poor and condemns the rich. Thus He has set disdain
for wealth ahead of the endurance of losses, pointing out through His rejection
of riches that one should make no account of the loss of them.
Hence, we need not seek wealth, since our Lord did not seek it; and we ought
to bear the deprivation of even the theft of it without regret.
The Spirit of the Lord, through the Apostle, has called the desire of money
the root of all evils. We may infer that this consists not only in the desire
for that which belongs to another; even that which seems to be our own belongs
to another; for nothing is our own, since all things belong to God to whom we,
Therefore, if we feel impatient when we suffer some loss, we will be found to
possess a desire for money, since we grieve over the loss of that which is not
our own. We are seeking what belongs to another when we are unwilling to bear
the loss of that which belongs to another.
The man who is upset and unable to bear his loss sins, you might say, against
God Himself by preferring the things of earth to those of heaven. For, the soul
which he has received from the Lord is upset by the attractiveness of worldly
Let us, then, with glad hearts, relinquish earthly goods that we may preserve
those of heaven! Let the whole world fall in ruins provided I gain the patience
to endure it! In all probability, a man who has not resolved to bear with
fortitude a slight loss occasioned by theft or violence or even by his own
stupidity will not readily or willingly touch what he owns for the sake of
For, what man who refuses to undergo any operation at all at the hands of
another puts a knife to his own body? Patience to endure, shown on occasions of
loss, is a training in giving and sharing. He who does not fear loss is not
reluctant to give.
Otherwise, how would one who has two tunics give one of them to him who is
destitute, unless the same is one who can offer his cloak as well to the one
going off with his tunic? How will we make friends for ourselves with mammon if
we love him only to the extent that we do not share in his loss? We shall be
damned together with the damned.
What do we find here where we have (only something) to lose? It is for pagans
to be unable to sustain all loss; they would set worldly goods before their life
And they do this when, in their eager desire for wealth, they engage in
lucrative but dangerous commerce on the sea; when, for money's sake, they
unhesitatingly engage in transactions also in the forum, even though there be
reason to fear loss; they do it, in fine, when they hire themselves out for the
games and military service or when, in desolate regions, they commit robbery
regardless of the wild beasts.
On the other hand, in view of the difference between them and ourselves, it
befits us to give up not our life for money but money for our life, either by
voluntary charity or by the patient endurance of loss.
Our very life and our very body we have exposed in this world as a target for
all manner of injury and we endure this injury with patience; shall we, then, be
vexed by the deprivation of lesser things? Far be such shame from the servant of
Christ, that his patience, trained by greater trials, should fail in trifling
If one tries to provoke you to a fight, there is at hand the admonition of
the Lord: 'If someone strike thee,' He says, ' on the right cheek, turn to him
the other also.' Let wrong-doing grow weary from your patience; whoever be
struck, the one who strikes, weighed down by pain and shame, will suffer more
severely from the Lord; by your meekness you will strike a more severe blow to
the wrong-doer; for he will suffer at the hands of Him by whose grace you
If a spiteful tongue bursts out in cursing or wrangling, recall the saying:
'When men reproach you, rejoice.' The Lord Himself was accursed before the Law,
yet He alone is blessed. Let us, then, His servants, follow our Lord and
patiently submit to maledictions that we may be blessed!
If, with slight forbearance, I hear some bitter or evil remark directed
against me, I may return it, and then I shall inevitably be bitter myself.
Either that, or I shall be tormented by unexpressed resentment.
If, then, I retaliate when cursed, how shall I be found to have followed the
teaching of our Lord? For it has been handed down that a man is not defiled by
unclean dishes, but by the words which proceed from his mouth; and, what is
more, that it remains for us to render an account for every vain and idle word.
It follows, then, that our Lord forbids us to do certain acts, but at the
same time admonishes us to endure with meekness the same treatment at the hands
(We shall speak) now of the joy which comes from patience. For every injury,
whether occasioned by the tongue or the hand, coming in contact with patience,
will meet the same end as a weapon which is flung and dashed upon a hard,
unyielding rock. An ineffectual and fruitless action will lose its force
immediately and will sometimes vent its passion and strike with the force of a
boomerang upon him who sent it forth.
This is true, of course, since one insults you with the intention of causing
you pain, because the one who inflicts the injury reaps his reward in the pain
of the one injured. Consequently, if you cheat him of his reward by not showing
any pain, he will himself inevitably feel pain because he has lost his reward.
Then you will go off, not only uninjured (which of itself should suffice for
you) but over and above that you will have the pleasure of seeing your enemy
frustrated while you yourself are preserved from pain. Herein lies the advantage
of patience and the joy which derives from it
Not even that form of impatience which results from the loss of our dear ones
is excused, although in this case a sort of rightful claim to grieve justifies
it. Observance of the precept of the Apostle must be put first: 'Grieve not,' he
says,' over one who has fallen asleep even as the gentiles who have no hope.'
And rightly so. For, if we believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe
in our own, also, since it was for us that He died and rose again.
Therefore, since there is sure ground for faith in the resurrection of the
dead, there is no grief associated with death, and no inability to bear grief.
Why should you grieve if you believe that (the loved one) has not perished
utterly? Why should you show impatience that one has been taken away for the
time being if you believe he will return? That which you think of as death is
merely the beginning of a journey. He who has gone ahead is not to be mourned,
though certainly he will be missed. But this lonesomeness must be alleviated by
patience. Why should you be inconsolable over the departure of one whom you are
soon to follow?
Moreover, impatience in such things is a sad indication of our own hope and
gives the lie to our faith. Likewise, we injure Christ when we fail to accept
with resignation (the death of) those whom He has called, as though they were to
'I desire,' says the Apostle, 'to be welcomed home now and to be with the
Lord.' How much better a prayer he holds forth! As for the Christians' prayer,
then, if we bear it with impatience and grief that others have attained their
goal, we ourselves do not want to attain our goal!
There is another, and very strong, motive which gives rise to impatience,
namely, the desire for revenge, which busies itself in the interest of either
reputation or wrong-doing. Now, reputation is everywhere empty, and evil never
fails to be hateful to the Lord, especially in this situation when, occasioned
by wrong-doing on the part of another, it takes the upper hand in executing
vengeance and, in paying back the evil, does twice as much as was done in the
Revenge mistakenly appears to be a soothing of one's pain, but in the light
of truth it is seen to be only evil contending with evil. What difference is
there between the one who provokes and the one provoked except that the one is
caught doing wrong sooner than the other? Nevertheless, before the Lord
each is guilty of having injured a fellow man and the Lord forbids and condemns
every act of wrong-doing.
There is no hierarchical arrangement in wrong-doing, nor does position make
any distinction in that which similarity makes one. Therefore, the precept is
unequivocally laid down: evil is not to be rendered for evil. Like deed
merits like treatment.
But how shall we observe this precept if, in loathing (evil), we have no
loathing for revenge? What tribute of honor shall we offer to the Lord our God
if we assume to ourselves the right to inflict punishment?
We who are matter subject to decay, vessels of clay, are grievously offended
when our servants take it upon themselves to seek revenge from their fellow
slaves; as for those who show us patience, we not only praise them as slaves who
are conscious of their lowly position, men attentive to the respect they owe
their lord, but we recompense them even more than they had themselves
anticipated. Is there any risk for us in such a course when we have a Lord so
just in His judgments, so powerful in His deeds?
Why, then, do we believe Him a judge, but not also an avenger? Of this He
assures us when He says: 'Revenge is mine and I will repay them,' that is: 'Have
patience with Me and I will reward your patience.'
When He says: 'Do not judge, that you may not be judged,' is He not demanding
patience? What man will refrain from judging another except one who will forego
(the right) of self-defense? What man judges with the intention of forgiving?
And if he does forgive, he has but shied away from the impatience of a man who
judges and has usurped the honor of the true Judge, that is, God!
What misfortunes has such impatience, as a rule, brought upon itself!
How often has it regretted its self-defense! How often has its obstinacy
become worse than the occasions which provoked it! Now, nothing undertaken
through impatience can be transacted without violence, and everything done with
violence has either met with no success or has collapsed or has plunged to its
If you are too mild in your self-defense, you will be acting like a madman;
if your defense is excessive, you will be depressed. Why should I be concerned
about revenge when I cannot regulate its extent because of my inability to
endure pain? Whereas, if I yield and suffer the injury, I shall have no pain;
and if I have no pain, I shall have no desire for revenge.
Now that we have, to the best of our ability, set forth these principal
provocations to impatience in the order of their intensity, with which of the
rest that (we encounter) at home and in public life should we concern ourselves?
Widespread and extensive are the workings of the Evil One who extends
innumerable incentives to impatience which, at times, are slight, at times very
The slight ones you should ignore for their insignificance; to the great you
should yield in view of their invincible power. When the injury is not very
important, there is no need for impatience, but when the injury is more serious,
then there is greater need for a remedy against the injury, namely, patience.
Let us strive, then, to bear the injuries that are inflicted by the Evil One,
that the struggle to maintain our self-control may put to shame the enemy's
efforts. If, however, through imprudence or even of our own free will we draw
down upon ourselves some misfortune, we should submit with equal patience to
that which we impute to ourselves.
But if we believe some blow of misfortune is struck by God, to whom would it
be better that we manifest patience than to our Lord? In fact, more than this,
it befits us to rejoice at being deemed worthy of divine chastisement: 'As for
me,' He says, 'those whom I love I chastise.' Blessed is that servant upon whose
amendment the Lord insists, at whom He deigns to be angry, whom He does not
deceive by omitting His admonition!
From every angle, then, we are obliged to practice patience, because we meet
up with our own mistakes or the wiles of the Evil One or the warnings of the
Lord alike. Great is the recompense for practicing it, namely, happiness.
Whom has the Lord declared happy? Those who are patient; for He said:
'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
Assuredly, no one but the humble man is poor in spirit. And who is humble
but the man who is patient? No one can take a position of subjection without
patience, the prime factor in subjection.
'Blessed,' He says, 'are those who weep and mourn.' Who can endure such
things without patience? To such, then, is consolation and joy promised.
'Blessed are the meek.' Certainly, in this word one cannot by any means
include the impatient. Likewise, when He applies this same title of happiness to
the peace-makers and calls them the children of God, I ask you: Do the impatient
share in this peace? Only a fool would think so!
And when He says: 'Rejoice and exult when men reproach you and persecute you
because your reward is great in heaven,' certainly this promise of great joy is
not made to the impatient, for no one will rejoice in adversity unless he has
first come to despise it; no one will despise it unless he possesses patience.
As for what pertains to the practice of this peace so pleasing to God (I ask
you): What man, completely given over to impatience, will forgive his brother, I
will not say seven times and seventy times seven times, but even once?
What man, taking his case with his adversary to a judge, will settle his
trouble to the accommodation of the other party, unless he first puts an end to
his wrath, his resentment, his harshness and bitterness, that is, his impatient
How will you forgive and experience forgiveness if you cling to your injury
through a total lack of patience? No one whose mind is violently disturbed
against his brother will complete his offering at the altar unless first he has
been reconciled to his brother through patience.
If the sun goes down upon our anger, we are in danger. We may not live a
single day without patience. Yet, since patience governs every aspect of a
salutary way of life, what wonder that it also paves the way for repentance
which, as a rule, comes to the assistance of those who have fallen?
What benefits it produces in both parties when, in spite of their forbearance
from their marriage rights--provided it be only for that reason which makes it
lawful for a man or woman to persist in their separation--it waits for, hopes
for, wins by its prayers repentance for those who will eventually be saved. It
purifies the one without causing the other to become an adulterer!
So, too, in those examples in our Lord's parables there is a breath of
patience: it is the patience of the shepherd that seeks and finds the straying
sheep (for impatience would readily take no account of a single sheep, whereas
patience undertakes the wearisome search) and he carries it on his shoulders, a
patient bearer of a forsaken sinner.
In the case of the prodigal son, too, it is the patience of his father that
welcomes him and clothes him and feeds him and finds an excuse for him in the
face of the impatience of his angry brother. The one who had perished is
rescued, therefore, because he embraced repentance; repentance is not wasted
because it meets up with patience!
Consider now charity, the great bond of faith, the treasure of the Christian
religion, which the Apostle extols with all the power of the Holy Spirit: how is
it learned except by the exercise of patience?
'Charity,' he says, 'is magnanimous.' It derives this from patience.
'It is kind.' Patience works no evil. 'It does not envy.' Envy is
certainly a characteristic of impatience. 'It is not pretentious.' It has
derived its contentment from patience. 'It is not puffed up, is not ambitious,'
for that does not befit patience. 'It is not self-seeking.' It suffers (the loss
of) its own goods provided that it be to another's advantage. 'It is not
provoked.' What, then, would it have left to impatience? Therefore, he says,
'charity bears with all things, endures all things.' Of course it does, because
it is itself patient.
He is correct, then, in stating that it will never fall away. Everything else
will pass away and come to an end. Tongues, knowledge, prophecies are made void,
but there persist faith, hope, and charity: faith, which the patience of
Christ has instilled; hope, to which the patience of man looks forward; charity,
which patience accompanies, according to the teaching of God.
Thus far (we have been speaking), however, of a patience which constitutes
simply and uniformly and solely an operation of the soul, whereas in various
ways we should strive for this same patience also in the body in order to attain
the good pleasure of the Lord, inasmuch as it was practiced by the Lord Himself
as a virtue also of the body; for the soul, as the directing agent, readily
shares the inspirations of the Spirit with that wherein it dwells.
What, then, is the operation of patience in the body? Primarily,
mortification of the flesh as a sacrifice acceptable to the Lord. This is an
offering of (one's) humility, since it offers to the Lord a sacrifice of
mourning dress along with meager rations, contenting itself with plain food and
a drink of clear water, joining fast with fast and persevering in sackcloth and
This patience on the part of the body contributes to the value of our
petitions and strengthens our prayers for deliverance. It opens the ears of
Christ our God, dispels His severity, elicits His mercy.
Thus, after offending the Lord, the King of Babylon lived for seven years in
squalor and filth, an exile from human society. By this offering of the patient
endurance of bodily (discomfort) not only did he regain his kingdom, but--and
this is even more desirable in a man--he made satisfaction to God.
Now, if we go on to consider the higher and more blessed degrees of bodily
patience, (we see that) it turns continence, too, into an opportunity for
sanctity: this it is which preserves the widow (in her state), places its seal
upon the virgin, and raises to the kingdom of heaven one who of his own free
will embraces a life of celibacy.
That which derives from the power of the soul finds its fulfillment in the
flesh. In persecutions the endurance of the flesh engages in battle. If flight
besets one, the flesh surmounts the hardships of flight. If imprisonment
precludes flight, it is the flesh which submits to the chains, the block of
wood, and the bare ground. It is the flesh which endures both the scanty light
(of the dungeon) and the deprivation of worldly comforts.
But, when one is led forth to the ordeal that will prove his happiness, to
the opportunity to renew one's baptism, to the very ascent to the throne of
divinity, there is nothing (which avails) more in that situation than endurance
on the part of the body. If the spirit is willing but the flesh--without
patience--weak, where is there salvation for the spirit as well as for the flesh
On the other hand, when the Lord speaks thus of the flesh and declares it
weak, He points out what is needed for strengthening it, namely, patience in the
face of everything that is ready to overthrow our faith and impose a penalty for
it, that one may bear with constancy stripes, and fire, the cross, wild beasts,
or the sword as the Prophets and Apostles bore them and won the victory.
In virtue of his power of endurance, Isaias, though cut in pieces, does not
refrain from speaking of the Lord. Stephen, as he is stoned, prays for pardon
for his enemies.
Happy, too, was that man who displayed every manner of patience against every
vicious attack of the Devil! His flocks were driven away, his wealth in cattle
destroyed by lightning, his children killed at a single stroke when his house
collapsed, his own body, finally, was tortured by painful sores --yet, by none
of these was he lured from his patience and the trust he owed the Lord. Though
the Devil struck him with all his strength, he struck in vain!
Far from being turned away by so many misfortunes from the reverence which he
owed to God, he set for us an example and proof of how we must practice patience
in the spirit as well as in the flesh, in soul as well as in body, that we may
not succumb under the loss of worldly goods, the death of our dear ones, or any
What a trophy over the Devil God erected in the case of that man! What a
banner of His glory He raised above His enemy when that man let fall from his
lips no other word than 'Thanks be to God!' as each bitter message reached him;
when he severely rebuked his wife who, weary by now of misfortunes, was urging
him to improper remedies.
How God laughed, and how the Evil One was split asunder, when Job, with
perfect calm, would wipe away the discharge oozing from his ulcer and, with a
jesting remark, would call back to the cavity and sustenance of his open flesh
the tiny creatures that were trying to make their way out!
Thus did that hero who brought about a victory for his God beat back all the
darts of temptation and with the breastplate and shield of patience soon after
recover from God complete health of body and the possession of twice as much as
he had lost.
Had he wanted his sons to be restored, too, he would once again have heard
himself called 'father.' But he preferred that they be restored to him on the
last day; placing all his trust in the Lord, he deferred that great joy; for the
prevent, he was willing to endure the loss of his children that he might not
live without something to suffer!
God is fully capable of being the trustee of our patience: if you place in
His hands an injustice you have suffered, He will see that justice is done; if a
loss, He will see that you receive compensation; if a pain, He acts as healer;
if death, He restores life. How much is granted to patience that it should have
God for a debtor!
And not without reason. For it pays attention to all His prescriptions, it
becomes surety for all His commands: it strengthens faith, governs peace,
sustains love, instructs humility, awaits repentance, places its seal upon the
discipline of penance, controls the flesh, preserves the spirit, puts restraint
upon the tongue, holds back the (violent) hand, treads under foot temptations,
pushes scandal aside, consummates martyrdom.
In poverty it supplies consolation; upon wealth it imposes moderation; the
sick it does not destroy, nor does it, for the man in health, prolong his life;
for the man of faith it is a source of delight. It attracts the heathen,
recommends the slave to his master, the master to God. It adorns a woman,
perfects a man. It is loved in a child, praised in a youth, esteemed in the
aged. In both man and woman, at every age of life, it is exceedingly attractive.
Now, then! If you will, let us try to grasp the features and appearance of
patience. Its countenance is peaceful and untroubled. Its brow is clear,
unruffled by any lines of melancholy or anger. The eyebrows are relaxed, giving
an impression of joyousness. The eyes are lowered, in an attitude rather of
humility than moroseness.
The mouth is closed in becoming silence. Its complexion is that of the serene
and blameless. It shakes its head frequently in the direction of the Devil, and
its laughter conveys a threat to him. The upper part of its garment is white and
close-fitting so that it is not blown about or disturbed (by the wind).
It sits on the throne of its spirit which is extremely mild and gentle and is
not whipped into a knot by the whirlwind, is not made livid by a cloud, but is a
breeze of soft light, clear and simple, such as Elias saw the third time. For
where God is, there, too, is the child of His nurturing, namely, patience.
When the Spirit of God descends, patience is His inseparable companion. If we
fail to welcome it along with the Spirit, will the latter remain within us at
all times? As a matter of fact, I rather think the Spirit would not remain at
all. Without its companion and assistant it would feel very uncomfortable
anywhere and at any time. It could not endure, all by itself, the blows which
its enemy inflicts, if stripped of the means which helps it to endure.
This is the theory, this the practice, this the operation of the patience
which is divine and true, namely, Christian; a patience not like the patience
practiced by the peoples of the earth, which is false and disgraceful.
For, that the Devil might rival the Lord in this respect, also, and be really
on an equal footing with Him as it were (except that good and evil are extremes
of equal magnitude) the Devil also taught his own a special brand of patience.
It is a patience, I say, which renders subject to the power of their wives
husbands who are purchased by a dowry or who negotiate with panderers; a
patience in virtue of which (a wife) bears, with feigned affection, all the
irritation resulting from a forced association so that, as a childless widow,
she may lay hands upon her husband's estate; a patience which sentences
gormandizers to sacrifice their freedom and become disgraceful slaves to their
Such are the goals of patience as the heathens know it and by such despicable
efforts they appropriate the name of so noble a virtue; they live in patient
endurance of their rivals, the wealthy, and their hosts; it is only God
alone whom they cannot endure. But let their patience and the patience of their
chief take care: there is fire beneath the earth awaiting this kind of patience.
Let us, then, love the patience that is of God, the patience of Christ; let
us return to Him that which He expended for us; let us who believe in the
resurrection of the flesh and of the spirit offer Him both the patience of the
spirit and the patience of the flesh.