“Patience is chiefly needed to enable us to persevere, and to bear all the troubles which come upon us in this world.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 104. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.
Patience…another sweet virtue which renders all of our crosses sweet and all of our troubles as incense borne up to Almighty God. I often picture it as a silent resignation as we carry our crosses, the same way Our Lord is depicted in paintings and artwork of His Passion. To me, as someone who loves etymology, I see a few striking resemblances in the word ‘patience’ to other words, words which do not necessarily convey as a reluctant resignation with eyes downcast and a displeased look upon our face. This is not to say that depictions of Our Lord are false, by no means. What I mean here is that while our outer countenance may be silent and resigned in humility, our hearts and souls are very much involved in a couple of other virtues and qualities that are connected, I think, etymologically to the word ‘patience.’ These are passion and peace (from the Latin pax).
Passion and peace? What do you mean? How can both be at work in a heart at the same time? Well, with the word passion, being the one word definitively related to patience, as they have the same root, we see a connection here which is not often related to passion. We think of passion nowadays as a burning desire, a great love for something. The real meaning of the word takes it one step further. What do we see in Our Lord’s own Passion? He suffered most excruciating torments for us out of His great love for us, yes. But He also was obedient unto death. He not only expressed great love for us by His words, but proved them by His actions, going so far as to die for us. This shows us that true Passion is willing to suffer anything and even give its life for that which it loves. This is related to patience etymologically by the same root, and in meaning by what it accomplishes. Patience is, too, a form of passion, but a quieter form. It is a hidden martyrdom for the sake of what we hold to be dearest. In patience we find a heart resigned to whatever troubles, whatever long waits, whatever roadblocks come into the way of what it desires–because that desire is directed towards God, who orders all things. The patient heart knows that God is in control, and therefore whatever He sends is for its good–which leads us to our next word.
While not having as close of an etymological tie with ‘patience’, I think peace logically follows and flows from the patient heart. Our Lord Himself promised His peace to His apostles and disciples, the peace that He would give, and not as the world gives. If Our Lord, Who suffered so patiently for us, is giving us peace, and He has also instructed us to take up our crosses and follow after Him, what does that tell us about His peace? Not only will His peace be enough to withstand the burden of our crosses, but it will be through those crosses that we experience peace, just as through His cross our redemption came. This is a great miracle and one of the greatest gifts that God has given us–the gift of great peace of heart and joy even amidst the heaviest of crosses. This He promises to those hearts which truly desire to follow after Him and patiently bear their crosses for His sake, unwilling to surpass any cross which will bring them closer to Him.
Through the remainder of this Lenten season, let us strive to joyfully accept any crosses Our Lord may send us, knowing that they are hand-crafted by a loving Savior Who wishes to draw us nearer to Him, and knowing that in bearing with them patiently out of a burning charity for Him, we bring joy to His heart, and that He will pour His peace into ours.