In the Gospel according to Luke, we read the profoundly important word of Christ: In your patience save ye your souls (Luke 21:19). Oh our Lord, Lord! What art Thou saying? Is the virtue of patience really so enormous, of such limitless significance, that it can even save our souls?
If, according to the word of Christ, patience is so salutary, then it can be placed next to the queen of all virtues: humility, right next to meekness, and we need to ponder deeply about the Lord’s word about patience. Let us try, so far as our weak minds can manage, to understand the meaning of Christ’s words. In order to do so, we need to remember that man is made up of spirit, soul, and body, and that everything difficult in our lives – illnesses, everyday grief, offences, and humiliations – we undergo in our tripartite natures: in spirit, in soul, and in body. Physical pain and suffering from illnesses are usually perceived in the highest degree by our soul and spirit. Our brain and our whole nervous system direct all the normal and diseased processes in our body, regulating and coordinating them. And our spirit reigns over the soul.
In the lives of Christ’s Holy Martyrs, we read with astonishment about how easily and calmly they underwent unimaginably terribly torments and tortures. This is incomprehensible to materialists, and they consider these to be fables; but we know that the spirit of the martyrs, enflamed with boundless faith in Christ and love for Him, had enormous power over their bodies and could powerfully alleviate their sufferings.
We know that in modern medicine no small role is played by so-called psychotherapy – that is, in verbal, psychological actions on the sick – which often has a powerful and beneficial effect on the course of the illness. If patience had such a great and beneficial effect on the saints in their torments, then most likely murmuring against God and the screams and cries of sinful people can only increase their suffering.
But when we, Christians, suffer a painful disease, and first of all think of doctors and medicines, would it not be better if we first remembered the longsuffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the Prophet Isaiah called a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
We can say the same about the endurance of offences. Are we able, as we should and as is pleasing to God, to bear offences and insults inflicted upon us?
Oh no, to our shame, no. Even in our Christian environment we see how it often happens that one who has not acquired the virtues of humility and patience answer offence with offence and insult with insult. And quarrels flame up more and more and reach the point of fights, and even bloodshed.
But a silent, peaceful bearing of offence is the best protection against the offender. Nothing so restrains those who offend as the meek bearing of offences.
God protects those who patiently endure offences. Yes, you should follow the example of the majority of our contemporaries, who attach great importance to the strengthening and enhancing of their physical fitness. But we need to take constant care not so much of the culture of the body, so much as the perfecting of the spirit, for which the exercise of patience plays such a great role, in unmurmuring patience even in serious illness, in the benign endurance of offence and insult, in curbing gossip, and in the acquisition of the great virtue of patience.
Let us remember the testimony of the Apostle Peter, in his first Catholic Epistle, about the imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we were healed (1 Peter 2:23-24).
I will also remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews, in which he speaks of the great sufferings in the persecutions that the great righteous ones endured. Of these others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth…
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a could of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Hebrews 11:35-38; 12:1-3).
I conclude my sermon with the good wishes of the Apostle Paul: And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
Translated from the Russian.