Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Views From the Ground Floor, Part IV: Blessed are the Meek

Interior, St. Savin

Blessed are the Meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.

Well, wouldn't you know it. Meek is not a Latin word.  It is from the old Norse, and it means soft or gentle.

To be soft or gentle means several different things by implication.

First of all, it means that if it is touched, it is sensual and pleasing to encounter. This is the physical quality of meekness.

Secondly, it means that as an action of touch — being gentle —it is caring and attentive. This is the emotional quality of meekness.

Thirdly, it implies the opposite of hardness: it yields, it receives. This is the intellectual quality of meekness.

This one word thus contains an entire range of spiritual instruction which needs to be carefully examined in order to appreciate its subtlety and the extraordinary intelligence of the phrase itself.

The word meek embodies a holy trinity of qualities: sensation, feeling, intellect. While it acts as an instruction for character and behavior and all three of these areas, it also serves as an indicator of the three-centered work that is necessary for Being. Let's examine the meaning here in terms of the foundation of relationship that is described at the beginning of the sermon.

In terms of character, what is physically engraved on Being, to be touched means to be intimate. This means that there needs to be, both inwardly and outwardly, an intimate ability to allow relationship to take place, allowing it to touch me, and for me to touch others. To be meek implies a relaxation, both inwardly and outwardly, both in terms of my physical tension, my emotional fear, and my intellectual rejection.

In terms of the feeling-action of this touch, it means that my emotional attitude, my feeling being, needs to be finely tuned to offer care to others. This is an inversion of my usual outwardly selfish state. If I'm meek, there is a humility, a sincerity to the way I approach others emotionally. I don't run around like a bull in a china shop bludgeoning everyone else with my emotional insecurities and disabilities. Rather, I use my feeling capacity to help support others and care about the difficulties they are encountering.

In terms of the intellectual action of meekness, it’s intelligent enough to know its place as a tiny thing, and yield with deference to the arriving impressions of the world so that they can be objectively received and evaluated. This does not imply self-effacement, but rather self-awareness. There has to be a conscious receiving of the world around me, not one engaged in automatically and at the complete mercy of my emotional reactions. My intelligence must not be arrogant and dismissive of others.

Once again, we find entire teachings in a single sentence. Yet we aren’t done here; the second part of the couplet says, for they shall inherit the earth.

One inherits, always and only, from what has been left behind by another, usually by death. To inherit is to stand in the shoes of the last person, to become the next steward in an endless line of succession. Everyone who inherits eventually becomes he or she who gives on to their heirs. The influence of stewardship is, without any doubt, implicit in this phrase. From it we know that the earth we live on and in originally belonged to some other time and force, some other being; and in meekness, we recognize that, instead of thinking that the earth belongs to us, which is what our arrogance usually tells us. It is through meekness that we inherit the earth, that is, we become stewards of it. 

This may seem obvious enough when one reads it, but the denial that is afoot in humanity regarding our aberrant belief that we own everything and can do anything we want with it is both extraordinary and glaringly evident. Christ is telling us the exact opposite.

The earth, here, is shorthand for everything. The whole world we are in, and perhaps even all of creation itself, which is an entity apart from God. Yet it also means the quality of groundedness, a relationship and a rootedness to the reality of Being. It's through the exercise of meekness of character with all three of our parts that we become eligible to inherit the earth. 

When our parts participate together to unify our being at the ground floor of the point where we live within this moment, our roots sink down into the earth – the fertile soil — of our Being, and we have a new opportunity to understand what love means. 

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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