If you haven’t come across it yet, Anthony Esolen has been writing a series of articles–expositions, really–covering the seven “lively virtues,” counterparts to the more widely-known deadly sins, for Crisis. This morning the third in the series, on meekness, went up. Considering the finding of Christ in the Temple, Esolen writes:
The poet sees what a theologian might miss. Mary has what any mother would consider just cause for anger – what Thomas Aquinas calls parvipensio, to slight, to treat someone as if he counted for little. Yet her words are not angry. She pleads for understanding; she waits for the answer from Jesus. We can imagine the boy shaking his head quizzically, wondering about their wondering. His reply is not defiant, but half amused. Where else did they think he could possibly be? Mary did not understand, but she “kept all these sayings in her heart” (Lk. 2:51). The Greek suggests that she kept watch over them, she held them close, just as she kept and pondered the tidings of the shepherds when Jesus was born (Lk. 2:19).
Mary did not brood; she pondered. She is here our exemplar of meekness, that sweet and mild virtue that, like the soft answer, “turneth away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). Jesus identifies himself with the virtue, saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt. 11:28-30).
As in much of his work, Esolen blends a critical approach with a meditative mood, and backs it up with ample Scriptural citations and literary allusions (including, of course, to Dante). See his latest here, and his two previous pieces (covering humility and solicitude, respectively) for an engaging read.