Friday, September 03, 2010

Bowels of Compassion

A salutary warning from St. Gregory the Great, whose feast day it is:

These are wishes peculiar to the haughty, to pray that the lives of those who are suffering may be more severely examined, because the more just they are in their own eyes, the more hardened are they in others’ sufferings. For they know not how to take to them the feeling of the other’s infirmity, and to feel pity for their neighbour’s weakness, as they do for their own. For since they think highly of themselves, they do not at all condescend to the humble. Eliu believed that blessed Job had been smitten for his sin, and therefore believed that no bowels of compassion were to be shewn to him, even in the midst of so many sorrows. But when men, who are truly holy, behold any one smitten, even for his faults, though they reprove some of his inordinate doings, yet they sympathize with some of his sufferings; and they are so skilled in keeping down swellings, as yet to know how to relieve wounds, in order that when their hardnesses are softened, their infirmities may be strengthened. But because, on the other hand, haughty men have no bowels of love, they not only do not sympathize with the righteous when suffering, but moreover afflict them, under pretence of proper reproof, and they either exaggerate trifling faults, if there are any in them, or pervert by wrong construction those points which are really good.

Moralia in Job, Part V, Book XXVI
, Section 6. It sounds so straightforward; and yet it's extraordinarily difficult to practice.

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