Tertullian: Did You Know Patience Is God's Nature?

Feast of the Holy Martyr Julian

Tertullian_square_3.jpegTHIS SPECIES of the divine patience indeed being, as it were, at a distance, may perhaps be esteemed as among “things too high for us;” but what is that which, in a certain way, has been grasped by hand among men openly on the earth? God suffers Himself to be conceived in a mother’s womb, and awaits the time for birth; and, when born, bears the delay of growing up; and, when grown up, is not eager to be recognized, but is furthermore contumelious to Himself, and is baptized by His own servant; and repels with words alone the assaults of the tempter; while from being “Lord” he become “Master,” teaching man to escape death, having been trained to the exercise of the absolute forbearance of offended patience. He did not strive; He did not cry aloud; nor did any hear His voice in the streets. He did not break the bruised reed; the smoking flax He did not quench: for the prophet – nay, the attestation of God Himself, placing His own Spirit, together with patience in its entirety, in His Son – had not falsely spoken. There was none desirous of cleaving to Him whom He did not receive. No one’s table or roof did He despise: indeed, Himself ministered to the washing of the disciples’ feet; not sinners, not publicans, did He repel; not with that city even which had refused to receive Him was He wroth, when even the disciples had wished that the celestial fires should be forthwith hurled on so contumelious a town. He cared for the ungrateful; He yielded to His ensnarers. This was a small matter, if He had not had in His company even His own betrayer, and steadfastly abstained from pointing him out. Moreover, while He is being betrayed, while He is being led up “as a sheep for a victim,” (for “so he no more opens His mouth than a lamb under the power of the shearer,”) He to whom, had He willed it, legions of angels would at one word have presented themselves from the heavens, approved not the avenging sword of even one disciple. The patience of the Lord was wounded in the wound of Malchus. And so, too, He cursed for the time to come the works of the sword; and, by the restoration of health, made satisfaction to him whom Himself had not hurt, through Patience, the mother of Mercy. I pass by in silence the fact that He is crucified, for this was the end for which He had come; yet had the death which must be undergone need of contumelies likewise? Nay, but, when about to depart, He wished to be sated with the pleasure of patience. He is spitted on, scourged, derided, clad foully, more foully crowned. Wondrous is the faith of equanimity! He who had set before Him the concealing of Himself in mans’ shape, imitated nought of man’s impatience! Hence, even more than from any other trait, ought ye, Pharisees, to have recognized the Lord. Patience of this kind none of men would achieve. Such and so mighty evidences – the very magnitude of which proves to be among the nations indeed a cause for rejection of the faith, but among its reason and rearing – proves manifestly enough (not by the sermons only, in enjoining, but likewise by the sufferings of the Lord in enduring) to them to whom it is given to believe, that as the effect and excellence of some inherent propriety, patience is God’s nature.

~Tertullian, On Patience


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