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True Calmness

1. We cannot judge whether a person is calm or not until his calmness has been tested.

A person may appear calm, because the external conditions which surround him are calm. No problem or provocation has yet occurred to put his calmness to the test. Though if you clash with him he will probably show his real self, and show whether he is calm or not. It is only when one person clashes with another over a matter of opinion or behavior, or when insult or injury befalls him or he is faced with hurtful words that, according to how he behaves, he can be judged as to his calmness. It is the same situation if he falls into a problem or into adversity, or becomes ill or faces some difficulty. All of these could be a test for his disposition and his nerves. How does he behave, how does he react? Does he lose his calmness, or does he endure and solve the problem calmly?

This is the first test of true calmness. Any person can be calm when circumstances are calm.

2. The second test, however, is how long the calmness lasts. Real calmness is a continuous tranquility, something like a characteristic. It is not to be calm for a period of time after which a person loses that calm and changes its way of holding out in the face of problems. True calmness is not just training for endurance for a specific period of time. It is a tranquil nature which continues in its calmness however long the time and however the situation changes.

True peace is not a veil behind which a restless character hides, only to be brought to light by unexpected events!

The person who is tranquil by nature is not hurt by problems or clashes, rather the contrary, they show up his compassion, his gentleness and kindness of heart. Saint Paul the Apostle lived in difficult surroundings, "in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments,... ", nevertheless he said in the introduction to all this, that it was, "in much patience,". (2 Cor.6:4-5) And he said, in the spirit of faith, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. " (2 Cor.4:16). He also referred to all his problems and hardships by the phrase, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment". (2 Cor.4:17).

3.True calmness is not external but internal. This calmness does not only show on the outside whilst a volcano rages within. On the contrary, a person's internal peace is the source and origin of his outer calmness. We will speak about this point in greater detail when we talk about the tranquility of the heart.

4.There is a difference between true calmness and impassiveness, which might well be a kind of coldness that is meant to provoke. The calm person, one who loves peace, is not only calm himself, but tries to make others around him calm to spread peace around them. But it might sometimes happen that a person with strong nerves may put up with a fretful friend, replying to him very calmly or very coolly in a way that actually provokes his nerves even more, and makes him more agitated. This increased agitation is then met with even greater calmness and cold composure on the part of the one with the stronger nerves, who takes pleasure in provoking his unfortunate friend and making him an object of criticism in front of those present.

This sort of calmness is not at all what is meant by spiritual calmness.

The spiritually calm person does not demolish another through his own calmness. His fretful brother is entrusted in his care. He is responsible for safeguarding his brother's nerves and reputation and to lead him to find peacefulness too. Consequently, he would not provoke his friend because he himself is a lover of peace. He wants peace for others just as he wants it for himself. He does not let the Devil of False Glory attack him with a 'bogus peace', in which he would provoke his brother to become his angry and agitated adversary by maintaining a false, proud, superior calmness at his brother's expense. Satan would indeed be pleased to see him induce such an angry and exasperated state in his opponent.

The successful person does not gain spiritual satisfaction from seeing the downfall of another, but rather, as a result of his own calmness, spreads peace to all. He meets others calmly, whether they are for him or against him. If he finds that the other person is angry, he placates him with a gentle reply and not one likely to rouse his anger. (Prov. 15:1)

5. The peaceful person may be calm by nature by being born that way or, his calmness may have been acquired. The naturally calm person does not make great efforts to arrive at a state of calmness, because he shuns all that is not peaceful. As far as acquired calmness is concerned though, this requires effort and practice and is a subject which we will discuss later, God willing. Every effort that is made to reach a state of peace has its own reward.

A person who needs to strive to acquire calmness may attain such a state gradually. But having attained it, he no longer has to make such strenuous efforts because at this stage, he will have become firmly grounded, stable and experienced in the life of peace. Thus he retains that which he has acquired by hard work and of course by the great assistance of God's grace.

Saint Moses the Black is a good example of someone who acquired calmness through training. He was not born like that, but in fact he started life as a cruel murderer. Then when he entered the monastic life, he began to discipline himself in calmness until he mastered it so well that when he was called for his ordination as a priest, and the Pope ordered him to be sent away in order to test him, Saint Moses left quietly, blaming himself without feeling upset inside. Then, when they allowed him to return, he went back quietly without hurting his dignity.

In view of this, it was not so strange that one of the saints saw him in a vision being fed on honeycomb by the angels. If you are not calm by nature, do not make excuses saying: "What can I do?! I was just born that way!! Even if you were born that way, or inherited a lack of calmness from father or mother, that is no excuse. You can change what you inherited. Someone who has not obtained natural calmness can acquire calmness by training himself, and striving hard to gain it. The qualities which a person is born with are not as a fixed rule unable to be changed. They are so easily changed if the good intention exists, ccompanied by a sincere determination, hard work and effort, then the Lord will give you a new heart, removing from you the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh as he promised. (Ezek.36:26)

Virtues Connected with Tranquility

1. Tranquility has a relationship with love, to which it gives and from which it takes. The loving person is tranquil in his relationships with people. He does not react against them, because he loves them. As for hatred, if it enters the heart, it is like a raging volcano which never quietens, it wants vengeance and wants to demolish. It does not subside until it has achieved what it wants and has ruined everything else. The world needs love and peace in order for its problems to be solved. They can be solved by reconciliation and peace with calmness. In the calmness of a discussion that is soaked with

love, people can come together in order to solve their problems, however much their views differ. If calmness disappears, however, love disappears with it, since love cannot exist alongside confusion and disorder, sharp voices and discourteous behavior.

You can love the peaceful person, his calmness attracts you. The features of his face alone make you love him. His calm manner of dealing with things makes you love him too. If you should get irritated with him for any reason, his tranquility will overcome you and avert your irritation. Thus the Lord spoke well of the meek in heart, that they will inherit the earth by which is meant the earth here, and heaven. They will obtain people's love on earth because of their meekness and peacefulness, just as they will obtain the land of the living too.(Ps.27:13)

2. Thus the virtue of calmness is also connected to peace: the calm person is always peaceful and the peaceful person is also calm. The calm person, "He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets." (Matt.12:19), as was said about the Lord Jesus. Thus he lives peacefully with people because he does not quarrel with anyone or raise his voice at them, and because he does not solve his problems with people by using force but calmness. Peace may well be lost between one rude person and another, but it is not lost between a rude person and a calm one, because the calm one can withstand the rude. It is rather like the saying that fire cannot be extinguished by fire, but by water. If the calm person by his calmness can pacify the rude, then it goes without saying that peace can exist between two calm people.

Calmness is one of the manifestations of inner peace, it is also a factor which contributes to it. Whoever maintains his calmness maintains his inner peace.

3. The relationship between calmness and gentleness is self-evident, since calmness is a branch of gentleness, or one of its outward signs, so that one could say that they are interchangeable. When you speak about the calm person, you are also speaking about gentleness. The person who loses his calm obviously loses his gentle temper. When we speak of the relationship between calmness and gentleness, we are just speaking about the relationship between the part and the whole.

4. The relationship between calmness and depth: the calm person, through his calmness, can reach the depths, if he has a gift for contemplation. But it is not necessarily the case that a calm person is deep. It would be more correct for us to say that every deep person is calm. Here I marvel at an expression given by one of the spiritual men of letters, which I have probably repeated to you on more than one occasion, which is: "When God cast me as a pebble into the lake of life, I caused bubbles at its surface and circles rippling out to infinity. But when I reached the bottom, I became calm."

The waves are turbulent on the surface of the sea, just as the depths of the sea, or the bottom of the ocean are calm, so too is the person. When he is going through a unimportant period and

living a superficial and shallow life, he wants to cause ripples on the surface of life with circles rippling outwards to infinity, but when he reaches a more mature age and can think more deeply, he becomes calm. The shallow, superficial person is restless, he goes around trying to 'find' himself, or trying to fulfill himself, whichever way he can.

5. At this point 1 would like to distinguish between depth and intelligence, in relation to calmness.

Some intelligent people have an intelligence which is just intellectual ability. Their spirits and hearts are not on the same level as their minds, so they do not reach the full depth that is meant here, by this I mean depth of thought, heart, mind and spirit. Not every intelligent person is deep. But the deep person is intelligent. The intelligent person who lacks depth may fall into errors that make him lose his calmness.

Therefore the intelligent person can comprehend that which another cannot and as a result regards this other person as his inferior, and piles blame and scorn upon him if he works with him or under his command, thus losing his calmness in his dealings with him. Sometimes, on account of his intelligence, he detects many other people's mistakes and so becomes angry with them or becomes annoyed within himself at their errors, and in this way loses his peace from both inside and outside. Intelligence, by itself, has troubles of its own if it is not accompanied by meekness and humility. If the mind is boisterous and thinks too highly of itself, it loses its calmness. And if the mind is pompous and proud, it loses its calmness and peace in its relationship with God and with people. Whoever has been given intelligence by God must pray that God will give him the meekness and humility of heart so that intelligence does not degenerate into arrogance and make him lose his peace.

6. The relationship between calmness and the virtue of humility: Saint Dorotheus said: "The humble person does not anger anyone, nor is he angered by anyone. " He does not make anyone angry because he asks for the blessing and prayers of everyone. He is not angered by anyone because he always lays the blame for everything on himself. Whoever is in this situation lives in peace with all people. If he loses his humility, he loses his calmness. Likewise, the humble person does not lose his calmness because of running after desires, as he does not see himself as deserving of anything and he does not want to be raised above the situation which he is in already.

7. The relationship between calmness, faith and surrender: Whoever lives a life of faith, lives in peace, surrendering his whole life to God, accepting everything in faith from His loving hands, is not upset or annoyed by anything, but rather is continually peaceful, saying with the Prophet David: "Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear." (Ps.27). In faith he says, "All is for the best". If a problem surrounds him he has faith that God will solve it, which is why his heart stays calm. If troubles exhaust him, he says, "Their course will come to an end," and his heart once again becomes calm. In contrast to this is the person who is remote from the life of faith and surrendering to God, whose thoughts tire him and who never becomes calm. If problems occur they completely exhaust him because he does not put before him the help that comes from above. Those who do not live a life of faith try to disturb other people's tranquility by the harm and damage that they bring upon them.

8. The connection between calmness and living with God: How beautiful are the words of Saint Augustine in the book of his confessions, when he addresses the Lord with this beautiful, deep phrase: "Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you." This is because the source of the heart's tranquility is not the world, with its passions and desires, but God alone. No one who lives far from God can live in peace, his heart remains troubled as if stopped by the winds of his desires, until he comes to know God and experiences the sweetness of living with Him. Only then does he find calm and peace, like a traveller on a troubled sea who reaches the port of safety.

Calmness, BY H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark.




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