Patricia Hofer

Cloud of Unknowing’s “perfect” and “imperfect” meekness

More recently I’ve been reading the thoughts of Christian mystics throughout the centuries. One book that I’ve found to be helpful is Cloud of Unknowing, likely written by a 14th century cloistered monk who was devoted to the contemplative life. … In his older language, he wrote of the importance of being “meeked” (made meek), and he defined meekness as “a true knowing and feeling of a man’s self as he is” (Underhill 27). We are “meeked” in an imperfect way, he writes, as we acknowledge and accept our frailties and failures and sinfulness. And we are “meeked” in a perfect way through God’s “overabundant love” and by our need for that divine love and forgiving grace (27)….But self-knowledge alone isn’t going to strengthen us or make us meek. In fact, the thoughtful priest writes that we shouldn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the “foul stinking fen and dunghill” (34) of our sins but rather look only to God’s love. He points out that the woman who came to Jesus when he was at the Pharisee’s house did not make a long story bemoaning her sinfulness and her sorrow. Being “meeked” in the imperfect way, she wept, expecting nothing. Being “meeked” in the perfect way, she washed his feet and “loved much” (KJ Luke 7:47). (From Yielding to Wonder, pp. 114-115)

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