Tertullian on Patience

“Patience outfits faith, guides peace, assists love, equips humility, waits for penitence, seals confession, keeps the flesh in check, preserves the spirit, bridles the tongue, restrains the hands, tramples temptation underfoot, removes what causes us to stumble, brings martyrdom to perfection; it lightens the care of the poor, teaches moderation to the rich, lifts the burdens of the sick, delights the believer, welcomes the unbeliever, commends the servant to his master and his master to God, adorns women and gives grace to men; patience is loved in children, praised in youth, admired in the elderly.  It is beautiful in either sex and at every age of life. . . . Her countenance is tranquil and peaceful, her brow serene. . . . Patience sits on the throne of the most gentle and peaceful Spirit. . . . For where God is there is his progeny, patience.  When God’s Spirit descends patience is always at his side.”

– Tertullian (mid 2nd to early 3rd century AD), On Patience in Ante-Nicene Fathers, quoted in Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 285.

4 thoughts on “Tertullian on Patience”

  1. Dear Rob:
    Great quote–I wrote on patience using him in Christians Among the Virtues–That is the first treatise in moral theology by a Christian.

    1. Dear Stan,
      Patience is the virtue that I most identify with your work. One of my favourite essays of yours, which I heartily recommend to anyone reading, is “Taking Time for Peace: The Ethical Significance of the Trivial” in /Christian Existence Today.

  2. Rob, thanks for the slice of early Church Father Tertullian to go with my morning coffee. Lots of good food for thought, and action, too! I’m ordering Wilken’s book for further study and reflection. Blessings!

    1. Dear Don,
      Wilken’s book is excellent. I am leaning towards assigning it for my Church Fathers course as the introductory text. We will also spend a lot of time engaging in close readings of selected texts from Origen, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzus, and Augustine.

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