Prayers, please, for Mabel, terminal cancer and hospitalized with
sepsis, as well as for Elizabeth, her daughter, who is losing the
last of her family. Prayers, too, for Chrissy and Tim. Their baby,
Peter, lived only 12 hours and they had just five minutes with him
before he went back to God. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. These are both always true, even on days like today, when it
is hard to type them. Thanks so much! JL
January 25, May 26, September 25
Chapter 7: On Humility
Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying,
"Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
In saying this it shows us
that all exaltation is a kind of pride,
against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard
when he says,
"Lord, my heart is not exalted,
nor are mine eyes lifted up;
neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonders above me."
But how has he acted?
"Rather have I been of humble mind
than exalting myself;
as a weaned child on its mother's breast,
so You solace my soul" (Ps. 130:1-2).
if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility
and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation
to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life,
by our ascending actions
erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream,
on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending.
By that descent and ascent
we must surely understand nothing else than this,
that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.
And the ladder thus set up is our life in the would,
which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled.
For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder,
and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted
the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.
Today we begin St. Benedict's exhaustive treatment of humility.
Humility and obedience are so closely linked that it is virtually
impossible to speak of one without adding the other. Since both are
essential Benedictine virtues, it is easy to say that there is no
such thing as a holy Benedictine who has not climbed or is not
climbing this ladder. I have never known a holy monk who was not
humble, in fact, it was usually their most outstanding trait.
A lot of this chapter will grate on modern ears. I will be the first
to admit that some people need assertiveness training. However, in my
experience, most of us do not. Most of us manage to be assertive on a
daily- even hourly- basis without much difficulty.
Remember, too, that modern psychology is a science which, like all
science, is limited to observable data. Hence, it is not surprising
that the generalities of psychology deal with relations between
people and things. The catch here is that the humility St. Benedict
speaks of is rooted in relationship of humans to God, a sphere in
which psychology finds itself woefully out of its element.
It can see some things amiss, but not all. It lacks the supernatural
basis of faith, and this impedes it somewhat in this area. Balance,
always balance. We will deal here with matters that can be assessed
best with both faith and science, but never with one of them alone.
A quickie on the Psalm quote today: "...neither have I walked in
great matters, nor in matters above me." This is a favorite of
Brother Patrick Creamer, my mentor. He has learned to do it quite
well and in just 45 years or so!! (He'd laugh, too!) People can,
alas, get sucked up by power, even in monasteries. There is very
little difference from the secular workplace in this regard, which
should point out to us that something is very wrong with the picture!
There is another group, in both monastery and world, that is almost
equally pathetic: the intriguers who think they are really involved
with moving and shaking the movers and shakers. Sigh. Both of these
groups are, let us face it, a sorry lot, surely to be pitied, but
never to be emulated.
Hey, what if they gave a power struggle and no one came? That's the
idea folks! Pay no attention to such things at all, other than a bit
of heartbreak for the poor losers who have missed the Bridegroom and
married the Wedding March. No wonder they're frustrated!
I speak as one who has been all too focused at many times on the
monastic soap opera, its hand-wringing tempests in teacups. About
many things, even most, we must learn simply not to care, not to
trouble ourselves with matters too great, even though we may have to
call them "great" with an inner, rueful chuckle.
You will never have peace until you learn to leave all that alone, to
distrust it for the empty and tragic charade that it truly is. And
you will never get anywhere if you don't have peace. The road to that
peace is humility and love, both effective vaccinations against the
fatal and pathetic disease of power.
Love and prayers,