In one of my Lectio Divina meditations on Philippians 2:5, I marveled at the key role that humility plays in the divine economy of salvation. Not only does this seem to be the cornerstone of any way of thinking with Jesus as the center, but it is the charism that defines what I have learned about being a Lay Cistercian so far. Chapter 7 refers to St. Benedict’s Rule,
Some few of us are called to the monastic lifestyle, where we just focus on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Others, who live in the context of the World, try to use Cistercian practices and charisms as we can to seek the same end, one that we can only approach but never quite master in this lifetime. No matter what approach we use, humility is the essential ingredient that makes the rest of the charisms fall into place. It is the cardinal virtue without which nothing makes sense.
THE HUMILITY OF CHRIST
It would be a mistake to think of humility in terms of how the world sees it. When we assume the responsibility for not only having Faith but actually doing what that Faith demands (Matthew 25:36) according to the example of Christ, there are various characteristics that seem to pop up.
Humility comes from our heart touching the heart of Christ. That heart is what humility is all about. Philippians 2:5-12 inspires me to be like Christ in humility, not like a politician, military leader, or some financeer from banking,
There are examples we have of those who have practiced humility, and thus obedience to God’s will, trying to love others as Christ loves us. We call those people Saints (upper case S). All of us are saints, who, be it in heaven, on the earth, or awaiting purification, are marked with the sign of Faith (the cross), purchased by the blood of Christ. Saints are not those without sin but who use humility and obedience to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus. It is for this reason that we honor and venerate them. We do not adore Saints as much as try to use them as inspiration for us while we live out our destiny.
THE FIRST STEP OF HUMILITY
Any of us who wish to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus must also have the humility to approach the Sacredness of God with the Imperfections of Human Nature (Original Sin). St. Benedict outlines twelve steps that he encourages his monks to take to begin the lifetime struggle. I have not been strong enough to perform all twelve steps, but I do have an appreciation for the depth of meaning involved in this crucial Gift of the Holy Spirit.
I have developed a saying about humility that works for me. It is:
I am not you; you are not me; God is not me, and I am certainly not God.
Step One is that “we keep the fear of God always before our eyes (Psalms 35:2) and never forget it.”
I can remember talking about this first step with my Lay Cistercian group on Gathering Day (the one day per month meeting requirement). The word fear is open to many interpretations. It could be we should be afraid of God, but that doesn’t make complete sense when you think that Jesus became one of us so that we would not be afraid of God. Our humanity makes God into its own image, without God define who He is and the purpose of life. Fear here has more of a ring of respect for God and reverence for what God says.
One thing I thought about is how every action, every word we speak will be revealed at the Last Judgement. This is the context in which I think about fear. It changes the way I make decisions that are a little flakey at times.
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY
“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” ~ C. S. Lewis
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” ~ C. S. Lewis
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” ~ Saint Augustine
“If you wish to attain to a true knowledge of the Scriptures, hasten to acquire first an unshakeable humility of heart. That alone will lead you, not to the knowledge that puffs up, but to that which enlightens, by the perfecting of love.” ~ John Cassian
“No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart.” ~ John Cassian
“… a Christian is quite certain to fall into the same sins which he condemns in another with merciless and inhuman severity, for ‘a stern king will fall into misfortunes,’ and ‘one who stops his ears so as not to hear the weak, shall himself cry, and there shall be none to hear him’ (Prov. 13:17; 21:13).” ~ John Cassian
“Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions.” ~ John Cassian
“The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.” ~ Benedict of Nursia
“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.” ~ Benedict of Nursia
“The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy. It depends upon the way we occupy that place.” ~ Therese of Lisieux
“My vocation, at last I have found it; my vocation is love.” ~ Therese of Lisieux
“Above the clouds the sky is always blue.” ~ Therese of Lisieux
“How happy I am to see myself as imperfect and to be in need of God’s mercy.” ~ Therese of Lisieux
“Your true character Is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do ‘Nothing’ for you” ~ Mother Teresa
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa
“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“What we love we shall grow to resemble.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“there are four degrees of love: 1) Love of self for self’s sake. 2) Love of God for self’s sake. 3) Love of God for God’s own sake. 4) Love of self for God’s sake.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“The rivers of Grace cannot flow uphill, up the steep cliff of the proud man’s heart.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
“Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
What delight God gives to humankind
with all these things .
All nature is at the disposal of humankind.
We are to work with it. For
without we cannot survive.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen
“God has arranged everything in the universe in consideration of everything else.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen
“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
God is the ground, the substance,
the teaching, the teacher,
the purpose, and the reward for which every soul labors.” ~ Julian of Norwich
LAY CISTERN APPLICATION
The contributions of others must be accepted as coming from sincere hearts. There is also the gift of discernment to tell you what is consistent with the Holy Spirit and what is not. When I attend the Gathering Day each month at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, we meet in groups to talk about a selected book. Humility means I must accept what others say as being sincere and coming from the heart, it does not mean that what people think is correct and I cannot state what I think is true. Knowing the difference allows me to keep my integrity.
Without humility, obedience to an abbot, abbess, bishop, superior general, or any person taking the place of Christ another as speaking for God becomes ridiculous, in terms of how the World sees humility.
Pride is the vice that keeps us from reaching our potential as sons and daughters of the Father. No one approaches God without humility of mind and heart.
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