HUMILITY: The key to knowing, loving, and serving God in this life, and being happy with God forever in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6)

During Lent, I want to focus on moving away from my false self (pride) and replacing it with humility and the energy of the Holy Spirit (as much as I can take). This is capacitas dei, making room for Jesus in that upper room of your consciousness where you keep the doors locked for fear of Satan and the demoniac (Sounds like a Rock Band).

When I approach Jesus on the park bench in the middle of winter, attitude is everything. I am reminded repeatedly that I am corrupt in my human nature (not evil) and prone to doing my will each day instead of offering “mi casa, su casa” to Jesus. Humility helps me with perspective and the profound realization that I am relating with God and not some stranger. Here are the twelve steps to Humility that St. Benedict pointed out (my interpretation of them).

RULE OF BENEDICT: Chapter 7 Humility

Rather than taking up a lot of space in this blog, I encourage you to read the twelve steps with commentary by Abbot Phillip Lawrence, O.S.B., Abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery.

Here are the twelve steps St. Benedict wants his monks to interiorize with a word or two of my reflection.

STEP ONE: 10 The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 35[36]:2) and never forgets it. Humility is when you are sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter, and Jesus sits next to you, and you are conscious that this is God who sits next to you.

STEP TWO: 31 The second step of humility is that a man loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; 32 rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38). 33 Similarly, we read, “Consent merits punishment; constraint wins a crown.” In silence and solitude, with eyes lowered and heart lifted up to the Lord, freely give the gift of all you have through Christ (kenosis).

STEP THREE: 34 The third step of humility is that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord of whom the Apostle says: He became obedient even to death (Phil 2:8). Humans don’t like to be told what to do. Women don’t like men telling them what to do. Men don’t like women pointing out to them that they are wrong. Obedience without humility just causes existential anxiety.

STEP FOUR: 35 The fourth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavourable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering 36 and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22). The Martyrdom of the Ordinary is a condition of the corruption of the mind and spirit that we seek to escape what is frustrating or painful in taking up our cross daily to follow The Master. It is the Sargasso Sea of prayer, the loneliness of the long-distance monk, nun, or Lay Cistercian, as we reach a patch of drying and total lack of meaning in our prayer life.

STEP FIVE: 44 The fifth step of humility is that a man does not conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confesses them humbly. 45 Concerning this, Scripture exhorts us: Make known your way to the Lord and hope in him (Ps 36[37]:5). 46 And again: Confess to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy is forever (Ps 105[106]:1; Ps 117[118]:1). Humans would rather eat glass than tell anyone about what is contained in their inner room, the sum total of what is meaningful in their lives. Some of these choices are good, while others need purging (atonement for sins committed). It takes humility to confess what you have placed at your center to a priest.

STEP SIX: 49 The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given, 50 saying to himself with the Prophet: I am insignificant and ignorant, no better than a beast before you, yet I am with you always (Ps 72[73]:22-23). You won’t see and become the sign of contradiction as a Lay Cistercian without realizing that “if you want to be the greatest, you must become the least amount you and serve all as Christ served you.”

STEP SEVEN: 51 The seventh step of humility is that a man not only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value, 52 humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: I am genuinely a worm, not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people (Ps 21[22]:7). 53 I was exalted, then I was humbled and overwhelmed with confusion (Ps 87[88]:16). 54 And again: It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn your commandments (Ps 118[119]:71,73). Ego sum vermis et non homo. I am a worm and not a human. Because I have the free will to reject the lures of the world to inflate my own worth so that I actually believe my own press, I must realize that, in bringing the heart of Jesus next to my own, I consciously reject all those false teachings except those from Jesus, and those whom he authorized to carry on his commands.

RULE EIGHT: 55 The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors. It takes humility to accept the interpretation of the Rule of Benedict and the Cistercian policies and procedures and do them as a way to convert yourself away from pride. If I only believe what I think is true without bending my will to serve God and, through Christ, others, then there can be no conversion of morals because I am the source of all morals, the way, what is true, and my life is moral because I do it.

RULE NINE: 56 The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, 57 for Scripture warns, In a flood of words you will not avoid sinning (Prov 10:19), 58 and, a talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth (Ps 139[140]:12). Humans are great at compulsive games, such as filling an empty hole. In Lectio Divina, indeed, in any prayer, it is the heart next to the heart of Christ that communicates without words or human mental constructs. We can say we relish silence, but in our minds, that great empty hole must be filled by words or sitting before the mirror of Erisad.

RULE TEN: 59 The tenth step of humility is that he is not given to ready laughter, for it is written: Only a fool raises his voice in laughter (Sir 21:23). I can’t imagine being against ready laughter. This rule suggests that if my intent to be the center of the party is to make myself more popular and the center of attention, then this is wrong. Most monks I know have a keen sense of human life.

RULE ELEVEN: 60 The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice, 61 as it is written: “A wise man is known by his few words.” Again, to see attention by raising your voice so that people notice you is not humility, as Benedict proposes.

RULE TWELVE: 2 The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident 63 at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery or the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else. Whether he sits, walks or stands, his head must be bowed and his eyes cast down. 64 Judging himself always guilty on account of his sins, he should consider that he is already at the fearful judgment, 65 and constantly say in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said with downcast eyes: Lord, I am a sinner, not worthy to look up to heaven (Luke 18:13). 66 And with the Prophet: I am bowed down and humbled in every way (Ps 37[38]:7-9; Ps 118[119]:107). I always sit in the publican’s seat at Good Shepherd (the very last bench). where I sit with my eyes cast down and keep saying. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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