Sunday, July 31, 2005

Contemplation #22
The Essential Ingredient of Faith
We enjoy our relationship with God through faith – a desperate trust in God born out of sober recognition of our personal poverty. Established with God by faith, we live out this relationship through love for God, and for His sake, we love others and creation. But what is the foundation of this faith which is essential to communion with God? Upon what is faith built? It is humility.

The arrogant trust in themselves, and cannot depend on another. Pride has no room to admit weakness. Wherever pride lurks in us, there we do not experience faith, for we are self-assured or at least unwilling to ask for the help we desperately need. What does God require? That we walk humbly with him. Out of humility faith grows as we put all of our confidence in God. Without faith it is impossible to please God; and without humility, we can never have faith.

Contemplation #23
Is it possible to be too humble? Certainly we can be falsely humble, of which there are two types: pretending to be meek and contrite when we are not, or acting humble by disowning what we should affirm. But can we be too humble?

As with any godly virtue, the problem is not with extremism, but corruption. We cannot be too loving or too faithful. We can be permissive and claim that we are loving, but we are not. We can act legalistically strict and call it faithfulness, but it is not. Neither can we be too humble. Confessing the depth of our own inadequacies, considering others better than ourselves, esteeming God as high and lifted up, being gentle and meek, and every other manifestation of humility cannot be taken to an extreme. Rather than worry about having gone too far, we should be wary of having stopped far short of what humility demands.

Contemplation #24
Is God humble?
Our first reaction to this question might be to say that we are to be humble, but not so God. However, the incarnation of God in being born of Mary shows us the humility of God, not only in Jesus as the baby on earth, but of God in heaven in willingly taking on human form. When God considers our desperate and pitiful condition from his lofty and high place, he is being humble. When God does what is for our good and yet it causes him pain, as his love for us as expressed in the cross, we see the attribute of humility. When God is gentle and kind, revealing himself in a constrained way so that his presence does not slay us all, he is being humble.

The only way in which our humility differs from God’s is that when in humility both God and we confess what is true, he rightly declares his holiness and we admit our sinfulness. But this difference is not about humility itself, but in what we do out of our humility. The humility of God teaches as to live honestly with who we are, and to consider first the needs of others.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Contemplation #20
From Humility by Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real; that humility has taken up its abode in us; and become our very nature; that we actually, like Christ, have made ourselves of no reputation. When in the presence of God lowliness of heart has become, not a posture we pray to Him, but the very spirit of our life, it will manifest itself in all our bearing towards our brethren.

Contemplation #21
From On the Christian Life by John Calvin (1509-1564)

Many bear about with them some measure of mildness so long as all things go smoothly and lovingly with them, but how few are there who, when stung and irritated, preserve the same tenor of moderation? For this there is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most noxious pests, self-love and love of victory. This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us to remember, that the endowments which God has bestowed upon us are not our own, but His free gifts, and that those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. “Who maketh thee to differ,” saith Paul, “and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. iv. 7.) Then by a diligent examination of our faults let us keep ourselves humble. Thus while nothing will remain to swell our pride, there will be much to subdue it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Contemplation #17
Continuing the degrees of humility from the Rule of St. Benedict for monks:
The sixth degree of humility is, when a monk is content with the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him holdeth himself as a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet: "I am brought to nothing and I knew it not; I am become as a beast before Thee, and I am always with Thee" (Ps 72[73]:22-23).

The seventh degree of humility is, when, not only with his tongue he declareth, but also in his inmost soul believeth, that he is the lowest and vilest of men, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: "But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people" (Ps 21[22]:7). "I have been exalted and humbled and confounded" (Ps 87[88]:16). And also: "It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy commandments" (Ps 118[119]:71,73).

The eighth degree of humility is, when a monk doeth nothing but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the monastery and the example of his elders.

The ninth degree of humility is, when a monk withholdeth his tongue from speaking, and keeping silence doth not speak until he is asked; for the Scripture showeth that "in a multitude of words there shall not want sin" (Prov 10:19); and that "a man full of tongue is not established in the earth" (Ps 139[140]:12).

The tenth degree of humility is, when a monk is not easily moved and quick for laughter, for it is written: "The fool exalteth his voice in laughter" (Sir 21:23).

The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaketh, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: "The wise man is known by the fewness of his words."

Contemplation #19
The twelfth degree of humility is, when a monk is not only humble of heart, but always letteth it appear also in his whole exterior to all that see him; namely, at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have his head bowed down, his eyes fixed on the ground, ever holding himself guilty of his sins, thinking that he is already standing before the dread judgment seat of God, and always saying to himself in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said, with his eyes fixed on the ground: "Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up mine eyes to heaven" (Lk 18:13); and again with the Prophet: "I am bowed down and humbled exceedingly" (Ps 37[38]:7-9; Ps 118[119]:107).

Having, therefore, ascended all these degrees of humility, the monk will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casteth out fear (1 Jn 4:18). In virtue of this love all things which at first he observed not without fear, he will now begin to keep without any effort, and as it were, naturally by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell, but from the love of Christ, from the very habit of good and the pleasure in virtue. May the Lord be pleased to manifest all this by His Holy Spirit in His laborer now cleansed from vice and sin.

Monday, July 04, 2005

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Contemplation #14
From “Humility” in Book 2, Chapter 2, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble whom He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them bestows great grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind invitation bids them come to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the world. Hence, you must not think that you have made any progress until you look upon yourself as inferior to all others.

Contemplation #15
In Chapter 7, Of Humility, in The Rule of St. Benedict, a guide for the monks of his order, Benedict describes 12 degrees of humility, or stages, through which one grows toward God.

Hence, brethren, if we wish to reach the greatest height of humility, and speedily to arrive at that heavenly exaltation to which ascent is made in the present life by humility, then, mounting by our actions, we must erect the ladder which appeared to Jacob in his dream, by means of which angels were shown to him ascending and descending (cf Gen 28:12). Without a doubt, we understand this ascending and descending to be nothing else but that we descend by pride and ascend by humility. The erected ladder, however, is our life in the present world, which, if the heart is humble, is by the Lord lifted up to heaven. For we say that our body and our soul are the two sides of this ladder; and into these sides the divine calling hath inserted various degrees of humility or discipline which we must mount.

The first degree of humility, then, is that a man always have the fear of God before his eyes (cf Ps 35[36]:2), shunning all forgetfulness and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded, that he always considereth in his mind how those who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and that life everlasting is prepared for those who fear God.

The second degree of humility is, when a man loveth not his own will, nor is pleased to fulfill his own desires but by his deeds carrieth our that word of the Lord which saith: "I came not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me" (Jn 6:38). It is likewise said: "Self-will hath its punishment, but necessity winneth the crown."

Contemplation #16
Continuing the 12 degrees of humility as taught by St. Benedict:

The third degree of humility is, that for the love of God a man subject himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle saith: "He became obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8).

The fourth degree of humility is, that, if hard and distasteful things are commanded, nay, even though injuries are inflicted, he accept them with patience and even temper, and not grow weary or give up, but hold out, as the Scripture saith: "He that shall persevere unto the end shall be saved" (Mt 10:22

The fifth degree of humility is, when one hideth from his Abbot (the spiritual director of the monastery) none of the evil thoughts which rise in his heart or the evils committed by him in secret, but humbly confesseth them. Concerning this the Scripture exhorts us, saying: "Reveal thy way to the Lord and trust in Him" (Ps 36[37]:5).