Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reading for Feb 9, June 10, Oct 10

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

February 9, June 10, October 10

Chapter 7: On Humility

The twelfth degree of humility
is that a monk not only have humility in his heart
but also by his very appearance make it always manifest
to those who see him.
That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God,
in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road,
in the fields or anywhere else,
and whether sitting, walking or standing,
he should always have his head bowed
and his eyes toward the ground.
Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment,
he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment
and constantly say in his heart
what the publican in the Gospel said
with his eyes fixed on the earth:
"Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven" (Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8);
and again with the Prophet:
"I am bowed down and humbled everywhere" (Ps. 37:7,9; 118:107).

Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore,
the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God
which casts out fear.
And all those precepts
which formerly he had not observed without fear,
he will now begin to keep by reason of that love,
without any effort,
as though naturally and by habit.
No longer will his motive be the fear of hell,
but rather the love of Christ,
good habit
and delight in the virtues
which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit
in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.

Some thoughts:

I have to say that the first section of today's reading is hard for me. The Lord has been graciously disposed to heap blessings on me the last few years that is very hard to remember what a sinner I am because I am so caught up in gratitude. Oh sure, I do screw up and I certainly feel rotten about it, but somehow i have learned to admit my fault, apologize, ask forgiveness and move on. I can no longer sit there and dwell, brood on how horrible person I am. The Lord has just been so good to me that it would feel like slapping His face. Perhaps i am being disobedient to the Rule, but this is where I am.

As for the second section...I pray for us all that we will be motivated by the love of Christ, good habits and delight in virtues

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

This paragraph is, at first reading, a very difficult excursion into the tension between the apparent and the real. Bowing and scraping have long since gone out of style. What is to be made today of a dictum that prescribes bowed heads and downcast eyes in a culture given to straight-shouldered, steady-eyed self-esteem?

What Benedict is telling us is that true humility is simply a measure of the self that is taken without exaggerated perfection or exaggerated guilt. Humility is the ability to know ourselves as God knows us and to know that it is the little we are that is precisely our claim on God. Humility is, then, the foundation for our relationship with God, our connectedness to others, our acceptance of ourselves, our way of using the goods of the earth and even our way of walking through the world, without arrogance, without domination, without scorn, without put-downs, without disdain, without self-centeredness. The more we know ourselves, the gentler we will be with others.

The chapter on humility is a strangely wonderful and intriguingly distressing treatise on the process of the spiritual life. It does not say, "Be perfect." It says, "Be honest about what you are and you will come to know God." It does not say, "Be flawless and you will earn God." It says, "If you recognize the presence of God in life, you will soon become more and more perfect." But this perfection is not in the twentieth-century sense of impeccability. This perfection is in the biblical sense of having become matured, ripened, whole.

The entire chapter is such a non-mechanistic, totally human approach to God. If we reach out and meet God here where God is, if we accept God's will in life where our will does not prevail, if we are willing to learn from others, if we can see ourselves and accept ourselves for what we are and grow from that, if we can live simply, if we can respect others and reverence them, if we can be a trusting part of our world without having to strut around it controlling it, changing it, wrenching it to our own image and likeness, then we will have achieved "perfect love that casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18.)" There will be nothing left to fear--not God's wrath, not the loss of human respect, not the absence of control, not the achievements of others greater than our own whose success we have had to smother with rejection or deride with scorn.

Humility, the lost virtue of the twentieth century, is crying to heaven for rediscovery. The development of nations, the preservation of the globe, the achievement of human community may well depend on it.

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