Thursday, October 13, 2016

Humility in the fourth degree

The fourth degree of humility is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind when in this obedience he meets with difficulties and contradictions and even any kind of injustice, enduring all without growing weary or running away. For the Scripture says, The one who perseveres to the end, is the one who shall be saved; and again Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord"!
And to show how those who are faithful ought to endure all things, however contrary, for the Lord, the Scripture says in the person of the suffering, For Your sake we are put to death all the day long; we are considered as sheep marked for slaughter. Then, secure in their hope of a divine recompense, they go on with joy to declare, But in all these trials we conquer, through Him who has granted us His love. Again, in another place the Scripture says, You have tested us, O God; You have tried us as silver is tried, by fire; You have brought us into a snare; You have laid afflictions on our back.
And to show that we ought to be under a Superior, it goes on to say, You have set men over our heads. Moreover, by their patience those faithful ones fulfill the Lord's command in adversities and injuries: when struck on one cheek, they offer the other; when deprived of their tunic, they surrender also their cloak; when forced to go a mile, they go two; with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren and bless those who curse them.
So far we have seen that Humility involves the fear of losing God, that we gain freedom by finding the Reality of God's Creation in us, and that we are active in our obedience to the overarching work of Love. The fourth step brings us to the consequence of our active pursuit of Humility. We know that humility is hard to obtain, indeed perhaps the hardest virtue to obtain precisely because it exists on the knife edge of what is real and what is not. Time does not help here, as what we find to be real disappears into the past and is inaccessible to us, while the future only becomes accessible precisely when it ceases to be the future. What is appears to be in a state of flux for us.

Of course, from the point of view of God and thus also of the predestination (or, rather, the eternal destination) of the Church, Past, Present and Future are part of reality, even when they are not accessible to us. That things change around us and our perception of reality alters with that change means that we can easily fall off of the path of Humility.

St Benedict emphasises the need for patience and perseverance. Humility suffers when reality becomes distorted, when fashions raise and fall. Humility cannot be the slave of fashionable ways of viewing the world. There is only one view that matters and that is God's. That view is inaccessible to us and, while we remain blind to that view, we have to hold on to what we know to be real. God shares that view with us by His Revelation to the Whole Church in temporality and in Eternity, chiefly through Holy Scripture. This is why God's doctrine cannot change its meaning, and why fashion is inimical to our submission to God's authority.

It requires much patience. Holy Scripture does contain things that scandalise us, frighten us, confuse us, perhaps even depress us. Yet, we have to persevere, holding on to what is said and having faith that God is Love and that even the most difficult passages which we cannot understand uphold the idea of God's love for us. What we cannot do is proclaim that things have changed and that we are living in more enlightened times, thus submitting God's Revelation to our time, shaping the meaning to our ends, and thus trying to change what God has said for what we think He has said.

The Evil in the world seeks to propagate by the destruction of God's order. The practitioner of Humility remembers that it is Love that must be the constant factor in all his doings, even when it is painful to practise that Love. Patience is required to recognize that the pain we suffer is the price to pay for love, a price which God Himself pays and, in paying, destroys Evil by filling its privation with His substance. We are to persevere so as to remain constant in the conviction we have that God is Love, and that perseverance in Humility allows us to persevere in Christ's Humanity so that, at the last, He will unite us in His Divinity.

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