Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Humility in the third degree

The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself to his Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says, He became obedient even unto death.
For those of us not in a community. it is difficult to see whom we accept in the role of Superior. Is it our parish priest? Is it our boss? Is it our spouse?

In the letter to the Hebrews, we read: " Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves : for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief : for that is unprofitable for you." Further, in the first letter to the Corinthians, we read:
Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.  As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time .   Watch ye , stand fast in the faith, quit you like men , be strong .  Let all your things be done with charity.  I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)   That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth .   I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied .  For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.   The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.   All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.  The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.  (I Cor xvi.11-21)
Imitation of Christ is an action and our actions have a purpose. Therefore, our obedience is always for a purpose, and Humility recognizes that we have responsibility to play a part in this world. Often we think of Humility as being completely passive - a mere recognition of the state of play - however it is the presence of Love that galvanises our being into action. Our Bishops have care over our souls, and the good Bishop will be weighed down with this as he seeks to be obedient to the Church. The care of his flock will be a cross which he has to bear which is why the bad bishop will be concerned more with himself and his own image rather than his flock.

The obedience that comes from humility is precisely that which realises our purpose in the Church. Our Lord demonstrates Humility by His unswerving mission to His death on the cross. For Him, this is as far from glamorous as it's possible to get. It doesn't earn Him degrees, or diplomas, it doesn't earn Him a crown, it avails Him nothing save the knowledge that He does the Father's will. The Father's will is perfect love, and it is that love that fuels Humility.

We are to be obedient to everyone, to submit ourselves to the overarching concern for their care. In the Church this is canonical obedience. Canonical obedience to the Bishop is humility framed in love for the Church, in love for the person of Christ represented by the Bishop and, indeed, any Christian.The well-being of the Church, its organisation, and its processes should be regarded as vitally important when they lead inexorably to the working of Love's purpose so that things may be done decently and in order.

To whom then should we submit? We submit ourselves to anyone who is working out Love's purpose. We need to learn to discern that in ourselves and in others. If we are working out of self-interest, self-adulation, or self-publicity, then we are not submitting ourselves to the Church's mandate to be a blessing to the world, we are not practising Humility. We should always pray for discernment and, as we learn to live in Love, this discernment and obedience will become easier.

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