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Chapter 52

Humility

 

I saw all the devil’s traps set upon the earth,
and I groaned and said,
‘Who do you think can pass through them?’
And I heard a voice saying,
‘Humility.’
—St. Anthony of Egypt

 

 

Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of me this night.  But after my resurrection, I will go before you into Galilee.’” (Matt. 26:31, 32)  Herein lies the mystery of Christianity—the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and our spiritual journey with Him.

Whether it be for the fleeting pleasures of the flesh, the empty security of money, or the false protection of pride, we have all fallen away at the scandal of the cross.  We may follow Jesus in His parables, we may love Him in His miracles, but when it comes to the cross, we run away like the disciples did.  We are afraid of the humiliation and pain that comes from dying to the “old man.”

However, there is a difference between true and false humility.  According to St. Teresa of Avila, “Although, on seeing how wicked we are, we clearly understand that we deserve to be in hell and are grieved by our sinfulness, yet, if this be true humility, this grief is accompanied by a certain interior sweetness, peace and joy of which we would not like to be deprived.  It does not disturb or straiten the soul (dampen her spiritual life), but rather enlarges her and disposes her for serving God the more fervently.  (Therefore,) however great may be the humility, (when it is true) it does not disturb or disorder the soul, but brings peace, delight and tranquility.  But the other kind of grief (or gloomy negativity coming from false humility) only troubles the soul and disorders everything.  When you find yourselves in this state (of disorder and oppression from the devil), avoid thinking, as much as you can, of your own wretchedness, and meditate on the mercy of God and how much He loves you and how much He suffered for you.  (If you are unable to do even this,) it is enough to recognize that it is a temptation (from the devil, and to reject it, as far as you can, in your own heart and soul, until God frees you, and ‘the accuser of our brethren is cast out.’)” (Rev. 12:10)(The Way of Perfection)  Besides this, there is another kind of false humility where we put ourselves down, but for something we know is not true.  This insincerity is really pride in disguise.  Humility is living in reality.  Humility is truth.

The Savior said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)  In the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, the first Christians were drawn inward and upward towards union with God.  They experienced the power of His love, the fullness of His life, and the beauty of His truth.  They found direction and meaning in life.  They came to see the cross, not as the enemy, but as their friend.  The way to be free was by dying on the tree of Calvary, with Jesus and Mary, in a spirit of poverty, humility, simplicity and love.  It was “to pass surely and directly from the wounds of His sacred humanity to the brightness of His divinity.” (St. Albert the Great)

 

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