Today marks the beginning of the fifth observation of the annual Season of Creation – from Sept.1 until Oct 4, the feast of St Francis of Assisi. This year’s Season of Creation is spotlighting threats to our biodiversity and focusing on “protecting the web of life in all its variety, because each species reveals the glory of the creator.” In a recent interview, Pope Francis called the loss of biodiversity among his greatest fears for the planet, saying, “devastation of nature can lead to the death of humanity.” To respond to Pope Francis’ words is not easy. Taking care of our planet, our “common home” – which is God’s gift to us, is a huge undertaking. This is a very humbling situation and well worth our attention. (ncronline … )
As we heard in today’s readings, “Humility and self-knowledge go hand in hand. Those who conduct their affairs with humility (1) shall be exalted, while those who exalt themselves shall be humbled (3). The humble shall rejoice and exalt before God (Ps) in the assembly of the heavenly Jerusalem (2).” – (ORDO)
These readings point us to our Holy Rule. St Benedict’s chapters on the steps of humility and the expressions of good zeal (RB 7 and 72) are rightly considered to be the heart of the Rule, the quintessence of its spiritual teaching. It is the main area of spiritual discipline which Benedictine life offers as a way to God. It is the heart of Benedictine and Cistercian spirituality.
It’s worth mentioning that it is important for all of us here this morning to see that the fundamental purpose of any monk (or nun’s) life is not essentially different from that of any Christian. On the contrary, we – that is – all of us, nuns and monks, lay women and lay men, by discovering the interior attractions and instincts written by grace in our inner heart, we all touch the heart of Christ, we become capable of reaching the inner heart of those in our community. Growth in the spiritual life is often experienced as a return to this center, to one’s truest self.
Benedictine and Cistercian humility is not a secondary Christian virtue, not simply a part of the virtue of temperance. It is more like a dynamic union of faith, hope and love that could be described as a loving trust rooted in the truth. Its source is the heart of Christ, who said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Mt 11:29) It is humility that can and should guide us in this return journey, uncovering the false instincts in the human heart and finding the truth written there by grace. Humility unveils the true self, what the New Testament describes as “the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.” (RB 5; 7, 19-41)
The inner paradox of humility is the heart of the Paschal Mystery. It is the paradox of the Gospel itself: loss and gain of self, death and resurrection, “the last shall be first,” Mt 19:30; 20:16; Mk 10:30) “the one who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Lk 14:11; 18:14; RB 7,1)
Humility is not merely a psychological act of the intellect and will, but above all, it is a movement of the Spirit. The Spirit of God centers both the soul and the body on the humble Christ, so that the inward movement of humility is not a matter of hiding within ourselves, but rather a liberation of what is truest and most permanent in us from what is passing and superficial. Eventually, as we become fully aware of our sins, we cry out with St Paul, “Miserable one that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24) Monastic tradition replies with conviction, “The humble Christ!” (cf. Centered on Christ, 2005, Augustine Roberts, OCSO)
Humility is recognizing that every good in ourselves is a gift from God and is meant to be given back to the Lord by being shared with others. Everyone who enters a community brings with him a gift that the community needs; everyone who enters a community receives a gift that he needs from that community. The development of nations, the preservation of our planet and the achievement of human community may well depend on humility.” (The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 74) _________________END