Italics taken from "Benedict of Nursia" (480-543) Devotional Classics, Richard Foster
Christianity became the official state religion early in the fourth century, and with this new status began an unfortunate secularization of the Church. When the Christian faith was mixed with the Roman world , the world did not become Christian so much as Christians became worldly. In reaction, many earnest Christians fled to the desert and ultimately to monasteries and convents as a way of escaping the world and living a faithful life. (the monasteries soon declined and were in need of renewal) Born into a good family in the Umbrian village of Nursia and educated in Rome, Benedict grew weary of the evils of the city and fled to the mountains to live as a hermit. He became well known for his piety, his wisdom, and his humility. He wrote his famous "Rule," which provided a much needed accountability to the many roving prophets and hermits of the day. In "The Rule" Benedict gives clear, direct, and effective disciplines for living a holy life. The following passage deals with the subject of humility. Benedict (based on the metaphor of "Jacob's ladder,") discusses 12 steps of humility. (I will share just an excerpt from each section, you can read more on line).
The first step of humility is to have a constant reverence for God before our eyes. We must shun our tendency of forgetfulness and be always mindful of God's commands.
The second step on the ladder of humility is rejecting our own will and desires and, instead, doing God's will.
The third step of humility by which we ascend to heaven is when, because of our love for God, we submit ourselves to another in all obedience. By this we imitate the Lord...obedient to death.
The fourth step of humility is accepting the hardship of the commandments and enduring with patience the injuries and afflictions we face. We are called to endure and not grow weary.
The fifth step is to keep no secrets from the one to whom we confess. We must humbly confess all our evil thoughts and all our evil actions.
The sixth step is to be content in all things. We are to be content with the meanest and the worst of everything and mindful of our lowliness knowing that the Lord is always present with us.
The seventh step is is when we declare with our tongue and believe in our inmost soul that we are the lowliest and vilest of all, humbling ourselves and agreeing with Scripture to be humble so we may learn God's commandments.
The eighth is to obey the common rule of the monastery. We do this by doing nothing except what is sanctioned by the rules and example of the elders.
The ninth step of humility is to withhold our tongue from speaking, keeping silence until we are asked. The Scriptures teach us that "in the multitude of words there comes sin."
The tenth degree of humility is when we are not easily provoked to laughter. For the Scriptures remind us, "The fool exalts his voice in laughter."
The eleventh step of humility is to speak with few and sensible words. We are to speak gently and not with a loud voice.
The twelfth step of humility is to be not only humble of heart, but also humble in appearance. No matter where we are - whether during the work of God, or in the garden or on a journey - we should adopt the posture of reverence, ever mindful of who we are.
If we persist in observing these 12 steps, we will begin to keep them without any effort. In time it will not longer be a force of habit but a way of life."
How can I add to this list...my thoughts are (and I believe I have shared this list a couple years ago, but thought it worth repeating) that in this day and age we haven't been urged enough toward being humble in the Lord. We probably as a baby boomer generation, have not taught our children enough of the virtue of humility. But it surely is worth our daily review. I know that Pastor John is speaking this morning on Contentment, though I do not know the content of his sermon, felt struck to share these thoughts from the Benedict and see if maybe we too could take a refresher course on our personal paths of humility. I feel certain that his sermon will coincide greatly with this concept of humility. Much to be learned, much to be gleaned and much to reflect as we think on these steps and how as we...each person...take to adopting these 12 steps to find such change in our own lives, but also the lives of those around us. I feel certain that any and all steps toward a life of humility in Christ would yield nothing but 100% return in our personal life and in the lives of our family, our work, our relationships.
I trust that the Lord will guide your thoughts this week and that you might ask Him for some "teaching" moments with your children and friends/family to share this life of humility.
"The first step of humility is to have a constant reverence for God before our eyes. We must shun our tendency of forgetfulness and be always mindful of God's commands." Serious thoughts and words to live by!