Monday, March 17, 2008

Humility -- a Matthean "Virtue" and More

... If there is a moral quality almost completely disregarded and even denied today, it is indeed humility. The culture in which we live constantly instills in us the sense of pride, of self-glorification, and of self-righteousness. It is built on the assumption that man can achieve anything by himself and it even pictures God as the One who all the time "gives credit" for man's achievements and good deeds. Humility -- be it individual or corporation, ethnic or national -- is viewed as a sign of weakness, as something unbecoming a real man. Even our churches -- are they not imbued with that same spirit of the Pharisee? Do we not want our every contribution, every "good deed," all that we do "for the Church" to be acknowledged, praised, publicized?

But what is humility? The answer to this question may seem a paradoxical one for it is rooted in a strange affirmation: God Himself is humble! Yet to anyone who knows God, who contemplates Him in His creation and in His saving acts, it is evident that humility is truly a divine quality, the very content and the radiance of that glory which, as we sing during the Divine Liturgy, fills heaven and earth. ...

How does one become humble? The answer, for a Christian, is simple: by contemplating Christ, the divine humility incarnate, the One in whom God has revealed once and for all His glory as humility and His humility as glory. "Today," Christ said on the night of His ultimate self-humiliation, "the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him." Humility is learned by contemplating Christ who said: "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble in heart." Finally, it is learned by measuring everything by Him, by referring everything to Him. For without Christ, true humility is impossible, while with the Pharisee, even religion becomes pride in human achievements, another form of pharisaic self-glorification.

The lenten season begins, then, by a quest, a prayer for humility which is the beginning of true repentance.

-- Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, pp. 19-20.

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