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Excerpts from 'Devotional Classics' edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith Benedict of Nursia (480-543) Introduction to the Author Christianity became the official state religion early in the 4th 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 di 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. (In time, of course, even these monasteries declined and were in need is renewal) Into this climate Benedict of Nursia arose to bring new life to the Christian world. Born into a goo d 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 of Subiaco to live as a hermit. He became well known for his piety, his wisdom and his humility. In A.D. 529 he founded a monastery on Monte Cassion, midway between Naples and Rome, and he remained there until his death. In the monastery Benedict 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. His writings inspired an important period of renewal and are still with us today because of their wisdom and insight. The following passage deals with the subject of humility. Using the metaphor of 'Jacob's Ladder' Benedict discusses 12 steps of humility. We may find it hard to hear his austere teaching about the reality of hell anbd the sinfulness of humankind, but in an age of 'feel good' spirituality, we need his words. Excerpts from 'The Rule' 1. The call to ascend the ladder of humility Friends, the Holy Scriptures cry out to us saying, 'Everyone that exalts himself shall be humbled and he that humbles himself shall be exalted'. Therefore, they show us that every exaltation of ourselves is a kind of pride. the Psalmist declares that he guarded against this saying 'Lord, my heart is not puffed up; nor are my eyes haughty. Neither have I walked in great matters nor in things above me.' If we wish to reach the height of humility in this present life, we must journey up the ladder of Jacob, wherein he saw angels ascending and descending. The way of ascending is humility and the way of descending is pride. If our heart is humble we shall be lifted to heaven. 2. The first step of humility: reverence for God 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. Let us live in the faith that God is ever present to us. 3. The second step of humility: doing God's will The second step in humility is rejecting our own will and desires and, instead, doing God's will. The Lord Jesus said 'I came, not to do my own will, but the will of the One who sent me,' 4. The third step of humility: obedience to others 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 of whom the ASpostle Paul wrote 'He became obedient even unto death.' 5. The fourth step of humility: enduring affliction 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 to grow weary or give up; but to hold fast. 6. The fifth step of humility: confession The fifth step of humility 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. Remember the Psalmist said ' I have acknowledged my sin to you, O Lord, and my injustice I have not kept hidden. you have forgiven the wickedness of my sins.' 7. The sixth step of humility: contentment The sixth step of humility is to be content in all things. We are to be content with the meanest and worst of everything. In all things we must be mindful of our own lowliness, considering ourselves to be lowly and meek, knowing that though we have nothing in this life; the Lord is always present with us. 8. The seventh step of humility: self-reproach The seventh step of humility is when we declare with our tongue and believe in our innermost soul that we are the lowest and vilest of all, humbling ourselves and saying with the Psalmist 'But I am a worm, and I am the reproach of all, the outcast for the people.' 9. The eight step of humility: obeying the common rule The eight step of humility is to obey the common rule of the monastery. We do this by doing nothing except what is sanctioned by the rule and examples of the elders. 10. The ninth step of humility: silence The ninth step of humility is to withhold our tongue from speaking, keeping silence until we are asked. The Scriptures say ' in the multitude of words there comes sin.' 11. The tenth step of humility: seriousness The tenth step of humility is when we are not easily provoked to laughter. For the Scripture says 'the fool exalts his voice in laughter'. 12. The eleventh step of humility: simple speech The eleventh step of humility is to speak with few and sensible words. We are to speak gently and not with a loud voice. Again Scripture says 'A wise man is known by the fewness of his words.' 13. The twelfth step of humility: humble in appearance The twelfth step of humility is to be not only humble in heart, but also humble in appearance. No matter where we are, whether doing 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. 14. Humility as a way of life As we ascend all of these steps of humility, we shall arrive at the love of God which being perfect, casts out all fear. If we persist in observing them, we will begin to keep them without any effort. In time it will no longer be a force of habit, but a way of life. Read: Luke 18:9-14 Reflection 1. In section 1, Benedict states that when we try to exalt ourselves, we are humbled and when we humble ourselves, we are exalted. Is this true from your experience? 2. In section 5, Benedict says that the fourth step of humility is accepting the hardships of life. What are some of the hardships you have faced? In what ways did they help you develop humility? 3. In looking over the 12 steps of humility, which of them would be the easiest for you to climb? Which would be the most difficult? Why? 4. The first step of humility is to have a constant reverence for God before our eyes. Cultivate the habit of being mindful of God in all that you do this week. 5. Confession, for Benedict, was closely related to humility. this week make a full and complete confession to God. Take a thorough inventory of your life, leave no stones unturned. Be bold, the mercy of God endures forever. 6. The use of words is also related to humility. this week climb the 9th step of humility by withholding your tongue from speaking, keeping silent until you are asked to speak. Or climb the 11th step, learning to speak with few and sensible words. Remember friends, that although Benedict was a hermit/monk and silence and simplicity were 'part of life' for him, it can be for us as well. How many times have you wished you hadn't said what just came out of your mouth? How many times have you hurt someone by your harsh or unkind words? How many times have you said things just to be heard or just to make yourself look better in someone's eyes? Yes, silence and simple words ought to be a part of our lives as well.

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