Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 7:62-66

To be read: February 8, June 8, October 10

The twelfth step of humility is, when a monk is not only humble of heart, but always lets it appear also in his bearing so that it becomes evident. 63At the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have his head bowed, his eyes fixed on the ground, 64ever holding himself guilty of his sins, thinking that he is already standing before the fearful judgment seat of God, 65and always saying to himself in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said, with his eyes fixed on the ground: “Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven”(Lk 18:13); 66and again with the Prophet: “I am bowed down and humbled in every way” (Ps 37[38]:7-9; Ps 118[119]:107)

The final step.  Benedict says that “a monk is not only humble of heart, but always lets it appear also in his bearing so that it becomes evident.”  Humility ought to be observable, but never a false facade.  False humility is deadly; it undermines our witness for Christ.  So, how might we best exhibit our humility?  St. Benedict presents a picture of monastic life within the enclosure of a monastery.  He says that the outward appearance of the monk, whether “at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have his head bowed, his eyes fixed on the ground…”  That sounds harsh and an unreal expectation for those living outside the cloister.  If any were to behave in that manner in the world, someone would assume such a person is suffering depression and call for help.  Nevertheless, there are some basics which Benedict highlights in these verses which would serve us all well.  When he says that we must always judge ourselves guilty of our sins, it is a truth.  For who else would be culpable?  And also, as was noted in the meditation on the opening verses of this chapter, St. Paul commends us to “in humility count others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).  

Developing an attitude of gratitude before God will strengthen our recognition that any grounds we may have for boasting are to be directed toward God, from Whom every good and perfect gift derives (James 1:17).  A ready will to compliment others also brings harmony and peace to the community, and builds up the Body.  It is, therefore, not so much a matter of self-demeaning as it is honoring God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Draw the attention toward God, and encourage the members of the Body.  That is the heart of humble service in the Lord.

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