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Benedictine Monasticism: Humility PDF Print E-mail

The spiritual battle takes place within. This battle is one of returning to God, of turning back to the One whom we have abandoned through our sin. Thus, the battle takes the form of uprotting vice and developing virtue. This combat occurs on several fronts, which are traditionally divided into the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This combat is also against the seven capital sins: gluttony, lust, greed, anger, envy, sloth, and pride. Pride, the most insidious of these, in a certain sense encompasses all of the rest. Consequently, the whole conversion process hinges upon conquering pride. The antidote is the virtue of humility.

Humility is defined as "a quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for the sake of God." To be humble is to know truly the relationship between oneself and God. When the perspective is focused, the utter dependence of the creature upon God becomes evident. God is to be adored. He is to be loved above all and the neighbor loved for His sake and in Him. The humble monk is able to love God perfectly.

This view of humility is multi-faceted. It is like an entire arsenal to vanquish each vice, making room for every virtue. Our Holy Father Benedict teaches twelve steps of humility to his monks in the Holy Rule. St. Benedict teaches that a monk must:

  1. 1. Always be aware of the presence of God
  2. 2. Love not doing his own will but the will of God
  3. 3. Submit to the Abbot in obedience
  4. 4. Obey superiors even in hardship
  5. 5. Confess his sins to a spiritual father
  6. 6. Be content with his circumstances
  7. 7. Believe in his heart that he is least of the brothers
  8. 8. Follow the rule and tradition of the monastery
  9. 9. Refrain from excessive speech
  10. 10. Refrain from raucous laughter
  11. 11. Speak as is appropriate in a monastery
  12. 12. Keep a humble bearing in his body

The reward of these steps of humility is to "come quickly to that love of God which in its fulness casts our all fear." To follow this path is to act with prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. With these cardinal virtues in place, the monk can fulfill the will of God and be raised by grace to the heights of holiness.

Christ in his humanity is the greatest example of Humility. This truth is explicated in the grand hymn of Saint Paul:

"Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8)