February 3, June 4, October 4
Chapter 7: On Humility
The sixth degree of humility
is that a monk be content
with the poorest and worst of everything,
and that in every occupation assigned him
he consider himself a bad and worthless workman,
saying with the Prophet,
“I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding;
I have become as a beast of burden before You,
and I am always with You” (Ps:22-23).
Now this hardly jives with our modern notions of self–esteem, a good self-image, does it? What a contrast this is with our consumerist society with its emphasis on buy buy buy.
Perhaps Benedict is reminding us that there is a connection between humility and humiliation? In this sense perhaps also a reminder that we Christians are to be out of step with our society and culture, holding dear a different standard? It seems to me Benedict would have us live with this concept in the forefront of our minds. It is an uncomfortable place, to be sure. Even quite painful.
Perhaps it is also a contrast with other aspects of our society. maybe the competitive aspects in which we tell ourselves we have to be better than anyone else, we have to win whatever the cost, we have to be top dog and the end justifies the means. Which is never true. It wasn’t true when Machiavelli first said it and it isn’t true today. If something is worth achieving then the means used to attain must be as noble as the goal.
Along with St. Paul, I am all for moderation in all things. Perhaps if we were simply to consider ourselves just as the people we are, no better, no worse than we are, we fulfill the sixth degree of humility?
Because look at the bit from the Psalm… no matter what degree of humiliation, God wants us. And that, of course, is what the RB is all about: loving God, being loved by Him.