Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 7: On Humility, February 9, 2017

Chapter 7: On Humility

The twelfth degree of humility
is that a monk not only have humility in his heart
but also by his very appearance make it always manifest
to those who see him.
That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God,
in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road,
in the fields or anywhere else,
and whether sitting, walking or standing,
he should always have his head bowed
and his eyes toward the ground.
Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment,
he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment
and constantly say in his heart
what the publican in the Gospel said
with his eyes fixed on the earth:
“Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven” (Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8);
and again with the Prophet:
“I am bowed down and humbled everywhere” (Ps. 37[38]:7,9; 118[119]:107).

Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore,
the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God
which casts out fear.
And all those precepts
which formerly he had not observed without fear,
he will now begin to keep by reason of that love,
without any effort,
as though naturally and by habit.
No longer will his motive be the fear of hell,
but rather the love of Christ,
good habit
and delight in the virtues
which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit
in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.

Some thoughts

There is something about walking with the head bowed that to us today speaks of disengagement with the world and I think that is also how Benedict meant it. It’s clear in other portions of the Rule that monastics, as are we, are to rejoice in the beauty around us.
Another reason to walk that way is to avoid the occasion for sin. Practicing custody of the senses, we don’t look around us to see what others do wrong, we just concentrate on the log in our own eyes. Benedict gives us hope, though, that we won’t be in fear and trembling about the weight of our sins and what judgment day might bring. What we once did out of fear, we do out of love because after all, the first step of humility is awe and reverence for God. Our habits, our personalities will be transformed. Joy is a result of humility.

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