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).
This sure challenges us with our modern notions of self-esteem, doesn’t it? maybe I said that the last time.
I read this and I think the things I think of as the poorest and the worst and how little I am willing to put up with it. I am squeamish enough about public restrooms so you can imagine my reaction to the idea of latrines, outhouses, and port-a-potties. I know I am a completely spoiled middle-class American who is unwilling to do without flush toilets, hot and cold running water and, as P G Wodehouse would put it, all the mod. cons.
Back in the day, a young man I was dating was busy urging me to the mission field. All I could think of was that because I felt so guilty over what the USA had done to Viet Nam that God would send me to Southeast Asia as a mission field where I was convinced, the bugs would be as big as my head, the snakes twice as thick as I, little known and fatal Asiatic poisons rested on every surface and diseases hitherto unknown to medical science would assault my body. Yetis lurked around every corner along with manticores, scorpions the size of houses, basilisks, Gorgons, imps, effrets, genies and who knows what all else.
Clearly, contentment with the poorest and worst of everything was far from my mind.
And don’t get me started on the idea of being a bad and worthless workman.
I am sure I am not unique in this reaction. OTOH, my reaction reveals clearly why I need to pray and meditate over this and the other steps of humility.