Tag Archives: humility

Thoughts Upon The Cross: Bold Humility

by Howard Hain

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We should always strive to be fully united with The Body of Christ, in both thought and prayer. To think prayerfully, and to prayerfully think.

Let us then prayerfully embrace this particular moment:

Lord God, Father Almighty, let us use the talents, the gifts, and the abilities—that come from You, that will return to You, but that You have lent us for the time being—with maximum effectiveness, maximum efficiency, and bold humility—all for Your glory.

In the name of Jesus—in the person of Christ—as the Messiah Himself would offer.

Amen.

———

Now, let us think, prayerfully.

What is “bold humility”?

Let’s explore an answer, slow and steady.

First, like all manifestations of God’s glory, “bold humility” is a matter of transcendence.

Second, transcendence is not merely a type of balance. Balance is something else entirely. It is something less than divine. Balance is a man-made religious concept. It is practical human philosophy at work in the world, depending on and functioning within human limitation. Unlike transcendence, balance does not stem from the theological posture of divine providence, and more so, it does not rely on the acknowledged power and faithful acceptance of divine grace.

For example, with regard to the matter at hand, “bold humility” is not merely the balancing of boldness and humility—it is not a matter of being equally bold and equally humble—as if on a scale of 1-10, a score of 5 for boldness and a score 5 for humility is achieved simultaneously—adding up to 10 and at the same time keeping the “seesaw” of virtue straight and parallel to the earth lying below.

No, “bold humility”, like all Christian (and therefore preternatural) virtue is not a matter of equally limiting each natural characteristic in order to fit them all within the confines of human potential and logical limitations.

In plain language then, “bold humility” is not simply a healthy combination of two virtues, namely “boldness” and “humility”.

And most directly to the point: Christ didn’t balance. He transcended.

Then what does transcendence mean in this supernatural sense?

Well, let us rule out a few more false understandings before positing a possible positive understanding.

It will prove helpful to also establish this negation: To transcend is not merely to eliminate. Nor is it merely to deny. By transcending one does not destroy the categories it transcends. So in this particular case we can say that “bold humility” does not “eliminate” or “deny” the category of “boldness” or the category of “humility”.

Now let us begin to state positively what Jesus accomplished—for Jesus most certainly transcended.

To transcend is to rise above and beyond. It is to journey through. It is to transform.

Transcendence fulfills the “categories” it leaves below—it completely and utterly fulfills each and every virtue that man could ever conceive—and not only at the same time or simultaneously, but eternally and to a maximum degree. Transcendence is perpetual fulfillment of all “goodness” to an infinite “degree”.

Transcendence is then what we might call: Active Shalom.

It is living, breathing “Fullness”. It is “True Peace”. It is “Oneness” and the “Unity of God”—alive and constantly in motion. For to transcend is also to enter and live within the Internal Consistency of The Eternal Creator Himself.

Transcendence is the ultimate simplicity of “I AM.

It is Ipse Christus—Christ Himself—God made man, the Word made flesh, the magnificence of God brought into visible light.

And it is human redemption at work.

For the person of Jesus is just that: He is the glory of God woven into and through the very fabric of humanity—taking humanity above and beyond itself—transforming it on earth and simultaneously bringing it back with Him to the Father in heaven—as a new, glorified, and righteous form.

Jesus both lifts humanity into heaven and manifests fully God’s glory on earth.

Bold Humility” is Jesus Himself.

He alone fulfills completely both “boldness” and “humility” without ceasing.

And by doing so He straddles two worlds—making them one. But yet He is much more than a bridge, much more than a mere mystical ladder. Jesus, if you will, is Jacob’s Ladder but built of human flesh—upon Whom not only holy angels ascend and descend between heaven and earth—but through Whom the very helix of humanity is redeemed and glorified.

———

But enough words.

For they can never capture.

Jesus is profoundly free.

The best we can hope for is a glimpse—a fleeting image of the living, breathing manifestation of “Bold Humility” in ultimate action.

It takes silence.

It involves leaving the senses and faculties behind.

It requires “spirit and truth”:

We must stare at The Cross.

We must experience—firsthand—The Crucified Christ.


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Let us then pray once more:

Lord God, Father Almighty, let us use the talents, the gifts, and the abilities—that come from You, that will return to You, but that You have lent us for the time being—with maximum effectiveness, maximum efficiency, and bold humility—all for Your glory.

In the name of Jesus—in the person of Christ—as the Messiah Himself would offer.

Amen.


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Morning Thoughts: Taste and See

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“What does it taste like?”

This is the main question I hear from eight-year-olds who are about to make their First Holy Communion.

At first, I confess, I saw it as quite cute, “childlike” if you will— their little focus on the very obvious—the actual physical experience of eating something—something they have never eaten before.

But once again, the “teacher’ plays the fool. No, not “plays” the fool, in this case the “teacher” is actually the fool.

Grownups can be so busy moving on to the “real” point that they often miss the healthiest part of the meal.

And we think it’s the children who are obsessed with sweets?

———

Of course, I was not the one to correct my own error. The only true teacher, Jesus, and the only true guide, The Holy Spirit, once again came to the rescue.

———

It was about 8:20 on an ordinary weekday morning. I had just left the pew and got in line to receive Communion. And as I walked toward the altar I found myself quietly asking: “What does it taste like?”

There I was, a full-fledged adult, a “mature” believer, in line with all the eight-year olds of the world—though with one great exception—I was probably the only one who lacked sincerity.

Not that I didn’t really wonder what it tastes like. I did. But my “bigness” wouldn’t leave good enough alone. I quickly translated the simple into the complex: “What does it taste like?” became “What is heaven like?”

Not a bad question, of course. But not the one being asked. Once again, I was rushing right to dessert. But not so the eight-year-old. No, the eight-year-old is much more straightforward, sincere, genuine, and ironically, no nonsense. He and she are much more down-to-earth, which in this case, strangely enough, brings them much closer to heaven.

Their question is simply what it seems. They have no hidden pomposity dressed up as profundity. They are simply asking a quite simple question.

“What does it taste like?”

And if there’s any need for more elaboration concerning such a straightforward question, it should only make their point simpler, not more complex. For example, I guess in order to help us adults see more clearly what they mean, perhaps it’s safe to say that the eight-year-old is literally asking: “What does this thing that I am about to put in my mouth, that you tell me is the real, actual body of Jesus Christ, a man who died almost two-thousand years ago, really taste like?”

Good question.

And to allow the eight-year-old in me to answer, I say, it kind of tastes like cardboard.

Good answer.

It’s dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

Kind of what you’d expect, at best, from something two-thousand-years-old.

Kind of what mankind has tasted on a daily basis since the beginning of time, since the time Adam and Eve were sent forth from the garden to work for their daily bread.

Life can be like cardboard.

It can be dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

It can even be what we come to expect.

At least for us adults, for those of us who only take things at face value.

For, you see, the child in his or her utterly face-value question reveals his or her astounding trust and playfulness within the much deeper mystery of what truly exists but cannot be seen. For there is another question, one that eight-year-olds don’t ask nearly as often when it comes to First Holy Communion.

They hardly ever ask: “How can that be?”

They move right past the “how” to get to the “taste and see.

———

No matter the age, what brings sincerity is faith, and what increases faith is sincerity.

Therefore all questions safely asked from under the umbrella of faith are not questions casting doubt.

No, they are genuine gestures of childlike wonder, that simply ask in one way or another:

“What is this faithful reality going to be like for me?”


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“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

—Psalm 34:9


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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: Don’t Look At Me

 

caravaggio-the-denial-of-saint-peter-ca-1610-the-met

“The Denial of Saint Peter”, ca 1610, Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (Italian, Milan or Caravaggio 1571-1610 Porto Ercole) (The Met)

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Never look to a man for answers.

Look to Christ who is the answer.

If you insist on looking to a man, then choose one who points to Christ.

For the best teacher is Christ Himself…and His best assistants are those who clearly say: “Don’t look at me.”


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437986

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Morning Thoughts: Wise as Doves

rembrandt-angel-appearing-to-the-shepherds-1634

Rembrandt, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds”, 1634

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Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:8-9


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Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.


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The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20


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—Howard Hain

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A Voice That Passes Away

Spring Lake even

John the Baptist is a voice that passes away, according to St. Augustine:  “John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.”

John’s “voice” passes away. He no longer baptizes at the Jordan River. He cedes to the Word, and so should we. Our voice passes away; something of ourselves has to go– some of the things we hold dear, the friends who surround us,  the institutions that have upheld us.  Our way must give way to  God’s way.

We think so little of this.

Listen again to Augustine:  “What does prepare the way mean, if not be humble in your thoughts? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

“If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

“He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.”

Knowing Yourself

NEW YORK TIMES columnist David Brooks has gotten a lot of attention lately for his suggestion that we need more humility in our society today. We need to know ourselves. We need to look to those who knew themselves and learn from them, Brooks say.

We may thing that humility stops you from doing anything, except hide in a corner away from the storm. Just the opposite, the humble take on large challenges, because they recognize another power at work besides themselves.

St. Gregory the Great, a 6th century pope, was called great for his humble service to the Roman world that was falling down around him. Gregory ends one of his finest commentaries on scripture, called the Moralia, a Commentary on the Book of Job, with words that reveal someone not afraid to honestly know himself.

“Now that I have finished this work, I have to look at myself. We are so complex, even when we try speaking the truth. Let me go from the forum of words to the senate house of my heart, to take council about myself.

I don’t want to speak anything evil or speak poorly about what is good.

I wish my words please the One is good.  Yet, can I claim I have spoken no evil at all? Have I spoken less well than I should, perhaps? When I look within, pushing aside leafy words and branches of arguments, and examine my deepest intentions, I know I intend to please God, but has some desire for human praise crept in? Has it intruded into my simple desire to please God?

Later, much later, I may realize this. Often, our intentions to please God are joined by a secret yen for human praise. Self-righteously, we even use God’s gifts to please others.

So in my commentary I reveal God’s gifts, but let me confess my wounds too. Let me instruct the little ones by my words, but let others take pity on my weakness. I offer help to some and seek help from others. As I tell some what to do, I open my heart to others to admit what they should forgive.  I give medicine to some, but do not hide my wounds from others. My reader will have more than paid me back if, for what he hears from me, he offers his tears for me.”

A humble man.

Humility Makes You Strong (14th Sunday of the Year)

 

To listen to my audio recording of today’s post just select the audio file below:

We see Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in today’s Old Testament reading from the Prophet Zechariah. As Savior and Messiah he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowd puts palm branches on his path. He’s  a humble king, not riding in a war chariot surrounded by soldiers. He comes as a poor man, riding a little donkey, bringing peace. (Zech  9)

Jesus came to Jerusalem as the prophet predicted, Matthew’s gospel says.  He’s not a Zealot, a member of a Jewish party that sought to change things by violence; Jesus came calling for peace, not violence. “I am meek and humble of heart,” he says. “Learn from me.”

Humility is a hard lesson for us to learn today; we’re an aggressive society that believes the louder you shout, the harder you push, the less you listen, the more you succeed. Strong words and strong actions, that’s what we like. Patience is weakness, we think. It’s weak to be meek and humble.

Let’s think about humility, however. Do you know where the word humility comes from? It comes from the Latin word “humus” which means dirt. When you’re humble you’re feet are on the ground. You’re “down to earth” You know who you are, where you came from, your weaknesses and strengths. You don’t put on airs. You’re anchored in reality.

And you know other people are like you. We all come from the same roots.  Other people are like you. If you think you are above others, you’re not.

Jesus was meek and humble, the gospels recall. Yes, he was powerful in words and deeds. But people were drawn to him mostly because they found him easy to approach and, yes, “down to earth.”

The greatest people are humble. Humility makes you strong.

After the Revolutionary War was over, George Washington met one day with a number of his troops who were disgruntled because the Continental Congress hadn’t paid them yet for their long years of hard service. The ex-soldiers were angry, on the brink of another revolution.

Washington took out a paper to address them, but he couldn’t read it. His eyesight was failing. So he put on a pair of spectacles. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” he said, “ but I have lost my sight in the service of my country. “

No one remembered what Washington went on to say after that, but the mood of the men changed. They remembered what he had gone through. The humility of the man won them over.

So we remember Jesus Christ, who lived simply in his years at Nazareth, who loved those who had little, who submitted to insults and injustice, who labored and bore burdens. “Help us learn from you,” we ask, “for you are meek and humble of heart.”