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Monday, 19 March 2018

The humility of Our Lady and the Saints - a few thoughts.



In the same way that 'pride' is considered the most deadly of the seven capital sins, 'humility' is considered the most important and necessary of the corresponding virtues. Our Lord Himself by His words and example, constantly emphasised the
importance and necessity for us to cultivate true humility, not as practised by the Pharisees, but as 'little children' without guile. He described Himself as 'meek and humble of heart' inviting all men who labour and are burdened to come to him for rest. Pride led to the rebellion and downfall of Lucifer and the fallen angels, and to the sin of disobedience by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.Thus did evil come into the world, opposed always by the power of God's grace, and the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary; who in her humility praises God with her 'Magnificat'; 

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; for, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; b
ecause He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name; and His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy- even as He spoke to our fathers- to Abraham and to His posterity forever" (Luke 1: 46-55) 

At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying,  "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in their midst, and said, "Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mathew 18: 1-4)

"God resisteth the proud, and giveth his grace to the humble" (James 4:6)


                                              



Immaculate Conception, Caxios do Sul Museum, Brazil  (poss. do. Atelier Zambelli - own work)

  Sacred art representations of the Immaculate Conception show Our Lady with her heel crushing the head of the serpent, a symbol of the victory of good over evil, humility over pride.
                                               

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With Passiontide upon us, it seems a good time to reflect on the unchanging wisdom of the early Fathers of the Church, particularly those holy monks and hermits, whose lives and teachings have been recorded and passed down through the ages.  

                                                                         
 
"There was in a monastery a certain old man, of most reverend life, and he fell into grievous sickness: and he was wasted with great and intolerable weakness and for a long time travailed in distress, nor could the brethren find any way to succour him, for those things which his sickness required they had not in the monastery. But a certain handmaid of God, hearing of his affliction, entreated the abbot of the monastery that she might take him to her own cell and tend him, more especially as she could more easily find in the city such things as were needful to his sickness. So the abbot of the monastery commanded the brethren to carry him to the cell of the handmaid of God. And she received the old man with all reverence, and for God's sake tended him, in hope of that eternal recompense, which she trusted to receive from our Saviour Christ. For three years and more she had watchfully tended the servant of God, when men of evil heart began to suspect according to the itching of their own minds, that the old man was not clean in his conscience towards the virgin that tended him. And the old man hearing it, entreated the divinity of Christ, saying, "Thou, Lord our God, who alone knowest all things and seest the griefs of my sickness and my misery, and dost consider this infirmity which for so long had wasted me, so that I had need of the nursing of this handmaid of thine, who hath tended me for Thy sake: give unto her, my Lord, her great and due reward in the life eternal, even as thou didst promise in Thy mercy to such as showed kindness for Thy sake to the poor and the sick." And when the day of his passing had drawn nigh, many of the older brethren of the monastery, holy men, came about him, and the old man said to them: "I beseech you, my lords, and fathers, and brethren, that when I am dead ye take my staff and plant it on my grave, and if it take root and come to fruit, then shall ye know that my conscience is clean towards this handmaid of God that tended me. But if it does not put forth leaves, know that I am not clean of her." When therefore the man of God had gone out of the body, the holy fathers planted his staff upon the grave, as he had bidden, and it brought forth leaves, and when the time had come, it bore fruit: and they all marvelled and glorified God. Many came from the neighbouring parts at such a miracle, and magnified the grace of the Saviour, and we ourselves saw the little tree: and we blessed God who in all things defendeth them that serve Him in sincerity and truth."


                                               

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"When the abbot Macarius, carrying palm leaves, was returning to his cell at dawn, the Devil met him with a keen-edged sickle, and would have struck him, but could not. And crying out at him "Great," he said, "is the violence I suffer from thee, O Macarius, that when I fain would injure thee, I cannot: yet whatever thou dost, I do also, and more. For thou dost fast now and then, but by no food am I ever refreshed. Thou dost often keep vigil; no slumber ever falls upon me. But in one thing dost thou overmaster me, I do myself confess it." And when the blessed Macarius asked him what that might be, "It is thy humility alone," he said, "that masters me." He spoke, and the blessed Macarius stretched out his hands in prayer: and the evil spirit vanished into the air."

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One of the Fathers used to say, "Every labour of the monk, without humility, is vain. For humility is the forerunner of love, as John was the forerunner of Jesus, drawing all men to him: even so humility, draws to love, that is to God Himself, for God is love.

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  The above are  included in a fascinating book, 'The Desert Fathers', translated from the Latin by Helen Waddell, and published by Constable, London, in 1936.  


Helen Waddell was born in 1889, the youngest of 10 children, of an Ulster Presbyterian minister, a pioneer missionary in Manchuria and Japan. She was an extremely intelligent and diligent child, attaining high academic standards at school, followed by equally high achievement at Queens University, Belfast, and Somerville College, Oxford. She chose writing as her career, showing a particular interest and talent for translating works written in the early centuries AD from the original Latin into English, with a unique scholarly sensitivity which guaranteed her immediate success. She became one of the best-selling authors of the 1920s and 1930s, with her novel 'Peter Abelard' eventually being re-printed over 30 times and being translated into 9 European languages. Among other books which brought her fame, were 'The Wandering Scholars', 'Mediaeval Latin Lyrics', 'The Desert Fathers', and 'Beasts and Saints'. Helen Waddell remained unmarried but had a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances, particularly in the world of art and literature. She died in 1965 after a long illness.  






2 comments:

Saila said...

Hello, it was lovely to speak with you on the ferry. Your blogs are very interesting, there is a lot to read and think about.
Wishing you all the best, and successful singing,
Saila
http://saaripalsta.blogspot.fi

umblepie said...


Thank you Saila.
Have a good trip home.
Look forward to meeting up again when you return.
Best wishes.
Brian.