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.”
Chapter 7, Rule of St. Benedict
This always strikes me. It resonates. How freeing is it to accept with humility whatever we have. This doesn’t say we must have the poorest and worst of everything, but that we be content with it.
Each time I read it, I want to sit with it for days.
It continues that he consider himself a bad and worthless workman, which is pretty easy for anyone in software engineering to do. Anytime things work right, I am quickly corrected by a flaming pile of code. But, the first part is really something else.
The short reading for Mondays in Week 1 of the Liturgy of the Hours during Ordinary Time comes out swinging…
Do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat. My brothers, never grow tired of doing what is right.
But, I’m a manager? Isn’t doing no work but interfering with everyone else’s work my job description?
In all seriousness, it is a good kick in the butt to get moving today.
From yesterday’s reading from the Rule of St. Benedict, this is one of my favorite sections:
And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matthew 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love (Psalm 118:32). Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.
Thinking about a monastery, or really any Christian life, as a school where we are both always learning, always teaching, always diving deeper into the subject, that is living the Gospel, is really beautiful and strikes me.
To further expand, no one “deserves” what God has for us. For me, I parse this that I do need to have my actions demonstrate that I am reaching for something… I need to strive to be worthy of it, yet I know that I’ll never be worthy or deserving of it. It’s ultimately a gift from God.
To throw in a secular example, it reminds me of the final scene of Saving Private Ryan. Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is dying after participating in the effort to bring Private Ryan (Matt Damon) back home. As he’s dying, Miller tells Ryan to “earn this”, meaning to live his life to “earn” the ultimate sacrifice that he and the other soldiers had laid down.
I balance in my mind that we need to strive to earn something, though we’re not capable of actually earning it.
Today’s feast day is the Holy Name of Jesus. Before the calendar reforms of the late 1960s, this celebration was held on January 2nd. It was removed outright from the calendar until 2002, where it was added to January 3rd.
In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, we’re instructed that during the Mass, we’re to make a bow of the head when the three Divine Persons are named together, the name of Jesus, Mary, and any mention of the Saint whose feast day is being celebrated in the Mass.
A noble devotion is to not limit this to Mass, but generally bow your head at the mention of Jesus always. For me, it’s a small acknowledgment of the Biblical exhortation that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend and a similar devotion to one of making the sign of the cross when passing by a church.
The wise man must not boast of his wisdom, nor of the strong man of his strength, nor the rich man of his riches. What then is the right kind of boasting? What is the source of man’s greatness? Scripture says: The man who boasts must bost of this, that he knows and understand that I am the Lord. Here is man’s greatness, here is man’s glory and majesty: to know in truth what is great, to hold fast to it, and to seek glory from the Lord of glory.