Bernard "In the steps of humility"


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Bernard "In the steps of humility"

  1. 1. Bernard of Clairvaux “In the steps of humility…” Bernard’s first book (a commentary on the 7th chapter of the Rule of St Benedict).
  2. 2. Rule of Benedict • Chapter 7: “On humility” Brethren, Holy Scripture cries out to us, saying, “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11).
  3. 3. “If we wish to reach the very highest point of humility and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life, we must by our ascending actions erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream, on which angels appeared to him descending and ascending. By that descent and ascent we must surely understand nothing else than this, that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility. And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world, which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled. For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder, and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.” (BENEDICT)
  4. 4. In the steps of humility “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
  5. 5. Stairway to heaven Ladder of divine ascentJacob’s ladder
  6. 6. The 12 steps (of humility) 12. Outward manifestation of interior humility (head bowed, eyes downcast) 11. Seriousness: speak in few & sensible words, gently, without laughter 10. Stifling ready laughter and giggling 9. Speaking only when asked a question 8. Obey & be guided by the common rule of the community 7. Declare (& believe) oneself inferior to all others 6. Contentment with the lowest and most menial task 5. Confession of sinful thoughts and secret wrong-doings 4. Obedience & patience in difficult, contrary or even unjust conditions 3. Submission in obedience to one’s superiors for love of God 2. Repression of self-will & seeking to fulfill one’s own desires 1. Keep oneself from sin every day, out of fear of God
  7. 7. Climbing up & falling down the same ladder “A prince mounts his throne by the same steps as he comes down from it; the road leading us to a city also brings us away from it; we open a door to enter a house as we shut when we leave it; and Jacob saw only one ladder with angels ascending and descending… The 12th degree of pride is for him who is slipping down, what the 1st degree of humility is for him who climbs upward.” (pp.49-50 St Austin Press ed.)
  8. 8. The 12 steps (of pride) 1. Inquisitiveness (wandering off, of sights & senses) 2. Instability of mind (fluctuating between joy & sadness) 3. Frivolity (as seen in over-readiness to laugh) 4. Indiscipline: the uncontrolled outpouring of every thought one has 5. Singular boasting of one’s deeds 6. Arrogance: thinking of oneself as holier than all others 7. Presumption: following one’s own opinion in everything & forcing it on others 8. Self-justification in wrong doing 9. False confession (contrary to patience amidst difficulties) 10.Rebellion against one’s brothers or superiors 11.Freedom to sin with the absence of shame 12.A habit of sinning
  9. 9. The goal of humility? • Truth (pp.21-23) • Love (p.24) • God (p. 43) Statue at Monastery of the Annunciation, Bismarck, ND)
  10. 10. The paragon of humility? “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3
  11. 11. The law of humility • Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deut. 8:2-3 • He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. Deut. 8:16
  12. 12. The wisdom of humility “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 “The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, and humility comes before honour.” Proverbs 15:33 “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honour.” Proverbs 18:12 “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4
  13. 13. The call of the prophet “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth who have carried out his ordinances. Seek righteousness, seek humility.” Zephaniah 2:3
  14. 14. The example of Christ “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:1-5
  15. 15. The message of James “Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and in humility accept the word planted in you, which can save you Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:20-22 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13
  16. 16. The example of Paul “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews.” Acts 20:18-19
  17. 17. The message of Paul “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
  18. 18. The message of Paul “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:11-13
  19. 19. Key questions to consider • What factors in his life played a part in the realization of this virtue? • In what ways did Bernard seek to live this out? • What contradictions do we see in a life of humility in Bernard? • What role does this virtue play in the formation of a missional leader? • Is humility a characteristic of God?
  20. 20. Bernard & Hildegard Comparisons & contrasts 1090-1153 French Abbot & spiritual theologian 1098-1179 German Abbess & visionary