Humility of Heart Part 6

25. Humility is like purity: however little it may be contaminated it becomes impure. Purity is corrupted not only by an impure act, but also by an immodest word or thought. And humility is also so fragile that it is easily tainted by the love of praise, by a word or thought of self-esteem, by vainglory or self-love.

He who really loves purity not only diligently banishes all impure fancies but also does so with horror and abomination; and in the same way he who really loves humility, far from taking pleasure in praise and honor, is displeased by them, and instead of fleeing from humiliations embraces them.

Oh, how much I find to humble myself here, for I see from this that I have no real love of humility! What is the result? One does not esteem a virtue which one does not love, and one has but little desire to acquire a virtue which one neither esteems nor loves; and if this be the case, woe is me! If I have neither love nor esteem for humility, it is because I do not know how precious this virtue is in itself, nor how necessary it is to me. But, O my God, breathe over me that almighty word: “Be light made,” [Gen. i, 3] so that I may be enlightened and learn to know this important virtue which Thou dost desire that I should love. And with Thy aid I will love it and guard it jealously, if I have light to understand it.

26. Every morning we ought to make this prayer and daily offering to God: I offer Thee, O my God, all my thoughts, all my words and all my actions of this day. Grant that they may be thoughts of humility, words of humility, and actions of humility—–all to Thy glory.

Also during the course of the day it will be well to repeat this ejaculatory prayer: “Lord Jesus, give me a humble and contrite heart.” These few words contain all that we can possibly ask of God; because in praying for a contrite heart we ask Him for that which is necessary to ensure forgiveness for our past life, and in praying for a humbled heart all that which is required to secure life everlasting. Oh, may I at the hour of death find myself with a contrite and humbled heart! Then what confidence shall I not have in the mercy of God if I can exclaim with King David: “A contrite and humble heart, O my God, Thou wilt not despise.” We very often offer prayers to God to which He might justly reply: “Thou knowest not what thou askest”; [Ps. l, 19] but when we ask for holy humility, we know for certain we are asking for something which is most pleasing to God and most necessary to ourselves; and in asking for this we must believe that God will maintain His infallible promise: “Ask, and it shall be given you.” [Matt. vii, 7]

27. If we examine all our falls into sin, whether venial or grave, the cause will always be found in some hidden pride; and true indeed are the words of the Holy Ghost: “For pride is the beginning of all sin.” [Ecclus. x, 15] Of this truth our Lord Jesus Christ Himself has warned us in His Gospel where He says: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled.” [Matt. xxiii, 12] God can give no greater humiliation to a soul than to allow it to fall into sin; because sin is the lowest depth of all, that is base, vile and ignominious.

Therefore each time that we are humbled by falling into sin, it is certain that we must previously have exalted ourselves by some act of pride; because only the proud are threatened with the punishment of this humiliation: “And he humbled himself afterwards, because his heart had been lifted up.” [2 Paralip. xxxii] For thus it is written of King Ezechias in holy Scripture, and the inspired writer has also said: “Before destruction the heart of man is exalted.” [Prov. xviii, 12]

There never has been a case of sin, says St. Augustine, nor ever will be one, nor can ever be one, of which pride was not in some measure the occasion: ” There never can have been, and never can be, and there never shall be any sin without pride.” [Lib. de Salute, xix vel alias]

Let us be so truly humble that we may not incur the punishment of this humiliation. No one can fall who lies on the ground; and no one can sin so long as he is humble. My God! My God! let me remain in my nothingness, for it is the surest state for me.

28. We read of many who after being renowned for their holiness, fervent in the exercise of prayer, great penances and signal virtues, and who after being favored by God with the gifts of ecstasy, revelations and miracles, have nevertheless fallen into the hideous vice of impurity at the slightest approach of temptation. And when I consider it, I find that there is no sin that degrades the soul so much as this impure sin of the senses, because the soul, from being reasoning and spiritual, like the Angels, becomes thereby carnal, sensual and like brute beasts “who have no understanding.” [Ps. xxxi, 9]

I am constrained to adore with fear the supreme judgments of God and also for my own warning to learn that pride was the reason of so great a fall; therefore we should all exclaim with the prophet, “And being exalted I have been humbled and troubled,” [Ps. lxxxvii] and say to ourselves the words which he said to Lucifer after he had “meditated in his heart: ‘I will ascend’ “—–“How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer.” [Isa. xiv]

The soul is humbled according to the measure of its self-exaltation, and great must have been the pride which was followed by such a tremendous and abominable humiliation. Ah, how much more precious is one degree of humility in comparison with a thousand revelations or ecstasies! Of what use is it, says St. Augustine, to possess unsullied purity and chastity and virginity if pride dominates the heart? “Of what avail is continence to him who is dominated by pride?” [Serm. de Verb. Dom.]

It is a wise and just disposition of God to permit the fall of the proud into every sin and especially into that of wantonness, as being the most degrading, so that by so great a fall he should be ashamed, humbled and cured of his pride. O St. Thomas, how well hast thou said: “He who is fettered by pride and does not know it, falls into the sin of impurity which is manifestly of itself disgraceful, that through this sin he may rise humiliated from his confession.” [22, qu. clxi, art. 6, ad 3] From this, the Saint continues, is shown the gravity of the sin of pride; and as a doctor often permits his patient to suffer from a minor ill so as to liberate him from a greater, so God permits the soul to fall into the sin of the senses, so that it may be cured of the vice of pride.

To whatever sublime height of sanctity we may have attained, a fall is always to be feared. For, as says St. Augustine, there is no holiness that cannot be lost through pride alone: “If there be holiness in you, fear lest you may lose it. How? Through pride.” [Serm. 13 de Verb. Dom.]

However much our Christian self-love desires to avoid the remorse and repentance which ever follows the humiliations caused by sin, we should nevertheless desire and seek to be humble, because if we are humble we can never be humbled. “O my soul,” we must say to ourselves,” O my soul, look well into thyself and be humble if thou dost not will that God should humble thee with temporal and eternal shame.” God promises to exalt the humble, and Heaven is filled with the humble; God also threatens the proud with humiliation, and Hell is filled with the proud. God thus promises and menaces so that if we do not remain in humility allured by His great promises, we should at least remain in humility from fear of His potent threats: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” [Matt. xxiii, 12]

God regards the petitions of the humble favorably, and inclines to answer them: ” He hath regard to the prayer of the humble, and He hath not despised their petition.” [Ps. ci, 18] But however much the proud man may invoke God, God will give him no spiritual consolation. St. Augustine says: “God will not come, even though thou call upon Him, if thou art puffed up.” [Enarr. In Ps. 74]

These things are all old and oft-repeated, but it is because we know them and do not practice them that we deserve the reproof given by the prophet Daniel to Nabuchodonosor:” Thou hast not humbled thy heart, whereas thou knewest all these things.” [Dan. v, 22]