Humility Of Heart Part 8

34. The heart of the proud man is like a stormy sea, never at rest: “Like the raging sea which cannot rest;” [Isa. lvii, 20] and the heart of the humble is fully content in its humility—–“Rich in his being low” [James i, 10]—–and is always calm and tranquil and without fear that anything in this world should disturb him, and shall “rest with confidence.” [Isa. xiv, 30] And from whence proceeds this difference? The humble man enjoys peace and quiet because he lives according to the rules of truth and justice, submitting his own will in all things to the Divine will. The proud man is always agitated and perturbed because of the opposition he is continually offering to the Divine will in order to fulfill his own.

The more the heart is filled with self-love, so much the greater will be its anxiety and agitation. This maxim is indeed true; for whenever I feel myself inwardly irritated, disturbed and angered by some adversity which has befallen me, I need not look elsewhere for the cause of such feelings than within myself, and I should always do well to say: If I were truly humble I should not be disquieted. My great agitation is an evident proof which ought to convince me that my self-love is great and dominant and powerful within me, and is the tyrant which torments and gives me no peace.

If I feel aggrieved by some sharp word that has been said to me, or by some discourtesy shown me, from whence does this feeling of pain proceed? From my pride alone. Oh, if I were truly humble, what calm, what peace and happiness would my soul not enjoy! And this promise of Jesus Christ is infallible: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.” [Matt. xi, 29]

When we are distressed by some adversity, it is unnecessary to seek consolation of those who flatter us or have pity on us, and to whom we can pour out our troubles. It is sufficient to ask our soul: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me?” [Ps. xli, 12] My soul, what hast thou? and what seekest thou? Dost thou perchance desire that rest which thou hast lost? Listen then to the remedy offered to thee by thy Savior, exhorting thee to learn of Him to be humble, “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart,” and further listen to what He adds when He assures thee that with thy lost humility thou shalt also recover thy peace: “And you shall find rest to your souls.”

35. There are two kinds of humiliations: those which we seek of our own free-will, and those which proceed from the natural and temporal vicissitudes of this life. Against the first we must be on our guard, notwithstanding the ardor with which we embrace them, for the ever-lurking vanity of our self-love is so subtle that it seeks even to enhance its own vain-glory while it appears to seek the contempt of man. But if we accept the other humiliations which come to us, irrespective of our will, mortifying our feelings, thoughts and passions with prompt resignation to the will of God, it is a sign of a true and sincere humility; because such humiliations tend to mortify our self-love and to perfect the submission which we owe to God.

Voluntary and self-sought humiliations may cause the soul to become hypocritical. But involuntary humiliations sent to us by the Divine Will, and borne by us with patience, sanctify the soul; and for this reason the Holy Ghost has given us this most important mandate: “In thy humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.” [Ecclus ii, 4, 5] It is impossible except in rare cases not to discover the hypocrisy of affected humility: “Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.” [Ps. cxliii, 5] And, again, it is impossible not to know the virtue of true humility, because its spirit is “gentle, kind, steadfast, assured, secure, having all power.” [Wisd. vii, 23]

36. There are also two kinds of temptations: those that come to us through the wickedness of the evil one and those which we go in search of ourselves in our own weakness and malice, but there is no better safeguard against either than humility. Humility causes the evil one to flee because he cannot face the humble on account of his great pride, and it causes every temptation to vanish suddenly because there can be no temptation without a touch of pride.

Temptations arise against purity or against faith or any other virtue, but we can easily overcome them if we humble ourselves in our hearts and say: “Lord, I deserve these terrible temptations as a punishment for my pride, and if Thou comest not to my help, I shall surely fall. I feel my weakness, and that I can do no good of myself. Help me!” “Come unto my help, O God, O Lord, make haste to help me.” [Ps. lxix, 2]

The more a soul humbles itself before God the more God comforts that soul with His grace, and inasmuch as God is with us, who shall prevail against us? “The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” [Ps. xxvi, 1] said King David; and St. Paul said: “If God be for us, who is against us?” [Rom. viii, 31]

The strongest subterfuge which the devil can employ in order to make us fall into temptation is to flatter our humility, thus preventing us from being humble, for if the evil one succeeds in persuading us that we have sufficient strength of ourselves to overcome temptation, we have already succumbed, as those succumbed of whom it was written that the Lord humbleth “them that presume of themselves and glory in their own strength.” [Jude vi, 15]

Charity never grows cold nor fervor tepid except from lack of humility. Let us stand on our guard clad in the armor of humility, and that will be sufficient. God will help us in the measure in which we are humble, and with His help we shall be able to say: “I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me.” [Phil. iv, 13]

37. As for those other temptations there must certainly be presumption on our part when we seek them of our own accord and place ourselves in dangerous occasions of sin. He who is humble knows his own weakness; and, knowing it, fears to place himself in danger; and because he fears it he flees from it. He who is humble trusts implicitly in the help of Divine grace, on those involuntary occasions he may encounter, but he never presumes upon the help of Divine grace on those occasions which he has sought himself.

Let us be humble and humility will teach us to fear and avoid all dangerous occasions. In the lives of the Saints we read how careful they were to avoid familiar intercourse with women; and also in the lives of Saintly women how equally cautious they were to avoid familiarity with men. Why did they fear so much, since they already had so many penances and prayers with which to defend themselves against temptation? The reason is that they were humble and distrusted the weakness of human nature without presuming on grace; and thus their humility was the means by which they kept their purity unsullied.

You say: I can put myself in the way of temptation, but I am not afraid, because I will not sin. This is a temerity proceeding from pride, as St. Thomas says: “This is a real temerity and is caused by pride, [22 qu. liii, art 3, ad 2] and you would find yourself shamed by an unexpected fall. “And he that loveth danger shall perish in it.” [Ecclus iii, 27] All that presume thus will undoubtedly fall, and their fall is the just punishment of their pride, as the prophet predicted: “This shall befall them for their pride.” [Soph. ii, 10]

38. God resists the proud, because the proud oppose Him; but He dispenses His graces liberally to the humble, because they live in subjection to His will. Oh, if we humbly made place for the Divine gifts, how great would be the affluence of that grace in our souls! One of the worst consequences of our lack of humility will be that it will render the Day of Judgment so terrible to us; because on that day we shall not only have to give account of the graces which we have received and of which we have made a bad use, but also of those graces which God would have given us if we had been humble, and which He withheld from us on account of our pride.

It will be useless then to excuse ourselves by saying that we fell into such and such a sin from want of grace. “Grace was there,” the Lord will answer; “but you ought to have asked for it with humility and not forfeited it by your pride.” Pride is an obstacle harder than steel which hinders the beneficent infusion of grace into the soul. And it is the doctrine of St. Thomas that it is precisely by pride that our soul is placed in such a state ”as to be deprived of all inner spiritual good.” [22, qu. cxxxii, art. 3] Do you desire grace in this world and glory in the next? Humble yourself, says St. James: “Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” [Jas. iv, 10] God created out of nothing all that we can see in our world when “the earth was void and empty,” [Gen. i, 2] and He filled with oil all the empty vases with which the widow presented Eliseus: “Empty vessels not a few.” [4 Kings, iv, 3] And He also fills with His grace those hearts which are emptied of self—–that is to say, which have neither self-esteem nor self-confidence and do not rely upon their own strength.

39. It is most humiliating to reflect upon this, that even though we be exempt from grave sins, yet, through some secret disorder within us we may be as guilty as if we had committed them. For if pride arises in our hearts and leads us to consider ourselves better than those who have committed these sins we are at once rendered guilty and worse than they in the eyes of God, because, as the Holy Ghost says, “Pride is hateful before God.” [Ecclus. x, 7] St. Luke, in his Gospel, [Luke xviii, 11] records two different kinds of vanity shown by the Pharisee, one when he praised himself for the sins he did not commit, the other when he praised himself for the virtues that he practiced: and he was equally condemned for each of these vain utterances. He apparently referred all the glory to God when he said: “O God, I give Thee thanks.” But this was only ostentatious self-esteem. It is only too easy for these thoughts of vain-glory to insinuate themselves into our hearts: and who can assure me that I am not guilty of many of them? “What I have done openly I see,” I can say with more truth than St. Gregory, ” but what I have inwardly felt I do not see.” [Lib. 9, Mor., c. 17] O my God, my God, “let no iniquity have dominion over me.” [Ps. cxviii, 133] Do not let me be dominated by pride, which is the sum of all wickedness; from my secret sins cleanse me. Purify me from those sins of pride of which I am ignorant; “then shall I be without spot.” [Ps. xviii, 14] This thought, says St. Thomas, causes every just man to consider himself worse than a great sinner: “The just man who is truly humble thinks himself worse because he fears lest in that which he seems to do well he should grievously sin by pride.” [in suppl. 3 part. qu. 6, art. 4]