Thursday, 10 January 2013

Divine Intimacy - Humility in Our Falls

Here is the fourth chapter in a short series of chapters on humility, from the book Divine Intimacy.

1. If we contemplate our misery without raising our eyes to God, the Father of mercies, we will easily become discouraged. By examining ourselves thoroughly, we will see that discouragement always comes from two closely related causes. The first is that we depend upon our own strength; through it our pride is wounded and deceived when we fall. The second is that we lack reliance on God; we do not think of referring to Him in times of prosperity, nor do we have recourse to Him when we fail Him. In short, we act by ourselves: we try to succeed alone, we fall alone, and alone we contemplate our fall. The result of such conduct can only be discouragement. Indeed, how could we expect to find in ourselves the strength to rise again, when it was our very want of strength that made us fall? God does not want us to act by ourselves. "Woe to him that is alone," says Sacred Scripture, "for when he falleth, he hath none to lift him up" (Eccl 4,10). Woe to him who relies only on his own strength to put his good resolutions into execution. When he falls, he will not have the aid of God's might to lift him up; thus he will remain in his misery, confused and discouraged. 

Just as we should not make good resolutions without counting on God's help to keep them, by the same token we should not view our failures without considering God's mercy at the same time, for as God is the only One who can help us persevere in good, so He alone can raise us up from evil. 

That is why all the saints have taught that the knowledge of oneself must never be separated from the knowledge of God and vice versa. St. Teresa of Jesus says, "The soul must sometimes emerge from self-knowledge and soar aloft in meditation upon the greatness and the majesty of God. Doing this wil help it to realize its own baseness better than thinking of its own nature, and it will be freer from the reptiles which enter the first rooms, that is, the rooms of self-knowledge" (Interior Castle).

2. "True humility, however deep it may be, neither disquiets, not troubles, nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy, and tranquility.... It enlarges it, and makes it fit to serve God better." On the other hand, "false humility only disturbs and upsets the mind and troubles the soul, so grievous is it. I think the devil is anxious for us to believe that we are humble and, if he can, he will lead us to distrust God" (Way of Perfection).

Distress and lack of confidence lessen our capacity for loving and the devil's aim is to hold back souls on the road to love. He tries in this way to overcome those especially who would never give in to open temptations to sin. In this case we must react in a positive way and recall, as St. Therese of the Child Jesus teaches, that "what offends God and wounds His heart most is want of confidence" (Letters).

To be wanting in confidence in God's mercy, even after a grave fall, is never a sign of true humility but of insidious pride and diabolical temptation. If Judas had been humble he would have asked pardon and wept for his sins like Peter, instead of despairing. Humility is the virtue which keeps us in our place; and our place in God's sight is that of children who are weak and miserable, yes, but confident children.

When we fall into the same imperfections after so many good resolutions; when after many efforts we still do not succeed in correcting certain faults or in overcoming certain difficulties, and we find ourselves in one way or another far beneath what we ought or would like to be, let us have recourse to the infallible remedy of humility. "Humility," says St. Teresa of Jesus, is "the ointment for our wounds" (Interior Castle). Even if we seem to have used up all our strength, if we feel unable to do anything and see ourselves always prostrate, powerless to rise, there is still one possibility for us: to humble ourselves. Let us humble ourselves sincerely and with confidence; and humility will supply for all our miseries; it will heal all our wounds because it will attract divine mercy to them.

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