HUMILITY, AN ELUSIVE THING
“But grant unto me, Your servant, a spirit of chastity (σωφροσύνης, whole-mindedness, цело-мудрия), humility (ταπεινοφροσύνης, humble-mindedness, смиренно-мудрия), patience and love.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, part 2)
Humility is an elusive kind of thing, hard to define. It is also easy to mistake some “humility-counterfeit” for actual humility. For example, I might imagine I am being “humble,” while actually escaping responsibility, according to my vocation, or donning a mask I have concocted, just not to be who I am called to be in my God-given place, time, and identity. As G. K. Chesterton famously noted, “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth.“
The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem tells me three helpful things about humility: 1. It is good for me to ask for it, so I should desire it; 2. It is a “spirit,” more specifically, it is an energy of the Holy Spirit, to which I open up, rather than something I should or can muster up from inside me; and 3. It is a “mindset” (ταπεινο-φροσύνη, humble-mindedness, смиренно-мудрие) or “approach” to things, which involves a way of thinking. When I am “in” the grace of humble-mindedness, and the grace of humble-mindedness is “in” me, I find myself wisely able to “duck under the wave,” in the Holy Spirit, when need be – of the dangerous wave or calamity that happens to come my way. So, humility is a “ducking under the wave,” in the warm shelter and loving care of the Holy Spirit, rather than asserting my own, Spirit-less response to things. This does not always mean being silent, nor does it mean “being a doormat.” It means asserting His energies, rather than my own. He becomes greater, and I become less. (cf. Jn 3: 30)
Today let me open up to God and His Spirit, staying close to Him, so that my response to situations, things, and people around me are softened and salted by humility, in His, and not my, wisdom. “But grant unto me, Your servant, a Spirit of humble-mindedness.” Amen!