Humility: The First Step by Sister Jacqueline Leiter, OSB

Humility: The First Step
by Sister Jacqueline Leiter, OSB

Every evening, the Liturgy of the Hours ends with Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat.  Mary is a beautiful model for us of humility. Humility is about knowing who we are, and who we are in relationship with our God. Mary knew that she was small and lowly in our world. She remembered God’s love and mercy shown to Israel throughout history, and her own dependence on God. She knew that she lived within God’s love and care. In humility, Mary was filled with joy and praised God.

We also learn about humility in the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Benedict lays out 12 steps as a way of life to bring us deeper into a loving, gentle, and truthful relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves.

The first step of humility is about keeping a reverence (awe) for God always before our eyes, and never forgetting it (RB7:10). We are always within God’s presence. This is expressed in Psalm 139: O God, you search me and you know me. You know my resting and my rising . . . Your presence surrounds me, your blessing is ever upon me.

Sometimes human experience makes this awe and sense of presence tangible to us, for example, the birth of a child, seeing the Northern Lights shining around us in the dark night sky, or even receiving a kind word when it was needed. We may feel a wonder for God’s greatness, and we may also feel our own smallness. This is not a smallness that makes us worthless or poor, but one that makes us realize our own dependence on God’s love and mercy. It makes us realize that we are not in the center, not in charge, but that we live within God’s love and mercy.

It is not easy to always remember always that we are in God’s presence. St. Benedict tells us: Every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection  (Prol. 4).  It is through relying on God that we are able to begin anew and continue each day in everything that we do.  When we remember that that God’s presence is everywhere, then we will know that we don’t have to be everywhere. We can just be here where we are, and be with God with us.

Living and knowing that we are in the presence of God is helps us place God first in our lives.  God is God, and we are not God. If we live our lives remembering that and cultivating this awareness of God, then hopefully our actions, our words, our relationships and our choices will be lived in that awareness. Being in relationship with God reminds us we are part of God’s creation. We come to know ourselves as God knows us, with human limitations as creatures of God, and beloved of God. We recognize and accept our place before God in the world.

We know from the Magnificat that Mary knew who and where she was before God, and that out of her whole being, Mary praised God. As Christians, we add the doxology at the end of her song and we praise God our Creator, Jesus the Son, and the Spirit who dwells in our hearts. Small though we may be in this world, God chose to send his Son to become human like one of us through the Incarnation--Emmanuel, God with us! God the Spirit chooses to make a home within our hearts. God is very close, indeed.

Invitation: Pause and remind yourself today that you are always within God’s presence.