Saturday Meditation: On humility

Potter and clay photo

Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

By Elisabeth Avery

25 March

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 51:15-20 ▪ HOSEA 6:1-6 ▪ LUKE 18:9-14

Today’s Proper examines self-righteousness, humility and frailty— traits we’ve all experienced.

It’s easy to have moments of vanity or smugness. I won’t say I go as far as the Pharisee in the parable and pat myself on the back every time I go to church but, if it’s really cold outside, I admit to feeling somewhat noble about making my two-block walk to St. Michael’s.

The Collect instructs that although we face many dangers and temptations, we can’t do it alone. Last December I was hospitalized for five weeks for pneumonia. Although I have great faith in antibiotics, I was frightened about the eventual outcome and I called upon God many times.

What I have never understood is humility. Unlike today’s Psalmist, I don’t doubt that God sees the purity of my intentions, nor would it occur to me to wonder whether I’m worthy of receiving the sacrament of communion.

In my family—a string of independent women, starting with my great-grandmother who pioneered Indian Territory, to my lawyer grandmother, to my aeronautical engineer mother—humility just didn’t come up. But it’s a major topic in the Bible, and all the other major religions praise it. So, I looked it up. Here’s what I found about the Judeo-Christian tradition:

In Judaism humility is an appreciation of oneself, one’s talents and virtues. It is not meekness or self-deprecating thought, but the effacing of oneself to something higher. Humility is not to think lowly of oneself, but to appreciate the self one has received.

Similarly, in Christianity humility makes someone a fit recipient of grace. The humble person recognizes his or her gifts and their limitations; sees the virtues and talents of others; and, submits to God. For those who submit to God, it is like submitting to joy.

Elisabeth Avery sings with the choir and has been member of St. Michael’s with her husband John and daughter Cordelia for about 22 years. Elisabeth is currently working on a thriller.