[Note: We cannot allow ourselves to forget the virtues and the wisdom of a bygone era in this modern, post-Christian age, as in this instruction regarding humility from Rev. William Ullathorne (1806-1889), excerpted from his newly-revised book, “Patience & Humility.”]
The least known among the virtues, and consequently the most misunderstood, is the virtue of humility, and yet it is the very groundwork of the Christian religion. Humility is a grace of the soul that cannot be expressed in words, and is known only by experience. “Learn,” He said – not from angels, not from men, not from books – but learn from my presence, light, and action within you, “that I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.”
Humility consists in the confession of the grace of God. The grand object for which we came into existence is more than the light and grace of God; it is God Himself, and those gifts are not given to guide and lead and help us to Him. We are not our own God, nor are the things around or beneath us our God, however useful in their place and order, but God is our God, and whatever comes from God that is better than ourselves helps us grow closer to Him.
Pride is the practical denial of this truth, a truth that springs from the constitution of our nature. And therefore it is said in the Holy Scriptures that “pride was not made for man.” Again, humility is the interior, spiritual, sacrificial action through which, with the profoundest veneration and gratitude, we offer to God the being and the life we have received from Him, with the desire and prayer that we may die to ourselves and live to Him; that we may be wholly changed and transformed into His likeness, detached from earth and united with God.
The Son of God took this humble condition to drive back and destroy the huge invasion of pride that was the ruin of the human race. Thus through His Incarnation the Son of God both consecrated and deified humility, making it more glorious to be humble with God, than to be exalted with pride among the children of men. To imitate Christ in His humility is something truly great.
When we speak of Christ as the master of humility, we speak of something preeminently great and excelling. The Son of God could not take the nature of man without making that nature morally perfect, and He has shown in Himself that the foundation of moral perfection in a creature is humility.
But as we come to our God from sin and dark ingratitude, we owe Him the contrition, the breaking to pieces of our sinful form, with regret and sorrow that we have defiled and defaced His beautiful work; we owe to Him to throw away every breath of vanity, falsehood, and evil, which, when cast out of us, is nothing.
The more we love God, the less we value ourselves. He who is truly humble, truly empty of himself, is a vessel of election to God, full to overflowing with His Benedictions. He has only to ask to receive still more. When humility finds nothing in itself to rest upon, it finds its true center, and that center is God. For the humble soul alone has got the divine as well as the human measure of things.