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bountiful communication of the heavenly treasures, and makes us most suitable instruments to promote the glory of God, and to advance the cause of our neighbour's salvation 1
IIL It is assuredly impossible not to desire a virtue, the excellence of which we esteem, and the utility of which we love, the more so, if we add the additional consideration, that it is just to desire and love it, since God himself, in becoming man, has manifested towards it so great a desire and love. It is impossible, I say, not to desire it, when one reflects that the most holy humanity of Jesus Christ, although incapable of sin, filled with the vision of God, and adorned with every perfection, nevertheless mindful (as far as its essence was concerned) of its own nothingness, most profoundly humbled itself before the Infinite Majesty of God, from the first moment of the Incarnation to the latest instant of its existence upon earth.
This is a thought to humble not alone the proud sons of Adam, but even the rebel angels who are now in the abyss of hell. O God !" the Holy One, the Just One, the King of kings, the Judge of the living and the dead, He at whose name every knee bows down in adoration," knowing, as far as his human nature was concerned, his own nothingness, humbles Himself most profoundly in the sight of the most Holy Trinity, and calls himself "the last of men," nay, even " a worm and not a man " ; and man, who is but as "a drop of morning dew, an atom of dust, a light vapour"; man, who is sin itself, and weakness, and misery, and the very essence of all that is vile—shall he dare to lift himself up proudly, to trumpet his own praises, and to place himself before others 1 Ah! let us at length trample upon pride at the cradle of Jesus Christ; and let us learn here to esteem, to love, and to desire that virtue which He so greatly esteemed, loved, and desired during the entire course of his life.
Humility is a virtue by which a man despises himself, and loves, desires, and rejoices to be despised also by others. S. Bernard distinguishes two kinds of humility: the one, of the intellect, by means of which one becomes conscious of his own nothingness; the other of the will, by which one desires, in addition, to be accounted as nothing. This alone is a virtue: the former is but a disposition of mind and a help to arrive at this latter. Examine yourselves, then, in order to discover whether your humility is purely speculative, or whether it is also practical, and affects your will 1 whether you are humble merely in words, or in heart as well 1 "Whether you belong to the number of those who deem themselves humble, because they know that in reality they are contemptible 1 For, it is one thing to know that you are despicable, i.nd quite another thing to despise yourself Even the devil can lay claim to the former, but the latter is the exclusive prerogative of the sincerely humble.
The helps towards cultivating a spirit of humility are, chiefly, two. The first is the frequent consideration of the motives which we have for humbling ourselves; the second is the continual practice of humility. "If, therefore, you wish to acquire the virtue of humility, do not shun the path of humiliations" (a). Determine, therefore, practically, the motives which you have for humility, and the opportunities which will present themselves to you for the exercise of this virtue.
II. The principle degrees of humility may be reduced to the following: 1. To think little of yourself, and to speak and act as one would do who holds himself as of small account. 2. When treated contemptuously by others, to bear it in silence. 3. Nay more, to desire, and contrive, that we should be so treated . 4. If insulted, to rejoice and thank God for it. Examine now to which of those degrees have you already arrived, and what degree do you propose to yourself to reach in the future.
Moreover, the chief properties of humility are three: 1. It should be voluntary. Even thieves humble themselves through necessity, but this is a humility which is ever repining, and is unworthy of the name of virtue. 2. It should be sincere; for "a pretence of humility is the excess of pride" (&) "for there are some who humble themselves wickedly" (c), "who in their humility seek praise for their humility" (d). This is merely vain-glory under the mask of humility. 3. It should be prudent.- that is, it should know when, to what extent, where, in what office, how, for what end, and with what degree of moderation, one ought to humble himself: "lest while one placed in authority humbles himself more than fits his station, he may lose the power- of control over those who are placed under him " (e).
(a) S. Bernard, super, missus. (5) S. Aug. de Virg. c. xliii. (c) Eccles. xix. 23. (d) S. Gregory,
(e) S. Bernard Tract. de grad. humil.
Here examine, 1. With what amount of patience do you bear with contempt 1 Do you for the most trivial slights give way to melancholy, indulge in mournful sighs, and annoy with your complaints everyone with whom you are brought in contact? 2. Do you, perhaps, covet an honoured place in the school of humility; lowering yourself for the purpose of being exalted, and despising yourself to win the praise of men? "Humility must be indeed a glorious virtue, since even pride Irishes to cover itself with its mantle !" (a). 3. Examine, also, whether you be of the class of those of whom Ecclesiasticus says, "There is one that submitteth himself exceedingly with a great lowliness" (b), lessening his authority at the expense of the office which has been entrusted to him. Or whether your humility be not mere weakness, and an unworthy fear of not succeeding in the management of those matters which have been confided to your charge.
There is no one more generously disposed than the truly humble man; for, having no confidence in himself, and placing all his trust in God, he advances boldly towards every undertaking. He who is ever anxious as to the result of his undertakings clearly proves that he fears the gibes of men. Find out how you stand in this respect. For the rest, "the greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things, and thou shalt find grace before God " (c).
(a) S. Bernard, Tract. de grad. hunril. (6) Eccles. xix. 24. (c) Eccles. iii, 20.
On the Nativity of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ teaches us in His Nativity to esteem, to love, and to desire poverty. From the moment of His birth the poverty of Jesus was extreme, and (1.) we see it first of all in the place in which He was born. Not only was He not born in a royal palace, though being the Son of David, and heir to the throne of Juda; not only was He born outside His Father's house, and a wanderer from His country, having had to go, by order of Augustus, from Nazareth to Bethlehem ; but He had not at His birth even the shelter of the most miserable inn, "became their was no room for them in the inn"(a), a circumstance which scarcely ever occurs even to the poorest of the poor. In fact, He was born in a stable, and, of this same, half was tumbled down; He was placed in a poor manger. His parents were no doubt most holy and most noble, but they were as poor as poor could be; no servant waited upon Him—there was but an ox and an ass; there were none to offer their congratulations, but the poor, simple shepherds of the neighbourhood. O truly wondrous state of poverty. O Eternal Father! behold "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests," and your onlybegotten Son "hath not where to lay his head " (b).
2. Great, moreover, was the poverty of Jesus Christ for want of proper clothing: For His holy
(a) Luke ii. 7. (b) Luke ix 58.