Christ is born! Glorify Him!
On this last day of the year, hear this from St. Paisios: “Humility and Love, there you have it. This is everything!” As we say “goodbye” to this unique year of challenges and difficulties; trials and triumphs, let’s recalibrate our ideas of “success” and “happiness.” The only way to do this well and avoid the pitfalls of arrogance and short-sightedness is through true humility. Humility shuts down the fires of controversy and bitterness. Humility cancels the power of the demons to drive us to resentment and suspicion and the dead end of jealousy and despondency.
Abba Sisoes says “The way of humility is this: self-control. prayer, and thinking yourself inferior to all creatures.” Talk about a counter intuitive message in this modern age of the idolatry of “esteem” and “rights” and “my truth.” Orthodoxy offers us a different path!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 14:1-11:
At that time, one sabbath when Jesus went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this. Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This powerful passage at year’s end invites me to embrace the Lord’s wisdom about entitlement, self esteem, and demands for recognition and rights. And the Lord’s wisdom won’t sit well in a society intoxicated by demands and protests and individualism drunk on selfish ideology. This wisdom cuts us allIF we are honest enough to press out the implications of this powerful teaching from the God made flesh for us for our salvation. In fact, God Himself lives out this wisdom in His very flesh!
The Pharisees were proud of their orthodoxy. They were proud that they followed the rules and kept the traditions of their fathers. And it is in this very pride that the seeds of their spiritual illness bloomed into a full blindness to the very God in the Flesh they had claimed to worship for centuries. They missed Him because they lacked the humility to see Him!
Jesus tells these men that they need to cultivate the attitude that they belong in the back SO THAT others might say to them “Come up to the best seat!” Developing this attitude of humility and smallness allows your gifts to shine all the more brightly when others seek out these gifts! But a constant demand that you be recognized, noticed, approved, and promoted plants the seeds of spiritual destruction in your hearts.
This message of humility sounds completely insane to a world and society that seems to be existentially terrified of not being noticed and celebrated. A society that has devolved into the narcissistic focus on achieving “my truth” or protecting and promoting ideas and actions that are actually destructive. Celebrating “thug culture” or “gender fluidity” or encouraging the delusions of “equality” meaning not being allowed to actually point out dangerous aspects of behavior, all point to what happens to a culture when humility has been neglected. Abused people are caused by a “majority” blind to the consequences of abusing or neglecting people on the margins. And, no surprise, when the marginalized people get fed up with being marginalized, they respond how they were taught to respond: with anger and revenge! And all it would have took to avoid the chaos was some level of humility on everybody’s part!
Today, as we enter a new year, abandon the fruitless and spiritually dangerous path of arrogance and pride. Embrace the path of humility and learn the wisdom of being Orthodox on Purpose!