Life of humbleness & meekness (25)

26-12-2011 10:41 AM

Translated by Dr. Wedad Abbas

   A humble person respects the others, old or young, whereas the proud looks down on the younger and respects no one by word or conduct.
   The Lord Christ with all His greatness and unlimited divinity gives us an example by getting baptized by John, and when John said to Him, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” He said to him, “Permit it to be so now.” (Mt 3: 14, 15)
  How amazing is such a Lord who says to one of His servants, “Permit it now”!
   His respect to the others is clear in subjecting Himself to the law in everything. When He healed the leper, He said to him, “Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Mt 8: 4) Strange indeed that the High Priest says to the leper, “Go, show yourself to the priest”! He gives everyone His due.
   The same happened when He called Saul of Tarsus, for He sent him to Ananias (Acts 9). Likewise when He accepted Cornelius the Gentile, He sent to him Peter the Apostle. 
  More amazing still is that when Judas came with treachery to deliver Him with a kiss, the Lord said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” (Mt 26:50)
   See how He calls the treacherous “friend”, not willing to hurt his feelings!
   He did the same to the Samaritan woman. He neither rebuked her for her sins nor spoke to her about repentance and regret, but rather spoke positively about the living water and worshipping God in spirit and truth. Even when He touched her private life He said, “You have had five husbands”. Actually they were not husbands, but He avoided the hurting description of her relationship with them. He also started the words with “You have well said” and ended with “You spoke truly”.
   With the same gentleness the Lord did not hurt the woman caught in the very act, and rescued her from those who wanted to stone her. Then, when they went away He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (Jn 8: 2- 11)
   He respected motherhood, so He was subject to His mother and to Joseph (Lk 2: 51). When she asked Him for a miracle in the wedding at Cana of Galilee, although His hour had not yet come (Jn 2: 4), He responded to her request and fulfilled it. 
   He respected even His disciples, though the word “respected” is not convenient for His divinity, but the language is deficient to express properly what is meant. He said to them:
“No longer do I call you servants … but I have called you friends (Jn 15: 15)
   He moreover called them “brothers” when He said to the Magdalene after the resurrection, “Go to My brethren and say to them …” (Jn 20: 17) He was not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb 2: 11), and said to the Father concerning them, “The glory which You gave Me I have given them.” (Jn 17: 22) He gave them reverence in the sight of the people by the gifts He gave them.
   A humble person speaks about everybody with respect, and is gentle towards everybody, especially seniors, as St. Paul said to Timothy the Bishop, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters.” (1 Tim 5: 1)
  St. Timothy had to treat them with all respect, though they were his spiritual children as bishop. This was St. Paul##s way as clear from his words to the Romans, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” (Rom 16: 13) His respect was not only to the elders but also to the young as brothers and sisters
   Reverence to elders and fathers is very clear in the “Paradise of Monks” as well as in the biographies of the saints.
   When St. Paul the Simple used to speak about his teacher St. Anthony, saying, “My father St. Anthony”, and when they brought him a person with a demon to cast out, he said to the demon, “My father Abba Anthony commands you to go out from him. By the prayer of my father the saint, go out of him”. How beautiful are these words!
   This reminds us of a story about St. John the Short when his spiritual father St. Abba Bemwa sent him to bring a hyena from a certain place, he went there without fear, and when he saw the hyena he ran after it, saying, “My father St. Abba Bemwa commands you to come.”
   It often happens when a certain monk falls in some tribulation that he says to the Lord, “By the prayer of my father, O Lord, save me!” Indeed seeking the intercession of the saints is a kind of humbleness!
   The first commandment on human relations is “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ex 20: 12) This applies to both natural and spiritual parents. An aspect of such honoring is respect.
   St. Bijimi the hermit once said, ##At the beginning of my monasticism I spent some years with elderly pious fathers, but I never lifted up my eyes to see the features of any of them.## Such was the bashfulness and decency of the monks that they never looked fully at any person, in obedience to the advice of the spiritual father.##
   Another monastic principle related to revering the elders says, ##If you sit amidst elders, keep silent, and if they ask you about anything, say I do not know.##
   He meant that he knows not what is proper to say before the elders. When we sit with the elders we should learn, not speak. An example is Elihu in Job##s story. Job##s friends## talk filled 28 chapters of the Book of Job, while the fourth, Elihu, kept silent all that time. When there was a chance he said, “I am young in years, and you are very old. Therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, ##Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.##” (Job 32: 6, 7)
   The rule was that the young keeps silent in the presence of the old, to listen and learn, and to benefit from the experience and wisdom of the old, and to revere their age. This applied to the Holy Orders. In the presence of a bishop none of the priests or deacons could put on their alb except after presenting it to the bishop to make the sign of the cross on it. And if the bishop needed absolution and asked a priest for it, the priest said, ##Absolution comes from your mouth, my lord.##
   The church teaches us to say to the priest, ##father##, and to the bishop, ##lord## and to kiss their hand. In the countryside another type of reverence was familiar in olden times: people used to kiss the hands of their fathers, mothers, and grandfathers and grandmothers, asking their blessing.
   Humbleness calls for revering parents, elders, and priestly ranks. 
   The Scripture says, “Render therefore to all their due … fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom 13: 7) Therefore David had great respect to King Saul although the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and a spirit from the Lord troubled him.” (1 Sam 16: 14) David used to say, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord##s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Sam 24: 6) He also used to call him “My father” and “My lord” (1 Sam 24: 10, 11)
   Furthermore, the church laws say whoever says to his brother, ##You fool!## shall be in danger of hell fire (Mt 5: 22), how much rather who says a bad word about his bishop by the laying of whose hands a person receives the Holy Spirit!
   Our respect for the elderly also appears in our talk about the apostles and saints, for we always put before their names the word “St.” and end it with a description like, “St. Paul / Peter the Apostle”, “Saint Athanasius the Apostolic” … etc.
   Some go further to call the Lord by His name only “Jesus”! We, on the contrary, when reading the Gospel for instance, say, “Our Lord, God, Savior, and King of us all, our Lord Jesus Christ, glory always to Him for ever and ever. Amen.”
   Likewise, we put before the names of some saints the word “Mar” which means “Saint”, as we call St. George (Georgios): “our king Mar Georgios”. We also call the Holy virgin, “Our Lady and Queen the Holy Virgin Mary”. Would that we return to this habit and speak with respect about fathers and saints, remembering that the Lord says, who honors you, honors Me. Let us not utter their names bare as the scholars in the west do when speaking about the church fathers. They say for instance, ##The struggling of Athanasius##, ##The contemplations of Augustine##, ##The epistles of Anthony##, ##The anathemas of Cyril## … etc. without any titles!!
  When revering God, the humble reveres God##s saints and whatever relates to Him.  
   The humble respects God##s house, sanctuary, and altar, and enters God##s house with awe, saying, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy, in fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” (Ps 5: 7) The humble also reveres the Holy Bible, kisses it, and never puts anything over it, reveres God##s name and never takes it in vain (Ex 20: 7), and reveres God##s men and ministers.
   Elisha the Prophet revered his teacher Elijah the Prophet, and when he saw him ascending in a fiery chariot unto heaven he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kgs 2: 12)
   We revere the monks and call them ##fathers##, even if they are not yet ordained priests.
   We revere the nuns and call them ##mothers## and seek their blessing, and we revere their holy monasteries and convents and their relics, and we anoint them with spices.
   We mention them in the doxologies and hymns, asking their prayers and intercession, and we celebrate their feasts and memorials.
   The humble pays reveres not only to the fathers and saints but also the seniors in general. A student ought to revere his teachers, and the employee his boss, and above all the state laws and regulations, recalling the words of the Scripture, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Pet 2: 13) “Honor all people … Honor the king.” (1 Pet 2: 17) “You younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” (1 Pet 5: 5)
   I do not think I have covered everything related to this subject. There is still much to be said, God willing. 
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