Friday, February 10, 2006

Fifth Week after Epiphany. "In the steps of humility" by St Bernard of Clairvoux
Saint Bernard's preface on twelve degrees of pride and humility.
You asked me, dear brother Godfrey, to send you a fuller version of what I said to the brethren in chapter on the steps of humility. This was a big thing to ask me, and because I dearly want to fulfill it, and yet fear that I am incapable of doing so, I did not dare to undertake the task without first sitting down and thinking carefully whether I had the means to complete it. For I was afraid that I would find myself unable to grant your request after I had already started on it. But love has no room for fear, and casts it out. Then another fear assailed me - the peril arising from the praise and glory I would earn by completing the work, far outweighed my fear of the shame that failure would bring with it. And so I hesitated at the crossroads between love and fear, asking myself which way would be safer. Would pride get the better of me as I wrote useful and helpful thoughts about humility, or would my silence make me unhelpful and useless to you in your need?. But when I could come to no clear decision, I thought that the best course would be to send you the main points of the sermons I gave, since the only alternative was to take shelter in a haven of silence. And meanwhile I trust if my poor efforts meet with your approval, your prayers will keep me from growing too proud of my achievements, while if this little work does not come up to your expectations there will be nothing for me to boast of.
Here in outline is a scheme showing the degrees of pride and humility:

1st degree of pride is inquisitiveness, a state in which sight and all other senses wander off in pursuit of things that are of no concern for man's salvation.
2nd degree of pride is instability of mind, which is betrayed by joy at one moment and sadness the next.
3rd degree of pride is frivolity, which is shown by overreadinesse to laugh
4th degree of pride is vainglory, which occurs in one who pours out every thought that comes into his head.
5th degree of pride is singularity, or boasting of one's own deeds.
6th degree of pride is arrogance in thinking oneself more holy than everyone else.
7th degree of pride is presumption, or following one's own opinion in everything, and forcing it on others.
8th degree of pride is self-justification in wrong-doing
9th degree of pride is false confession, which is the very contrary of patience in the face of difficulties and contradictions.
10th degree of pride is rebellion against one's brethren and superiors.
11th degree of pride is freedom to sin and the absence of shame in doing so.
12th degree of pride is the habit of sinning.

In the monastery it is impossible to slip down the last two steps of pride. But notice how common element of all the first six degrees is contempt for brethren; in the next four, contempt for the superior is the keynote, while the last two are both states of contempt of God.

Next: the degrees of humility.