Tag Archives: humility

God-fearing midwives, and humility.

While I was at church between services today, a fellow parishioner, George, came with his little truck and removed all the palm branches from yesterday’s feast. Now we have this icon of Christ, “Extreme Humility,” lavishly adorned in the middle of the church:

Icon Reader shares an explanatory quote about the icon:

“At the arrival of unjust persecution, bow your head. At the jeers of false accusations, cross your arms over your heart, whether physically or interiorly, and gratefully receive what is spitefully offered. And when faced with the question, ‘How far, how far do I tolerate this shame, this injustice,’ remember that the answer is the grave. This is what the icon labels ‘Extreme Humility,’ and it is humility that we must strive to emulate each day.”

-Hieromonk Irenaeus

One of the Old Testament readings for this day is from the first chapter of Exodus, the story of how, generations after Joseph, the Israelites as a people group grew large and strong, and the current Pharaoh began to feel threatened and to oppress them. Here is one little story within that story:

“And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:

“And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?

“And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.”

Does a child see herself grow?

Father Michael Gillis describes himself as a grumpy old man who struggles to stay near to God; he evidently succeeds enough to be able to report, in his latest blog post, “…I think God loves so much those who reach out to Him that he tricks me into saying something to help them.”

He shares portions of an email exchange with a young woman who is discouraged at always having to confess the same sins. Why isn’t God changing her? I found it encouraging: “Just” Waiting on God.

Where modesty was never meant to be.

Chesterton in Brighton, 1935

“Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth: this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason…

“The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping: not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.”

― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

All human conventions are destroyed.

Seeing posts of those who are at the beginning of Lent prompts mixed feelings in me. Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, does not come to us until May 2 this year, and our Great Lent begins March 15th, by which time western Christians will be halfway to their April 4th Easter.

Part of me is envious, and wishes we were already there, in that blessed season of “bright sadness.” But probably the greater part says, “Thank God we have a few more weeks!”

Yes… and I do want to take advantage of that time so that Lent itself won’t fly past without any effect on me. The Orthodox Church gives us five Sundays of preparation, and last Sunday was the first of those, Zacchaeus Sunday. Our rector emphasized to us that Zacchaeus climbed to a good vantage point because he wanted to see who Jesus was.

I appreciated Patriarch Kirill’s homily for the day in which he explained how Zacchaeus “…received his post from the hands of the Romans, the people who captured Israel, who enslaved the Jewish people. In modern terms, Zacchaeus worked in favor of the occupation power. And the freedom-loving Israelites, who painfully experienced everything that had happened to them – the fact that pagans seized power over the chosen people and over the holy places – treated those who voluntarily served the Roman authorities, collecting taxes from their own people, with contempt and indignation. That is why, in the minds of the Israelites of that time, the publicans were equal to the greatest sinners.

“But one of these tax collectors, Zacchaeus, was so eager to see the Savior that, being short, he climbed up a tree to see Him from there. The act itself is out of the ordinary, because Zacchaeus was one of those who had power, and adults who have power usually do not climb trees. If they need to see something, they have the opportunity to come closer: to push through the crowd, to make people part. But Zacchaeus climbed a tree, humiliating himself, only to see the Savior.”

And oh, my, wasn’t he rewarded! He did see Jesus, and apparently not just superficially. His humble act led eventually to true repentance and salvation; can you imagine how the whole town must have been astounded? As another has put it, “He lived in luxury from what he stole in the name of a hated foreign power.” It likely was not an easy process to make restitution to all the people through whom he had made himself rich, and to disentangle himself from the corruption of the political system, but however it happened, he went on to become one of the Seventy Apostles described in Luke Chapter 10.

Patriarch Kirill goes on to say, “Everything in this story is so simple and so unexpected. All human conventions are destroyed by the power of humility.” If we also can act in such a way that we begin to see Jesus more clearly, there is no telling what huge changes might begin in any of us, for the glory of God and our full salvation.