Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Humility in Christian Life

Volume 5 No. 296 July 24, 2015

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Holy Qurbana Finale at the Malankara Archdiocese 29th Family and Youth Conference

The twenty ninth Malankara Archdiocese Family and Youth Conference held in Lancaster, PA from July 15-18, 2015 made history. It was the first time a Patriarch was attending the family Conference. Over 640 faithful attended the historic conference. The highlight of the event was the concelebration of the Holy Qurbano by HH Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, HE Archbishop Yeldo Mor Titus, Patriarchal Vicar of the Malankara Archdiocese of the SOC-NA, HE Mor Yacoub Edward, Patriarchal Vicar of Guatemale, HE Mathews Mor Themotheos, Secretary to HH the Patriarch, and H.E. Mathews Mor Anthimos, Metropolitan, Muvattupuzha Region.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

One of the qualities in Christians our heavenly father desires most is humility. Our most perfect models for humility are Mother Mary and St. Joseph. Mary's very being proclaimed the greatness of the Lord, yet she was so humble. Mary and Joseph could have been boastful about their special mission from God, but instead they simply chose to cooperate with God's will for their lives. ...

2. Happy Birthday, His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I

Malankara World extend our sincere and prayerful wishes to His Beatitude on his birthday and pray Almighty to give HB enough strength and courage to lead the Holy Church for a long time. ...

This Sunday in Church

3. Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 26) - 9th Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_9th_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

4. Sermons for This Sunday (July 26) - 9th Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_9th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

This Week's Features

5. Inspiration for Today: Humility of Jesus

He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself. ...

6. The Cheap Seats

You call us now not from the present,
but from the future,
arms stretched in magnanimous invitation,
bidding us to take our seat
next to you at the heavenly banquet
and beside those blessed patrons you welcomed long ago. ..

7. Keep Humble

Humility is, of course, notoriously elusive. That's why, of all the hard sayings of Jesus, few are harder than those about humility. ...

8. Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others… ...

9. Seventeen Signs of a Lack of Humility

Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are ..

10. Christian Life is Bragging about Jesus and Not about You

The Christian life is about being other focused instead of self-focused. It's about living to brag on Jesus instead of ourselves. This must have been what Jeremiah meant when he wrote ....

11. Why Christians Can Be Both Humble and Certain

Thus, for Christians, humility and uncertainty are not synonymous. One can be certain and humble at the same time. How? For this simple reason: Christians believe that they understand truth only because God has revealed it to them (1 Corinthians 1:26-30). In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen.  ...

12. St. Ephrem's Prayer

It is said that St. Ephrem often wept when he preached, and that no one ever saw him angry after he became a follower of Christ. It is clear that he had a strong sense of his own sinfulness to the very end of his life.

"What was the secret of success so various and so complete? Humility, which made him distrust himself and trust God." ...

13. Recipe: Turkey and Beef Chipotle Chili

The flavors in this recipe are perfectly balanced with just the right amount of spice. Our chefs call for a combination of lean ground turkey and beef, making this a healthy, hearty and savory dish. ...

14. Family Special: Don't Boast About Your Children

Have you been involved in conversations with other parents and felt yourself swelling with either pride or envy? It seems many of us feel the need to validate ourselves through our children, yet this is the very thing we are instructed not to do.  ...

15. About Malankara World

Foreword

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

We are into the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. After another Sunday, we will have the Transfiguration Feast on August 6th followed by the Shunoyo Perunnal (Assumption of St. Mary) on August 15th. Then the church calendar switches its theme a bit. We start looking towards the end times, especially after the Sleebo Feast on September 14. In November, the new church calendar begins with the Koodosh e'tho on November 1 and we begin the advent season soon after. By then summer will be long gone along with all the leaves on trees in North America. (It will be spring time for people in Australia and New Zealand.)

We are exploring the Public Ministry of Jesus in our Gospel Reading these days. In this week's reading, viz., Luke 14:7-11 (To provide the context you also should read Luke 14:1), Jesus was invited to a dinner party at the home of a leader of the Pharisees. As most of us know, Pharisees and Sadducees made it their life's mission to find any and all faults with Jesus. So, they were watching him closely.

Well, Jesus was watching them pretty closely, right back! (Makes it an interesting party isn't it!)

Jesus was watching and waiting for an opportunity to teach them something about the upside-down, reverse-order of God's kingdom, compared to their own.

Jesus was watching the way the people were trying to seat themselves in high places. No one want to sit in the "cheap seats." People were 'showing off' like we do in holding parties trying to make our party bigger than the next door neighbor's. Let us take a look at Luke 14:7-11

When he (Jesus) noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

One of the qualities in Christians our heavenly father desires most is humility. Our most perfect models for humility are Mother Mary and St. Joseph. Mary's very being proclaimed the greatness of the Lord, yet she was so humble. Mary and Joseph could have been boastful about their special mission from God, but instead they simply chose to cooperate with God's will for their lives.

St. Mary was certainly a woman whom God honored most highly, whom He raised above all other creatures; yet no creature was so humble and lowly as she. In fact, the higher God elevated her, the lowlier she became in her humility. The Angel called her "full of grace", and Mary "was troubled" (Luke 1,28.29).

According to Saint Alphonsus Liguori

"Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise and desired that God only be praised."

The Angel revealed to her the sublime mission which was to be entrusted to her by the Most High, and Mary declared herself "the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1: 38). Her thoughts did not linger over the immense honour that would be hers as the woman chosen from all women to be the Mother of the Son of God; but she contemplated in wonder the great mystery of a God who willed to become incarnate in the womb of a poor creature. If God wished to descend so far as to give Himself to her as a Son, to what depths should not His little handmaid abase herself?

The more she understood the grandeur of the mystery, the immensity of the divine gift, the more she humbled herself, submerging herself in her nothingness.

Her attitude was the same when Elizabeth greeted her, "Blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1: 42). Those words did not astonish her, for she was already the Mother of God; yet she remained steadfast in her profound humility. She attributed everything to God whose mercies she sang, acknowledging the condescension with which He had "regarded the humility of His handmaid" (Luke 1: 48). That God had performed great works in her she knew and acknowledged, but instead of boasting about them, she directed everything to His glory.

St Bernardine stated:

"As no other creature, after the Son of God, has been raised in dignity and grace equal to Mary, so neither has anyone descended so deep into the abyss of humility."
 

Fr. Jack Peterson, Assistant Chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and Director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean, described how humility is so attractive to God:

Humility is one of the most important of all the Christian virtues. It is a quality of the soul that Jesus modeled at every stage of His life. It all began with Jesus' birth - a most profound mystery. God chose to break through the barriers of time and space and unite Himself with our humanity in an immensely humble act. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." In fact, He was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. He was kept warm by His mother and foster father, with the assistance of the farm animals whose feeding trough he borrowed for a crib. The King of Kings was too weak at the start to even hold up a shepherd's crook.

Additionally, the Word-made-flesh spent His first 30 years in relative quiet and solitude. His first miracle was performed at His mother's prompting. He chose a rather motley crew for His closest disciples. The Son of God allowed Himself to go through a mockery of a trial admitting that He could have called upon legions of angels to protect Him and fight for Him if it had been the Father's will. Finally, Jesus, the totally innocent One, surrendered His life to the Father while being crucified between two criminals, a punishment given only to the most serious public offenders. Jesus' life was marked by a profound humility.

Describing the Incarnation, St. Paul writes: "Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6-8).

Since humility is so important, it is praised in the Old Testament as well. A beautiful passage from the book of Sirach reads as follows:

"My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God" (Sir 3:17-18).

This wise author notes the attractiveness of humility and how it is a gift pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus preaches about the virtue of humility in Luke 14 by describing how it influences our motivations and actions at a banquet. When you are a guest at a banquet, "go and take the lowest place." When you throw a banquet, "invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you." The humble see the world from a different perspective; they see it with the eyes of God.

So what is humility? Frederick Buechner had this to say about humility:

True humility doesn't consist of thinking ill of yourself but of not thinking of yourself much differently from the way you'd be apt to think of anybody else. It is the capacity for being no more and no less pleased when you play your own hand well than when your opponents do.

St. Bernard said, "Humility is the foundation and guardian of virtues;" and with reason, for without it no other virtue can exist in a soul.

We may possess all virtues, all will depart when humility is gone.

St. Francis de Sales said

"God so loves humility, that whenever He sees it, He is immediately drawn thither."

In this issue of Malankara World Journal, we will examine humility as seen in the parable of the heavenly feast. Humility is easy to preach than to practice.

Last Friday (July 17, 2015), I saw the humility as practiced by our Holy Father, HH Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Antioch and all the East and the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. HH was traveling from his abode in New Jersey to Lancaster, PA, where the 29th annual Family and Youth Conference of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in North America was being held. HH had a priest with him in the car. Rather than asking the priest to drive the car, HH elected to drive the car himself and allowed the priest to rest on the back seat of the car. HH was a very tired man after driving that long distance in heavy traffic.

One person who was attending the Family Conference, after hearing that HH was driving the car, commented to me:

We are really lucky. We have two spiritual fathers who are humble and drive their own cars - Our Patriarch and our own archbishop, HE Yeldo Mor Theethose.

A humble person is one who sees himself as God sees him, with all of his strengths and weaknesses. Patriarch Aphrem II and Archbishop Mor Theethose show us that through their actions. It reminded me of a quote by St John Climacus:

Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate.

We will close this article with a quote from Saint Ephrem of Syria, the saint after whom our Holy Father is named:

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.
- Saint Ephrem of Syria

Happy Birthday, His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

HB Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I, Catholicos of Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church

 

HB Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I, Primate of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and Catholicos of India, celebrated HB's 87th birthday on July 22, 2015.

Catholicos Baselius Thomas I was born in the Cheruvillil family of Vadayambadi Puthenkurishu to Mathai and Kunjamma on July 22, 1929. His mother dedicated the boy to the service of the church following a vision she received while praying with the boy on her lap.

His priestly formation was under the guidance of Mor Philoxenos Paulos (later Catholicos Paulos II) who

He was ordained as a korooyo in 1952 and shamshono at Kadamattom Church in 1957 by Mor Philoxenos Paulos (later Catholicos Paulos II). He was ordained priest by Mor Yulius Elias Qoro in September 1958 at Manjinikkara. Fr. C.M. Thomas was the 43rd priest from the Cheruvillil family.

Fr. C.M. Thomas served as the vicar of St. Peter's church, Puthenkurishu from 1959 while also serving churches at Vellathooval, Keezhumuri, Fort Cochin, Valamboor and later at Calcutta and Trichur. In 1960, while vicar at Puthenkurish, he played a key role in rebuilding the church; parishioners fondly recollect their priest working with them during the reconstruction.

From 1967-74, Fr. C.M. Thomas served as the organizing secretary of Kolenchery Medical Mission Hospital. In 1970, he served as the organizer for the North Indian mission at Bhilai and in 1974 as the secretary of the Pourasthaya Suvishesha Samajam.

Since his ordination as korooyo, at age 24, Thomas was active in preaching the gospel in the remote parts of Kerala. From his vision and zeal to spread the gospel arose the St. Paul's prayer fellowship and the Puthenkurish gospel convention which is held annually from December 26-31.

Fr. Thomas was elected to the episcopate by the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Association meeting at Karingachira St. George Church in January 1974 and was consecrated metropolitan of the Ankamaly diocese, the largest Syriac Orthodox diocese, by H.H. Mor Ignatius Ya'qub III on February 24, 1974 at Damascus along with Mor Gregorius Gheevarghese (Perumpilly Thirumeni). The two metropolitans played a significant role in leading the church during the crisis of the seventies.

After the passing away of late Mor Gregorius Gheevarghese in February 1999 , Mor Dionysius assumed the Presidency of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church Synod (Patriarch Faction) and was elected Catholicose-Designate at the delegates meeting held at Puthenkurishu on December 27, 2000 and again by the Malankara Association reconstituted under the newly formed constitution on June 6, 2002. On July 26, 2002, Mor Dionysius was consecrated Catholicos of India by H.H. Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at Ma'rat Sayyidnaya, Damascus with the name His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I.

Malankara World extend our sincere and prayerful wishes to His Beatitude on his birthday and pray Almighty to give HB enough strength and courage to lead the Holy Church for a long time.

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 26)
Sermons for This Sunday (July 26)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Humility of Jesus
Lowliness is assumed by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours. By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.

For in the Savior there was no trace of what the deceiver introduced and man, being misled, allowed to enter. It does not follow that because he submitted to sharing in our human weakness he therefore shared in our sins.

He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.

-- Saint Leo the Great - from a letter  

The Cheap Seats

by Rick Fry

Gospel: Luke 14: 1, 7-14

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
- Luke 14:1, 7-14

You took your place in the cheap seats,
far from the host, near the neglected.
You saw past the witty games,
the insecurities and vanity,
our anxious attempts to outshine our sisters and brothers.
You instead saw that which shines eternal in value.
And it humbled you
to follow such a lonely vision,
to take your stand among the lost, poor and forgotten,
and with those who could never pay back the treasure of your compassion.

After the meal you rose from the table,
and traveled down the road to Golgotha,
and humbled yourself further,
this time taking your seat of suffering,
between two sinners on a cross.
And you embraced the shame of every person,
this dirty business we speak to ourselves,
in the privacy of our hearts.
You embraced it all in a sacrifice of liberation,
and because of this sacrifice,
you were exulted way up
to be seated at the right hand of God.
You call us now not from the present,
but from the future,
arms stretched in magnanimous invitation,
bidding us to take our seat
next to you at the heavenly banquet
and beside those blessed patrons you welcomed long ago.

Keep Humble

by Jeremy Begbie

Scripture:

Proverbs 25:1-10
Luke 14:7-11

"God and Father, through these words, by your Spirit draw us more closely to your Son, that we may hear his voice, and in hearing, may find in him our joy. Amen."


"Keep Humble"

About a year ago I got a note with those words on it. It was 10 minutes after I'd preached a sermon. And it came from the resident minister. "Great sermon," he scribbled. "Keep humble."

The words puzzled me. Did he mean I needed to preserve the humility I already had, or did he mean my humility was wearing a bit thin? Besides, what was I meant to do about it? Perplexing words.

"Keep humble." They turned over in my mind as I strolled away from the church, trying to adopt a suitably humble appearance. My head tilted gently with a kind of lop-sided modesty. A moderate smile -- nothing self-satisfied. A steady walking pace -- gentle: nothing aggressive or driving. But somehow, all this didn't help much. "Keep humble." What did he mean? What was I missing?

Humility is, of course, notoriously elusive. That's why, of all the hard sayings of Jesus, few are harder than those about humility. Think about what we've just heard from Luke 14. Jesus gets to eat dinner at a Pharisee's house. And he watches how some guests make a beeline for what in Cambridge they call "High Table." 

"When you get asked to a wedding banquet," says Jesus, "don't rush to the places of honor. The chances are you'll be asked to shift down for somebody else: Go and sit at the edge of the bench at the bottom, and when the host comes, he'll bump you up so you sit next to him."

"All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

So what is humility here?

Well, I suppose on the face of it, it could just be plain courtesy.

Here's a bit of worldly advice on etiquette, handy hints on the do's and don'ts of table decorum at a wedding reception, where there's a pecking order and tact matters. And the message turns out to be pretty straightforward: Decent manners get you places in the end.

And, of course, that's true up to a point. And that's why, for many people, humility has come to mean little more. It's about courtesy, civility, (dare I say it?) Southern charm. Always ready with a self-deferring gesture: "No, ma'am"; "Yes, sir" (I've been called "sir" so often since arriving, I have to keep reminding myself I haven't actually been knighted by the queen). "Yes, sir"; "No, ma'am"; "After you"; "Ladies first"; "Oh please start, don't wait for me"; "No, do go ahead"; "Pardon me, did I butt in?"; "You were going to say?"

The reduction of humility to well-bred niceness. It's rampant in the Christian church. Why? Because, frankly, it gets you places. After all, who wants a rude pastor? Which of you wants to be like John the Baptist? (Look what happened to him.) There's no doubt about it: this kind of humility can reap rich rewards. You'll be well treated. You'll be "honored," to use the word of the parable.

Plain courtesy? Is that all there is to humility? Obviously not.

So what are we missing?

A second try. Maybe humility here means political modesty. Holding back, learning to stay in the background -- that way, you'll avoid shame. And eventually, when you do get asked to the front, you'll be noticed all the more. You'll be honored.

That's one reading of this kind of parable: A nugget of worldly wisdom about how to get places. And there are plenty of precedents in Jewish writing. We heard one earlier, Proverbs 25:6-7: "Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told 'Come up here' than to be put lower in the presence of the prince."

Don't let yourself get put down; it's embarrassing in the extreme when you've got to shift down to make room for someone more distinguished. Better to be shoved up than shunted down. Better to be upwardly mobile than downwardly demoted.

And there's truth here, isn't there? Surely. It can serve you well to hold back, to curb those self-promoting urges we all get from time to time. In the end, you will be noticed…and then listened to all the more.

Are you having trouble making an impact on those around you? Do people start yawning the minute you open your mouth in a seminar? Well, why not try keeping your mouth shut for a change? Next time you're in one of the small classes here (enclosed by the wraparound white and cream), when the professor tries to get the discussion rolling, hold back, keep quiet.

It's risky very risky, of course. Because you've been told (I quote): "Students are expected to attend every meeting of the class and participate fully in the discussion" (words from a Duke syllabus -- my own, actually). I know, it's risky because your grade depends on pitching the treasures of your intelligence into the group pot. But just for once, hold back, try not barging in with your own ideas, scrambling over everyone with your instant answers. Sit back. Let the discussion ramble on…and on. Stroke your chin in a way that suggests neither approval nor disapproval, just years of fathomless wisdom that would take ages to share with the group. Like the character in the parable, at least you won't be disgraced. If you don't stick your neck out, you can't get your head chopped off, can you? And in the long run, when you do speak, everyone will listen to you so much more attentively. They will respect you, "honor" you.

There's a lot of this around in circles where promotion is a priority. Calculated unassumingness. The English are especially good at it, because it comes with the genes. So you find young academics attending conferences in the U.K. and slipping into seminars with rehearsed restraint. You find the same types in the church as well; ambitious clerics quietly seeking preferment, as they call it there. You might find yourself doing it some day. Lingering in the corridors of power, hanging around the ecclesiastical movers and shakers, waiting to be spotted, just longing to bowl someone over with nothing else than your sheer, overwhelming self-effacement.

Political modesty? Surely not. What, then, are we missing?

A third try. Maybe humility here means self-hatred. And this will secure God's honor. Again it seems our Proverbs text could be read like that by some: to be assured of favor from the Lord, then you'll need to cultivate a vivid sense of your own inferiority, you'll need to know your place. You'll need to remember that no matter how good anyone says you are, how remarkable others may think you are, you are in fact at the bottom of the moral food chain, and you'd better not forget it.

Of course it's not hard to find this outlook streaking across church history, and still very much around, not least in congregations who don't feel they've got their money's worth unless the minister has persuaded them to flagellate themselves for at least 30 of their sins in the first part of any sermon. (It usually comes in the early part of the sermon.) This is not to deny shame has its crucial place.

But the skeptical psychologist would be giving us a wry smile here. She'd be reminding us how easily this slips into the pathological. After all, when someone else attacks you, at least you have the chance to fight back by mobilizing your defenses. But turn inwards and attack yourself, there is no outcome but defeat. You're always going to lose. Worst of all, when we use this as a lever on God, the pathology becomes deadly, because in the presence of God there will always be more to hate ourselves for.

Is this humility? Can this really be the way to High Table? Of course not.

What, then, are we missing?

Perhaps it's just best to give up the quest for humility. For, of course, no deliberate act of the will can make it happen. Humility's notorious paradox: It's impossible to generate without killing it in the process. No wonder Nietzsche saw humility as a false virtue that merely conceals the crookedness of its holder. No wonder the present-day masters of suspicion are all too keen to unmask the phony humilities of our age -- not least in theology (think of John Milbank's "false humility" of modern theology). Maybe all humility is false humility. Maybe there just isn't a true version.

Or are we missing something, something blushingly simple?

Back to the parable. And notice a movement, a momentum that runs right through Luke 14. And it comes to the surface in the word invite. Jesus gets invited to the Pharisee's house; here in our parable the word invite comes four times. Later Jesus tells us about who and how to invite to dinner parties; then the parable of the giant banquet, another story of invitation. The momentum of invitation. Humility now looks very different.

Exaltation comes by invitation only, and the humble are those who never forget it.

Isn't this what exposes all those ploys that parade as humility, exposes them as just that, mere ploys, devices, manipulative maneuvers to slide our way to the top. The person at the lowest place hears the call of the host; he's swept up by an out-of-the-blue invitation, swept to the top by outrageous grace. Humility is indeed about knowing our place -- knowing our place in the stream of grace. And exaltation is thrown in, free of charge.

Exaltation comes by invitation only, and the humble are those who never forget it.

What does this mean?

At least two things. First, it means that the humble don't get captivated by their reputation. Why do the VIPs in the parable aim for the places of honor? Because, of course, they've got a religious reputation to think about, a position to maintain, a rank to live up to. They have to be seen. There's a persona to cultivate, a status to preserve in the face of those who matter, a reputation to cling to at all costs.

Like the new head teacher at the high school, fresh in the job with a glowing past record, on her first day at work; or like the senator, fearfully scouring the papers "the morning after"; like virtually anyone in the academic world, from top to bottom: from juniors all the way down to professors, all of us under the vigilant eyes of critical assessors of one sort or another, incessantly reviewed, viewed and re-viewed.

And so the anxious self-questioning is bound to start up: "Am I coming across in the right way? Am I respected? Am I highly regarded? Am I credible? Am I getting known in the circles that matter?" (The answer to all these questions, by the way, is usually "no.") It's as if we're always trying to step outside ourselves to monitor our performance, check up on how we're being received. Life can never be lived to the full because I'm always nervously looking over my shoulder, always on the defensive against the merest hint of a rumor, a misrepresentation or (God forbid) a criticism. People like this miss out on the banquet of the kingdom because they can't stop worrying about wearing the right clothes, about whether this or that garment makes their behind look big.

The parable explodes this self-scrutiny. It's a vision of the church as a community where reputation is constantly being thrown to the wind. The humble can sit loose to reputation, not because it never matters -- sometimes it does -- but because in the last resort they know they are known, known by the eternal God, infinitely better known than they know themselves, and yet, also invited to keep company with this same God, this same, strange God who invites us to sit next to his Son at the feast.

When I get caught up in my most self-defensive moods, I sometimes have a vision of an old man in some dusty attic on the outskirts of hell, counting obsessively all the meaningless little victories he won in his life, writing a sort of eternal memoir for no one but himself. In the murky darkness, he pours over all the times he kept his image intact and won the arguments and preserved his reputation and successfully defended his name. While outside, the humble dance in the sunshine, reveling in abundant life; exalted and exultant because they have heard the invitation of the host.

Exaltation comes by invitation only, and the humble never forget it.

What might we be missing?

Second, at the feast of the kingdom, the humble can't get captivated by their reputation because they've been captivated by the host. The humble, we might say, are eccentric. Not so much weird (though most of them are) but ex-centric -- ex-centered, living out of a center beyond themselves. They seem to be sustained from beyond, energized from outside, captivated from without. They've developed what you might call ex-centered attention.

I think of my brother when he was about 10 years old, gazing for hours at a dripping tap, with unself-conscious fascination; or think of the 21-year-old at the party suddenly mesmerized by the blue eyes on the other side of the room -- he doesn't even notice the glass dropping from his hand; think of the nurse in the makeshift hospital in Darfur, staring into the eyes of a newly orphaned 10-year-old -- she doesn't even remember when she last had a full night's sleep.

And think of the people you've known who have had the most impact on your faith: very likely they're the type who could look you in the eye and treat you as if no one else were in the room. People like that have what William Blake called "single vision." They see things the way they really are because they're not always trying to suck everything into the vortex of their own agendas. They've got a kind of flexibility and suppleness that can reach you as you are. Because they're people who've had their insides turned out; pulled from beyond; allured, enchanted, captivated by the host at the feast.

Think of the guest who takes the lowest place at the feast: for them, nothing matters more than hearing the invitation, hearing the voice of the host: "Friend, move up higher."

And I suppose everything in this service is, in the last resort, designed to help us do just that, to hear that voice: just for an hour, not to tug everything around us into our own project-of-the-moment; just for a minute, not to magnetize everyone else into our pressing concerns; just for a second, to imagine that the universe was not created to revolve around my passions but around the passions of the One who made it. The God who is by nature ex-centric.

What else are we here for, if not to get caught up in the Spirit's eccentricity: the ecstatic rush of the Spirit towards the Son?

What else are we here for, if not to get caught up in the Son's eccentricity, as he is eternally spellbound by his Abba, his Father, and invites us to be likewise spellbound?

What else are we here for if not to be captured again by his voice, so captivating -- the voice of Jesus Christ, the host of the feast?

Perhaps it's a voice we may not have heard very clearly for a while, amidst all our academic self-monitoring. I don't know. But we be sure this voice speaks here at this feast, alluring, enticing us: "Friend, come up higher." The voice of the one who was humbled and exalted; humbled and shamed in naked torture and death and exalted to the eternal feast of the Father.

What might we be missing?

This sermon was preached Feb. 12, 2009, in Duke University's Goodson Chapel.
Source: Faith & Leadership

Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

17 Signs of a Lack of Humility

by St. Josemaria

Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:

1. Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say
2. Always wanting to get your own way
3. Arguing when you are not right or - when you are - insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
4. Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so
5. Despising the point of view of others
6. Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan
7. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own
8. Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation
9. Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you
10. Making excuses when rebuked
11. Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you
12. Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you
13. Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you
14. Refusing to carry out menial tasks
15. Seeking or wanting to be singled out
16. Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige…
17. Being ashamed of not having certain possessions…

Source: St. Peter's List by Gregory 

Christian Life is Bragging about Jesus and Not about You

by Micca Campbell

The Christian life is about being other focused instead of self-focused. It's about living to brag on Jesus instead of ourselves. This must have been what Jeremiah meant when he wrote,

"This is what the Lord says:

"Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the Lord"
(Jere 9:23-24).

When you think about it there is far more about Jesus to brag on than ourselves. In Him, we have forgiveness of sin, a changed life, and forgiveness.

It's in Him that we live and experience hope and healing. In Christ grace abounds. He is our Peace. He is the beginning and end. The everlasting King. He is all and in all and holds all things together. Nothing compares to His greatness.

So why am I so focused on me? Why do I want the credit? Why do I need the applause? Why is it important that someone notices my good deeds and boast about our accomplishments? The truth is without Jesus I can do nothing. It's only because of Jesus and His grace that I accomplish anything. Apart from Him anything I do is insignificant.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying we can't celebrate our achievements. I'm saying if we ever want to experience Jesus the way we long to, we have to get beyond ourselves so that we can get all the way to Him. When we lose ourselves, we gain the abundant goodness of Christ Himself.

Why Christians Can Be Both Humble and Certain

by Dr. Michael J. Kruger

One of the most common objections made to the absolute claims of Christianity is that Christians are arrogant. Christians are arrogant to claim that they are right; arrogant to claim others are wrong; arrogant to claim that truth can be known. Unfortunately, in the midst of such accusations, no one bothers to ask which definition of humility is being used. Over the years, the definition of humility has undergone a gradual but nonetheless profound change. Especially in the intellectual community. In the modern day, humility has basically become synonymous with another word: uncertainty. To be uncertain is to be humble. To be certain is to be arrogant. Thus, the cardinal sin in the intellectual world is to claim to know anything for sure.

Of course, this shift presents a real problem for Christianity. Christians believe that God has revealed himself clearly in his Word. Thus, when it comes to key historical questions (Who was Jesus? What did he say? What did he do?) or key theological questions (Who is God? What is Heaven? How does one get there?), Christians believe they have a basis on which they can claim certainty: God's revelation. Indeed, to claim we don't know the truth about such matters would be to deny God, and to deny his Word. (This doesn't mean, of course, that Christians are certain about everything; but there can be certainty about these basic Christian truths).

Thus, for Christians, humility and uncertainty are not synonymous. One can be certain and humble at the same time. How? For this simple reason: Christians believe that they understand truth only because God has revealed it to them (1 Corinthians 1:26-30). In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen. Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God. Christian knowledge is a dependent knowledge. And that leads to humility (1 Corinthians 1:31). This obviously doesn't mean all Christians are personally humble. But, it does mean they should be, and have adequate grounds to be.

Although Christians have a basis on which they can be humble and certain at the same time, that is not necessarily the case with other worldviews. Take the atheist for instance. He is quite certain of a great many things (contrary to his claim that one cannot be certain of anything). He is certain either that God does not exist (hard atheism), or certain that one cannot know whether God exists (soft atheism). And, in his critique of Christianity, he is quite certain that Christians are mistaken in their claims to be certain. In essence, the atheist is claiming, "I know enough about the world to know that a person cannot possibly have a basis for certainty." That in itself is a pretty dogmatic claim.

But, on what is the atheist basing these far reaching claims about the universe? His own finite, fallen, human mind. He has access only to his own limited, knowledge. So, now we should ask the question again: Who is being arrogant? The Christian or the atheist? Both claim certainty on a great many transcendental issues. But one does so while claiming to be dependent on the one who would know such things (God), and the other does so dependent on only themselves. If either position is a posture of arrogance, it would not be the Christian one.

No doubt, the atheist would object to this line of reasoning on the grounds that he rejects the Bible as divine revelation. But, this misses the point entirely. The issue is not whether he is convinced of the Bible's truth, but rather the question is which worldview, the Christian's or the atheist's, has a rational basis for claiming certainty about transcendental matters. Only the Christian has such a basis. And since his knowledge of such things is dependent on divine grace, he can be humble and certain at the same time.

For more on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and the issue of Christian knowledge, see my recent sermon.

About Michael J. Kruger

Dr. Michael J. Kruger is President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.

St. Ephrem's Prayer

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

While attending a luncheon, Wilbur Ellsworth shared a prayer by St. Ephrem that is over 1,700 years old.

Ephraem (sometimes spelled Ephrem) was a deacon and a preacher who may have attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. Following the persecution of 363, he led a group of Christians to Edessa (in modern Iraq) where he founded a theological school. He was a prolific writer and poet, although not all of his work has survived. He is remembered as a strong opponent of the various Gnostic heresies that troubled the early church. One source calls him the light and glory of the Syriac Church.

It is said that he often wept when he preached, and that no one ever saw him angry after he became a follower of Christ. It is clear that he had a strong sense of his own sinfulness to the very end of his life.

"What was the secret of success so various and so complete? Humility, which made him distrust himself and trust God."

This is the prayer of St. Ephrem that Wilbur shared with us:

"O Lord and Master of my life,
do not give me the spirit of sloth, despair,
lust of power and idle talk;
but give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience and love to your servant.
Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see
my own transgressions and not judge my brother;
for blessed are you unto ages of ages.
Amen."

Wilbur told us he prayed that prayer every day because it is good for the soul. Every part of the prayer contains food for thought.

Sloth is not mere laziness, but is closer to listlessness, the loss of all vital desire in life. And that leads to profound despair.

The lust for power is always with us.

We all know the dangers of idle talk.

Chastity denotes a single-hearted devotion to Christ.

Humility and patience go together. Where one is absent, the other cannot long remain.

Love enables us to reach out of our self-centeredness to care for those around us.

Then the prayer asks for greater moral clarity about our own sins. If we saw the log in our own eye, we would be more willing to overlook the speck in our brother's eye. And we would not judge him so harshly or so quickly.

The final phrase ("for blessed are you") seems a surprise. But God himself is the ultimate blessing and the source of all blessing. A healthy dose of humility frees us from a judgmental spirit and releases us to know God "from whom all blessings flow."  

Recipe: Turkey and Beef Chipotle Chili

by BistroMD

Throughout the centuries, chili has had a rich history. Some say it originated in Mexico, although some strongly disagree. Others point to Spain as it's place of birth. One thing is for sure, wherever it comes from, we're glad it exists. This recipe - Turkey and Beef Chipotle Chili with a side of Corn Pudding - is perfect after a long day. Go ahead! Grab a bowl and relax as you enjoy this healthy and delicious recipe that comes to you directly from our chefs.

The flavors in this recipe are perfectly balanced with just the right amount of spice. Our chefs call for a combination of lean ground turkey and beef, making this a healthy, hearty and savory dish.

Yields 4 servings / 8oz portion.


Turkey and Beef Chipotle Chili

Ingredients:

10 oz lean ground beef (90% lean, 10% fat)

20 oz of ground lean turkey (93% lean, 7% fat)

1 14 oz can of red kidney beans

1/2 cup of chopped onions

1/2 cup of chopped green peppers

1 teaspoon of chopped garlic

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon of chili powder

1 tablespoon of chipotle smoked peppers (We recommend Whole Foods)

4 cups of chicken stock (Low sodium)

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

3 teaspoon of chopped cilantro

A pinch of sea salt and white pepper

4 tablespoon of low fat shredded cheddar cheese

Directions for the chili:

Heat oil over medium heat in a 4 quart sauce pan. After heating the oil, add the garlic and onions and sauté for 3 minutes, then add the green peppers and continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Add the ground turkey and chili powder and cook for another 10 minutes, and then add the chipotle peppers and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and kidney beans. Bring to a simmer and add the cumin, sea salt and white pepper. Continue to simmer for another 45 minutes. The chili should be a little thick, but still flavorful. Finally, remove from the stove top and fold in the cilantro.


Corn Pudding

Ingredients:

2 cups of fresh kernel corn, right off the cob

1 tablespoon of olive oil butter

1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour (You can also use gluten free all-purpose flour, if you'd like.)

1 cup of half and half

1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

1/8 teaspoon of sea salt

2 teaspoons of lite brown sugar

1 tablespoon of chopped onions

Directions:

In a blender, puree 1 cup of corn and put aside. Then heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and add the flour. Stir the oil and flour together to make a roux, and then add the whole kernel corn and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the onions and continue to saute for another 2 minutes, and then add the pureed corn, half and half, sugar, salt and pepper and simmer for another 2 minutes until the pudding is thick and then turn off heat. Viola!

© 2005-2015 bistroMD, LLC

Family Special: Don't Boast About Your Children

by Chris and Michelle Groff

Gal. 6:14: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (NIV).

One of the blessings of parenthood is watching our children succeed. Many parents felt an instant connection to Deborah Phelps as the TV cameras showed her enthusiastically rooting on her son, Michael, during the 2008 winter Olympic. And her enthusiasm was rewarded when he finished the games with 8 gold medals! Moments like that are to be enjoyed, but they raise an interesting question - where does excitement end and boasting begin?

Gal. 5:26 says, "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Have you been involved in conversations with other parents and felt yourself swelling with either pride or envy? It seems many of us feel the need to validate ourselves through our children, yet this is the very thing we are instructed not to do. When talking about our kids to others, we might use these passages as a "motive check."

Is God glorified when you speak about your children?

Source: Parenting by Design

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