When I first read this beautiful prayer, I could not understand how God could be "humble". Attributing humility to the All-Powerful, Most High God seemed strange and inappropriate. But that was before I truly understood humility.
Humility is not the same as an inferiority complex. Thinking that you are worse than you really are is no virtue; it can even be a form of pride. Humility means having a proper, balanced understanding of yourself; knowing both your strengths and weaknesses. As Saint Teresa of Avila once said, humility is truth; and that would include a true perception of oneself.
Interestingly, Scripture indicates that God is Truth (John 14:6). So if humility is truth, and God is Truth, then God must be humble!
If anyone has absolutely no illusions about himself, it's God. So God could not possibily be proud, for pride is thinking you're better than you are. God is the greatest Being of all, and so could not think more highly of Himself than He is. God comprehends Himself perfectly, and so is perfectly humble.
What about those Scripture passages where God demands praise, worship and sacrifice from His people? Isn't it arrogant of God to demand that we praise Him? No, for our Creator deserves our praise and worship, and it is never arrogant to demand what you deserve. If one of our fellow creatures demanded divine worship, that would be the height of arrogance, for he or she does not deserve it. But God is infinitely greater than all creatures, and is the Source of their very existence. So we cannot judge Him here by the same standards.
The Humility of God in Scripture
The Bible also contains many passages which point to God's humility. The ones which most easily come to mind refer to the humility of Christ in becoming human, such as this one:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.- Philippians 2:5-8Though the Eternal Son is truly God, consubstantial with the Father, he did not pridefully consider the Incarnation "beneath His dignity". Rather, He concealed His Divine Glory behind mortal flesh and became a bond-servant of God. Though equal to God the Father in His Divinity, Jesus became subordinate to Him in His Humanity (John 14:28). Moreover, as the God-Man Jesus humbled Himself to the point of submitting to a painful, humiliating execution, out of love for the Father and for us. That is a startling manifestation of Divine Humility!
Jesus once said of Himself, "I am meek and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29 DV). Our Savior's Heart - His innermost Being - is essentially humble, as the Gospels abundantly reveal. But since the Incarnate Son is the revelation of the Godhead, the Father and the Spirit must also be humble.
Jesus once said of the Spirit, "He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak...He will glorify me" (John 16:13-14).The Holy Spirit, who is God Almighty, chooses to only glorify Christ on earth, thus effectively submitting to a Divine Equal! That is another striking example of humility.
But what about God the Father? The Son may submit to the Father in His Incarnation, and the Spirit submits to the Father and Son in His temporal mission in the Church, but the Father seemingly submits to no one. How could the Father possess and display humility?
Let's see what Scripture has to say:
Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things in heaven and on earth? - Psalm 113:5-6Yes, the Father is humble in that He ignores human grandeur and chooses to associate with the lowly and poor. Holy Mary knew this truth well, as she sang, "He has regarded the lowly estate of his handmaiden" (Luke 1:47). According to her Magnificat, the "mighty deeds" of God include exalting the lowly and feeding the hungry while humbling and scattering the proud and powerful (vvs 51-53). The humble Handmaid whom God chose to bear the Messiah is well aware of the Divine Humility.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly... - Psalm 138:6
Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool...All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. - Isaiah 66:1-2
For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. - Isaiah 57:15
So is Saint Paul, who writes that God chose to save humanity through the "foolishness" of the Cross (I Corinthians 1:23). "but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are" (vvs 27-28). The fact that the Most High God, Who is Infinite Wisdom and Power, should make the way of salvation "foolish" in the eyes of the world is impossible to comprehend apart from the Divine Humility.
The anonymous Eastern Catholic monk who wrote Jesus, a Dialogue with the Saviour, speaks of the Father's humility:
We are accustomed to thinking of the Father in terms of power. Yes, the Father is omnipotent, But the Father's heart is meek and humble like the Saviour's. It is meek for in Him there is nothing brusque or abrupt, no violence, no fury, but only kindliness, goodness, and affection. His heart is also humble - not that the Father bows before one greater, as the Son become man bows before His Father, but He attaches no importance to display or appearances. He prefers the poor means and is united to the voluntary abasement of His Son who took on our nature and suffering. We must learn to see the Father in this light. (1).As we saw in previous articles, Scripture states that God is Love (I John 4:8). The Greek word used for "love" here is agape. In I Corinthians 13, Saint Paul writes that agape love "is not arrogant...does not insist on its own way" (vvs 4-5) - in other words, it is neither proud nor selfish. Now pride and selfishness are the antithesis of humility. So if agape love is neither proud nor selfish, that means agape love is essentially humble. And if God is Agape, then God is essentially humble!
How correct Saint Francis was in saying that God is Humility!
O Divine Spirit, who efface Yourself before the Father and Son; O Jesus, meek and humble of heart; O Abba Father, who humble Yourself to commune with the lowly; O beautiful Trinity, You are Humility!
1. Jesus, a Dialogue with the Saviour, by a monk of the Eastern Church (New York: Desclee, 1962) 134-135.
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