Advent and St. Benedict’s third degree of humility: what great timing!

St. Benedict of Nursia St. Benedict of Nursia

We have seen the first two degrees of humility that St. Benedict laid out in his rule in past posts.  (You can read about the first degree and the second degree in my previous columns here and here.)

The rule states:

The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself to his Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom The Apostle says, “He became obedient even unto death.”

In the home, who constitutes our superior?  We might not want to admit it but we actually have many superiors according to the commentators of Benedict’s rule.  The superiors recognized by the rule are not only God and His Church but our bishops and priests who teach in the spirit of the Church under the magisterium and our Holy Father, our federal and state laws and those who enforce those laws, and our employers and those under whose direction we may work.

Then there is the obedience asked of those living a vocation.  At first you might assume this is only applicable to those living in religious life, but this also applies to those in the vocation of marriage.

It is this degree of humility that St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:21-33 for married couples.  Husband and wife are first to be obedient to Christ in their subjectivity to Him.  He is our King of Kings, and we are invited to be His subjects, trusting in His plan for our lives.

Next, St. Paul asks wives to be subject to their husbands, not in abject obedience as a dog to his master, but in trust and security in their husbands.

Finally, for a husband to be worthy of his wife’s trust and obedience, he must be in obedience to God.  St. Paul tells husbands they are to love their wives as Christ loves His Church.  That’s a huge calling!  Christ died for love of His Church!  Husbands are called to do the same for their wives.

St. Paul might be speaking of a sudden death in protection of his wife, but more likely he is speaking of the day-to-day death to self, “And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

When husband and wife understand and live the hierarchy of obedience their children will learn the benefits of respectful obedience.  If they see Dad putting God in a place of superiority and honor in his life, Mom doing the same and also putting Dad in a proper place of respect, they too will see they are called to obedience.  Without this example in the home, it will be difficult to explain why a child should be obedient to a teacher in school at a young age or to the laws of the state as a teenager.

During Advent we have the opportunity to reflect and meditate on Mary, Our  Blessed Mother, and her complete obedience to God in her fiat, but also throughout her life as the Mother of Christ.  Continually she lived in obedience to God, as His daughter, as the spouse of the Holy Spirit, as the Mother of Christ, and even as the chaste wife of Joseph.

Are we living in obedience to those God has put in our lives as superiors?  Or are we denying ourselves the graces we could obtain by trusting that God has asked us to place ourselves after another in self-denial?

As we continue through this Advent season, let us ask the Blessed Mother to pray that we find the benefit in obedience, for Scripture tells us that to obey is better than to sacrifice, (1 Samuel 15:22).

Happy Advent and may you have a blessed Christmas!

Copyright 2013 Diane Schwind