After working on the understanding of humility in the first four degrees, St. Benedict now challenges us to put what we have learned about humility into practice.
The fifth degree states:
“The fifth degree of humility
is that he hide from his Abbot none of the evil thoughts
that enter his heart
or the sins committed in secret,
but that he humbly confess them.
The Scripture urges us to this when it says,
"Reveal your way to the Lord and hope in Him" (Ps. 36:5)
"Confess to the Lord, for He is good,
for His mercy endures forever" (Ps. 105:1).
And the Prophet likewise says,
"My offense I have made known to You,
and my iniquities I have not covered up.
I said: 'I will declare against myself my iniquities to the Lord;'
and 'You forgave the wickedness of my heart'" (Ps. 31:5).”
Saint Benedict asks the monks to release their fears and lower their pride enough to tell all their temptations and unholy thoughts to the Abbot. In Ephesians 5:21 St. Paul tells us to “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ultimately, the husband is the Abbot of the household because he, like the abbot, represents Christ in the domestic church. In this degree of humility couples can somewhat be “abbot” to one another in their subjectivity to Christ. Out of reverence for Him, we humble ourselves before each other. Husband and wife have, as one of the two purposes of marriage, the vow to help each other get to Heaven. (The second purpose being the openness to the children God wants to give and raising them in the faith.) When we recognize a temptation we are fighting, an inappropriate thought, or even a sinful act with which we struggle, our spouse is there to hear our concern, not as a confessor, but as an aid in perfection. It’s difficult to admit our faults to anyone, but our intimacy with our spouse grows when we can share our struggles and ask each other for prayers. If spouses are truly concerned for the salvation of each other they can become a door for spiritual, psychological and relational healing. The listening spouse must also know their limits and recognize when the Sacrament of Confession is needed and make the invitation to attend. This spouse also practices a level of humility by not taking offense at the intimate secret that is being revealed. The temptations and thoughts being shared belong to the one sharing. In other words, don’t make it about you! Together the couple, who is striving for holiness together should also recognize when to take issues to their spiritual advisor. Not only can individuals benefit from this kind of aid, couples too can grow in their marriage by meeting regularly with a spiritual advisor. Finally couples should recognize when their “abbot” might need to be a counselor. It is highly advised that this counselor be a priest, mentor, or professional counselor that understands and promotes the Church’s teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage. There is no shame in admitting sometimes we need help. It doesn’t mean we are crazy or have a bad marriage. It really means we are smart enough and humble enough to know when we need help. What a great example of humility to our children too, is the ability to seek counsel. We are not perfect, we make mistakes. A mistake is nothing more than an opportunity to learn. The stronger couple is the one that can admit they need help and direction and seek out an “abbot” beyond their own walls.
If our first goal in marriage is to help one another get to Heaven we must be willing to be there for our spouse in their joys and in their sufferings as well as trust our spouse with our own joys and sufferings.
Is is difficult for you to share your private faults and temptations with your spouse? Can you see how this level of humility can increase the level of intimacy in your marriage? What are your thoughts?
Copyright 2014 Diane Schwind
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