Tuesday, March 25, 2008

16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.

Hi, everyone! I know you've been hearing my thoughts off and on for weeks now, but today is really "my" day, so thank you for listening to me ramble yet again!

I think it's so interesting, the way God controls even the smallest details of our lives. When I was fiddling around with a random number generator online, trying to make it work for the numbers 1-40, the first one that came up was 16. I immediately thought, "Well, that's my number, I guess!" Then I thought, "No, that's silly. I'll do mine later." But I couldn't forget it, and even after I'd assigned a bunch of numbers, no one else had gotten 16. Then I wrote up a calendar and saw that number 16 fell on March 25 -- not only the feast of the Annunciation, the cathedral in Baltimore where I was married, but also the birthday of my god-daughter Ophelia, who turns four today. I had to laugh when I saw that. Okay! I get it, already!

This is one of my favorites on the whole list, because I love the poetic repetition of those four words; all similar, but all with slightly different connotations. To me, they are all aspects of humility, the chief virtue that frees us from the chief sin of pride. If you are simple, hidden, quiet and small, you don't have any room for grand ambitions or complicated schemes. I confess to enjoying both of those things much more than is healthy!

In Fr. Tom's commentary on his Maxims, he quotes the church Fathers: "If you want to be known by God, don’t be known by people." That's a pretty solemn thought. We all have dreams of being famous and celebrated in some way, but the reality is that those things come with a price. It's no coincidence that celebrities have problems with relationships, families, money and addictions. Being "known by people" is not good for the soul.

In closing, I want to quote a passage from C.S. Lewis, a writer who may not have been Orthodox, but was certainly orthodox, and now is most certainly Orthodox! (Credit Fr. Gregory with that wonderful distinction.)

"Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call 'humble' nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all."

A blessed feast to you all!

1 comment:

Carla said...

Thank you for these words, Emily. I especially enjoyed the last paragraph about how delightful a truly humble person is; not the boring kind of person who is morosely concentrating and speaking of how "bad" they are. :-)

The quote about not being known by others was a new thought/insight for me. Something to chew on, for sure. It is easy to think that unless we are doing something important (which of course must mean that lots of people know what we're doing and think it is important), then we are not fulfilling all God has in mind for us in this life. - Carla Harris

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.