The Spiritual Edifice

The Spiritual Edifice.

Note: Drawing taken from the book, The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Humility is the “foundation of prayer” (CCC 2559) as well as the foundation of our own spiritual edifice. Since our spiritual life can only be as good as the foundation we build upon, the virtue of humility is essential. We start with a good foundation lain upon the Rock of Christ; for if we build our house on sand, it cannot stand. (see Mat. 7:24~7:27)

The virtue of humility is related to both the virtue of justice, which allows us to judge ourselves justly, and also the virtue of temperance, which serves to moderate the sense of our own worth. “Humility may be defined as a supernatural virtue, which, through the self-knowledge it imparts, inclines us to reckon ourselves at our true worth and to seek self-effacement (reserve in speech, behavior, or dress) and contempt (to be regarded as inferior or base).” (see A. Tanguerey, The Spiritual Life, 1127) Therefore, the basis of humility is Truth, which allows us to see ourselves as we really are, and Justice, which inclines us to act on that knowledge. Rightly understood, justice demands that we render to God all the honor and glory for that which we find as ‘good’ within us and to recognize that all ‘evil’ within us proceeds from ourselves. (see A. Tanguerey, The Spiritual Life, 1128 A.) As Christ Himself said: “No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18).

We know well that though we have been washed clean of original sin by the waters of baptism, concupiscience (an inclination toward sin or evil) remains. Therefore, a true reckoning of ourselves, when viewed through the lens of God’s Goodness and Holiness, leaves us to see that we have nothing of our own which can be called Good but that which is of God Himself. Our will to abide by the Good, which God has worked in us, is then our cooperation with Him and His Holy Will. Our concupiscience remains but can be overcome by our willingness to cooperate with the Grace that God imparts to us.

Humility could simply be described as an attitude that takes responsibility for the wrongs we think, say or do while only rendering credit to God for that which is regarded as good and holy. Our demeanor might then become reserved and free of self-pride. A humble heart such as this is greatly loved by our Lord and He tends to incline His Ear to the whisperings of such a soul. It is this meekness and humility that becomes a solid foundation for our relationship with God.

The pillars of Faith, Hope and Charity sit squarely on the shoulders of this virtue, as does our prayer-life, which is the loving discourse between our souls and God. If you wish to increase your faith, hope and love and deepen your prayer-life it may pay great dividends to work on the virtue of humility. This requires vigilance in knowledge of God and in self-knowledge too (a daily examen of conscience and frequent confession aid in this regard). In order to accomplish this work within our souls, the virtues of temperance and justice might also stand in need of some strengthening.

As previously stated, our humility is to rest upon the Rock of Christ and therefore we need to conform to every projection and crevice of this Rock. There should be no voids between this foundation of humility and the Rock upon which it is poured, thus we ensure that our foundation conforms to Christ in every detail. Our humility then must begin in a liquid state, capable of being molded into the necessary shape. Once humility has allowed us to be molded by the Rock, it becomes an extension of Christ Himself, hardening into a Foundation that is unbreakable.

If we set out to build a spiritual edifice we must keep in mind that which any builder knows. The building is only as good as the foundation upon which it stands.

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