On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”Luke 14:1, 7-11
Humus and Humility
The word “humility” comes from humus, which is Latin for “earth.” The couplet uses the English pronunciation of humus (hyo͞o′məs), defined as “a brown or black organic substance consisting of partially or wholly decayed vegetable or animal matter that provides nutrients for plants and increases the ability of soil to retain water.”
What is Humility?
Humility is the virtue by which creatures acknowledge their own nothingness before God, filled with gratitude for being and life.
He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church 2559
Humility is Truth
“The ground of humility is man’s estimation of himself according to truth.”
Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues
What is Truth?
For persons made in the image of God, truth is the heart’s recognition of the divine order. Lived truth is personal assent to that order: one is not self-existent but comes from another (God and parents). Accordingly, the first and fifth commandments of the Decalogue honor the source of our existence. Like the Incarnate Son of God (save his uncreatedness), each person has a divine and human origin. Endowed with the capacity for God, we are children of the heavenly Father with an eternal destiny. Indeed, life is a pure gift. For “what have you that you have not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, RSV).
All other goods spring from life, the fundamental good. Thus, honor can only be conferred by another and never presumed.
“…to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
In Jesus’ parable, the roadmap to happiness and beatitude is laid out. Humility—truth before God—is foundational.
Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and discipline.
A Chorus of Saints
Like seeds, saints descend and ascend like a “flow’ring chorus,” and join the choirs of angels praising God.
Seeds that descend into the humus
Ascend again a flow’ring chorus.
Traditional Chinese Translation