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Of Holy Virginity by St. Augustine

Section 32. Wherefore a few witnesses, which the Lord deigns to suggest to my mindà

32. Wherefore a few witnesses, which the Lord deigns to suggest to my mind, I proceed to mention, from out the teaching of Christ concerning humility, such as perhaps may be enough for my purpose. His discourse, the first which He delivered to His disciples at greater length, began from this. |Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.| And these without all controversy we take to be humble. The faith of that Centurion He on this account chiefly praised, and said that He had not found in Israel so great faith, because he believed with so great humility as to say, |I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.| Whence also Matthew for no other reason said that he |came| unto Jesus, (whereas Luke most plainly signifies that he came not unto Him himself, but sent his friends,) save that by his most faithful humility he himself came unto Him more than they whom he sent. Whence also is that of the Prophet, |The Lord is very high, and hath respect unto things that are lowly: but what are very high He noteth afar off;| assuredly as not coming unto Him. Whence also He saith to that woman of Canaan, |O woman, great is thy faith; be it done unto thee as thou wilt;| whom above He had called a dog, and had made answer that the bread of the sons was not to be cast to her. And this she taking with humility had said, |Even so, Lord; for the dogs also eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.| And thus what by continual crying she obtained not, by humble confession she earned. Hence also those two are set forth praying in the Temple, the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican, for the sake of those who seem to themselves just and despise the rest of men, and the confession of sins is set before the reckoning up of merits. And assuredly the Pharisee was rendering thanks unto God by reason of those things wherein he was greatly self-satisfied. |I render thanks to Thee,| saith he, |that I am not even as the rest of men, unjust, extortioners, adulterers, even as also this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all things whatsoever I possess. But the Publican was standing afar off, not daring to lift up his eyes to Heaven, but beating his breast, saying, God be merciful unto me a sinner.| But there follows the divine judgment, |Verily I say unto you, the Publican went down from the Temple justified more than that Pharisee.| Then the cause is shown, why this is just; |Forasmuch as he who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and whoso humbleth himself shall be exalted.| Therefore it may come to pass, that each one both shun real evils, and reflect on real goods in himself, and render thanks for these unto |the Father of lights, from Whom cometh down every best gift, and every perfect gift,| and yet be rejected by reason of the sin of haughtiness, if through pride, even in his thought alone, which is before God, he insult other sinners, and specially when confessing their sins in prayer, unto whom is due not upbraiding with arrogance, but pity without despair. What is it that, when His disciples were questioning among themselves, who of them should be greater, He set a little child before their eyes, saying, |Unless ye shall be as this child, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven?| Did He not chiefly commend humility, and set in it the desert of greatness? Or when unto the sons of Zebedee desiring to be at His side in lofty seats He so made answer, as that they should rather think of having to drink the Cup of His Passion, wherein He humbled Himself even unto death, even the death of the Cross, than with proud desire demand to be preferred to the rest; what did He show, save, that He would be a bestower of exaltation upon them, who should first follow Him as a teacher of humility? And now, in that, when about to go forth unto His Passion, He washed the feet of His disciples, and most openly taught them to do for their fellow-disciples and fellow-servants this, which He their Lord and Master had done for them; how greatly did He commend humility? And in order to commend this He chose also that time, wherein they were looking on Him, as immediately about to die, with great longing; assuredly about to retain in their memory this especially, which their Master, Whom they were to imitate, had pointed out to them as the last thing. But He did this at that time, which surely He could have done on other days also before, wherein He had been conversant with them; at which time if it were done, this same would indeed be delivered, but certainly would not be so received.


Matt. v.3 Matt. viii.5-10; Luke vii.6, 7

Ps. cxxxviii.6

Matt. xv.22-28


Luke xviii.11-14

James i.17

Matt. xviii.1-3

Matt. xx.21, 22

Phil. ii.8

John xiii.1-17

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