Wishing you a glorious feast of Our Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem. Today we observe our Master and our Lord’s entry on a donkey and a colt the foal of a donkey.
“He Who sits on the Cherubim, on the throne of His glory, entered into Jerusalem, what is this great humility?” – Gospel Response of Palm Sunday procession before the south gate.
This brings us to our second Deacon Core Value: Humility
Humility is another virtue that is hard to talk about. St. Isaac of Syria said:
“I want to speak about humility, but I am afraid, as one who wants to speak about God. This is because humility is the garment that the Divinity wore when He appeared among us. For this reason, when the devils see a humble person they are afraid, because they see in him the image of their Creator who has subdued them.”
So instead of talking about Humility as a virtue, I’d like to discuss some practical ways of humility that applies to our service as deacons. We will first discuss false humility and true humility as deacons, then we will end with some red flags that show that there might be a pride problem.
Deacon False Humility
The following are some negative deacon behavior that disguise itself as humility. In reality however these are vices that have nothing to do with humility at all! Here are a couple of stereotypes that come to mind:
False Humble Deacon #1: The I don’t know how to do it guy, but he really knows how to
Symptom: You ask him if he knows how to do a certain service, such as chanting the gospel, serving in the altar, saying a certain hymn, teaching a class, etc. but he says “I don’t know how to do it” even though he knows just to appear humble.
Cure: This deacon needs to realize humility is not thinking less of himself, but it is thinking of himself less. Moreover, just as he doesn’t have any merit for the color of his hair, so too he doesn’t have any merit for the gifts that God bestowed upon him. Both of these were not due to any merit of his own. If God gave him a gift then he must use it for God’s glory.
False Humble Deacon #2: The excessive delegator “etfaddal.la2 etfaddal enta” guy
Symptom: You ask him to carry out a certain service but he refuses saying:
“etfaddal. la2 etfaddal enta”, or
“I’m not worthy”, or
“this other deacon is better at it”, or
“there are lots of other deacons”, or
“I don’t want to do anything, I just want to stand here and pray”, etc. the list goes on, but you get the point!
Cure: This deacon needs to realize that this is a service and that he is here to serve. As a matter of fact “Deacon” comes from the Greek word “διάκονος” (Diakonos) or “διακόνημα” (Diakonia) which means Servant or Service. If I hand someone a mop to sweep the floor, nobody would ever tell me “etfaddal” or “I’m not worthy”. This is a service. The deacon needs to realize that he’s here to serve and should do as he’s told, redirecting any honor or glory to God to Whom is due all honor and glory.
Deacon True Humility
The following are a few guidelines that we should continue to follow in humility:
– A humble deacon should do as he’s told if called upon. He doesn’t say yes, or no. He just says “7ader”
– A humble deacon should not get upset if not called upon. We’re here to offer service as needed.
– A humble deacon knows his role and does it with all his strength and ability.
– A humble deacon highlights the beauty of the hymns, not the beauty of his voice or the way he chants the hymns. He doesn’t embellish in the hymn. Instead he just presents it in all honesty as handed down. Also, since we don’t have harmony in our Coptic hymns, he doesn’t harmonize to attempt to make the hymn sound better. We all chant the hymns together in one spirit and one voice as one person.
– A humble deacon doesn’t raise his voice over the others. Instead he matches the other deacons’ voice, pitch and speed.
– A humble deacon never “goes crazy” on this hymn, or knock that hymn “out of the park”! This vocabulary should be completely eradicated when it comes to our service as deacons. Once we use such terminology then we can be certain that we’re not praying or praising anymore.
Pride Red Flags
The following list are some red flags that might indicate that there’s a pride problem. These are not sure signs, but just a cause to consider the real motive behind the action to make sure it’s not out of pride.
– If I don’t feel comfortable taking orders from anyone else. Especially a younger deacon or a deacon of a lesser rank.
– If I don’t like it when they don’t call on me to do a certain task that might be considered by some to be a more honorable task.
– If I get upset when I attend the whole service without anyone asking me to do anything or say anything.
– If I have a problem following rules or a system or organization or process without any good reason.
I’m very thankful that we don’t have any of the negative examples mentioned above as a trait. This email is not really to address any problems that I’ve seen in our Church. It is more of a reminder and an encouragement to continue carrying out our service the same way it’s done today.
We will now leave you with some advice on Humility and Pride from St. Gregory the Great. I know it might be a bit long, but it is fantastic. I encourage you all to read it.
Here’s what St. Gregory the Great has to say:
The humble should be told how truly excellent is the hope that they hold; to the proud it should be suggested that the temporal glory is fleeting, even when they seem to hold it in their hands.
Let the humble hear how the things they strive for are eternal, and the things that they despise are transitory; let the proud hear that the things that they despise are transitory, and the things that they abandon are eternal.
Let the humble hear from the authoritative voice of the Truth: “Everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” Let the proud hear: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”
Let the humble hear: “Humility precedes glory.” And let the proud hear: “The spirit is exalted before a fall.”
Let the humble hear: “Whom shall I respect if not the humble, and quiet, and those who tremble at my words?” Let the proud hear: “Why are earth and ashes proud?”
Let the humble hear: “God respects the humble”; and let the proud be told: “And the proud he knows from afar.”
Let the humble hear: “Because the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” And let the proud learn: “Because pride is the source of all sin.”
The humble should hear: “Our redeemer humbled himself, even becoming obedient unto death.” Also, let the proud hear what is written of their head: “He is the king over all the sons of pride.”
For it is certainly true that the pride of the devil became the occasion of our own perdition, but the humility of God has proven to be the grounds of our redemption. For our enemy, who shared his condition with all other things, desired to be seen as superior to them, but our Redeemer, who remained greater than all things, condescended to become small like his creation.
Therefore, it should be said to the humble that whenever they lower themselves, they ascend to the likeness of God. At the same time, it should be said to the proud that whenever they take pride in themselves, they fall into imitation of that apostate angel. And what could be worse than pride, which by holding itself above everything so unwinds itself from the stature of true greatness? And what is more sublime than humility which by lowering itself unites with the Creator, who is above all things?
Wishing you all a Blessed Passion week and a Glorious Feast of Resurrection.