The first lighthouse was built in England near Plymouth back in the 17ths. It was built in wood. Its builder, a man called Winstanley, was very proud of it. He used to say “it is the lighthouse of Winstanley, the best architect in England.” Even more, he inscribed it on it.
One night, a strong storm came. Huge waves hit the lighthouse until it fell down. The lighthouse with its inscription was totally destroyed by the waters.
Years later, the city asked another architect to build a new lighthouse. The name of the architect was Smeaton. He made it with granite. He also put an inscription on it: if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor (Ps 127). It lasts until now.
This simple anecdote can help us to understand the positive aspect of humility. Because, when we think of humility, we usually focus on the negative aspect of it. Using the example of the anecdote, we must not be proud of what we do like the first architect, since thanks the Lord we were able to do it.
However, humility implies much more than that. Humility is a positive virtue that helps us to build our life firmly and solidly like the second lighthouse. That is, humility means not only to reject temptations of pride but also and above all to build our “spiritual building”. Because as St. Augustine says: humility is the basement in our spiritual life.
How do we do this? When St. Thomas asks “Whether twelve degrees of humility are fittingly distinguished in the Rule of the Blessed Benedict?” He answers yes. And he says that the three last degrees of humility imply three positive things: following one’s superior will; judging according to one’s superior judgment and not backing down from the hard and rough things.
In fact, it is what Jesus did when He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Php 2:8). He did this three positive acts of humility: He did not follow His judgment: Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth (Isa 53:7). He did not follow His Will: yet not My will, but Yours be done (Luk 22:42). He did not back down from the cross although it was hard and rough for Him: I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name (John 12:27-28). So, if we want to grow in our spiritual life, we need to work in this virtue and in order to do this, we must judge according to God; we must want God’s Will and we must accept daily crosses.