For those of us who enjoy the Indiana Jones movies, there is a line in the “Last Crusade” that has always stuck with me. He is trying to get to the Holy Grail, but must pass through some “tests” to get there. His father has discovered some clues for each of the tests. Already several people have been killed by some razor-sharp blades that come with the first test. As Indiana Jones walks forward, he keeps repeating that first clue: “Only the penitent man shall pass.” As he repeats it, he suddenly realizes that the “The penitent man is humble!” and he bends over just in time.
That story contains some spiritual insights for us as we continue our journey through Great Lent. It seems that one of our greatest “tests” to overcome in life is our own pride. This is often called our foolish pride and it leads us time and time again to spiritual disasters. This pride even has its own theme song: “I Did It My Way!”
When I have been about to do it my way again, I try to remind myself of the old saying: “Even A Dumb Dog Don’t Lick a Hot Stove Twice!” Yet, sadly, my tongue has been seared more times than I care to count. Each time that has happened, it has been my foolish pride at work. I have discovered that if I truly want to grow spiritually, I have to set aside my pride, humbling myself, and doing things the Lord’s way.
The key to our spiritual growth in Christ is truly found in humility. “Only the penitent person, the one who is humble, shall pass” is so very true to our making spiritual progress. This is a life-long process. There is no “instant” humility; it is something we grow in day by day (falling and getting back up…falling and getting back up…falling and getting back up).
Saint John Climacus (Of the Ladder) was born around 560 AD. He was asked to write a book that would be “a ladder fixed on the earth” leading people to the gates of Heaven. The book is called The Ladder of Divine Ascent and is read in Orthodox Monasteries every Great Lent. As you can see from the photo, he held humility as being vital in our spiritual journey. Here are a few quotes from this great man of God on this topic:
“Holy Humility opens Heaven’s Gate.”
“Obedience is the burial of the will and the resurrection of humility.”
“Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate.”
“Fight to escape from your own cleverness. If you do, then you will find salvation and uprightness through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
May we keep in mind: “Only the penitent shall pass.” And may we grow in our humility, becoming more like our Lord day by day. Good strength to each of you as we near the end of our Lenten Journey.