The eyes of my soul were opened and I beheld the plenitude of God, wherein I did comprehend the whole world, both here and beyond the sea, and the abyss and the ocean and all things. In all these things I beheld naught save the divine power, in a manner assuredly indescribable, so that through excess of marveling, the soul cried with a loud voice, saying ‘this whole world if filled with God!’ Wherefore I now comprehended how small a thing was the whole world… and that the power of God exceeds and fills all. Then He said unto me, “I have shown thee something of My power”, and I understood that after this, I should better understand the rest. He said then, “behold my humility”. Then I was given an insight into the deep humility of God towards man. And comprehending that unspeakable power and deep humility, my soul marveled greatly and did esteem itself to be nothing at all. -St. Angela of Foligno (from Mysticism)
I read that this morning and found an instant catch in my brain at that last part, the deep humility of God… towards man. My presuppositions found themselves in a sudden disconnect. My conception of humility is of someone who thinks themselves worth nothing; not in a derogatory sense, but in that easy absence of self, that indefinable lack of demand upon the world that weaves such a sweet gentleness in the presence of some people. This is not something I usually equate with God. My conception of the Creator is more in line with the first part of the quote; a being (whom I eagerly love and worship) of “unspeakable” power. And I realized that it is hard for me to think about God in terms of someone who thinks of Himself as worth nothing. He’s God. By definition, he is Everything. How can you be humble when you are the essence of being?
My thought usually reconciles the idea of God’s humility by considering it another branch of his power. A sort of super strength of self-abnegation that makes a divine humility that is expressed in divine ways of merciful condescension. I see him as this grand king who is always aware of his kingship as he walks among lesser men with grants and boons of mercy. Still a humbling; but not the easy, selfless sweetness I associate with human humility. And that is, of course, part of the truth.
But this morning as this idea of God’s humility brewed in my brain, I had this sense of being jolted awake. God, humble toward man? God… selfless? Like, he really didn’t think about himself and his greatness when he was saving us? Could God, (God!), have really thought himself worth nothing in the face of his love for us? What if God really did, not in a cosmic or divine sense, but in a dust and breath sort of way, a human way, literally consider Himself as nothing? What if the other part of the truth that I have never grasped is that salvation was the simple impulse of a loving heart to thoughtlessly give itself away for the one it loved? Not a self-important sacrifice but a gentle, tender giving driven by an artless love. Could God be so unspeakably sweet… so innocent? Of course, it is what my heart has always wanted. The miracle is that I begin to realize it is true.