TO SERVE THE MOST HIGH IN SPIRIT OF HUMILITY
In 1992, the Prior General EugeinoCavanavi, have used this phrase as synthesis of the charism of the Discalced Augustinians and placed it as the title of his letter to the Order in occasion of the IV centenary of the Foundation. This phrase was already used by Paul II in the Brevi approving the Constitutions. But this expression was already present in the precedent constitutions starting from the RegenburgConst (the Augustinians must serve God humbly) and still more backward, with the Rule of St. Augustine written for the "servants of God" and the scripture talks about it in the "servant of Jeveh".
TO SERVE THE MOST HIGH
Three significance of the word SERVANT (according to Augustine)
A) SERVANT – SAVED (Redeemed) the first etymological meaning of the Word
CITY OF GOD 19,15 – "The word servant seemed to be introduced in the Latin language by the fact that these whom, by the right of war, could be killed were being conserved by the
winners becoming "servants".
Reflection: we are the saved servants from spiritual death we are the ones saved … (Ven. Carlo Giacinto) "in solidarity with Adam, we were condemned to death" (City of God13,14)
“in solidarity with Christ we are being saved.” (Comm. Ps. 84: 14)
B) SERVENT – SLAVE the one who depends, being forced to, the one who is under the authority of...Permanent dependence unlike the son (free)
SLAVERY & FREEDOM
But not all kind of SLAVERY his negative connotation
St. Augustine talks about the two opposite significance of SLAVERY:
And even if man refuses God still willing to forgive and same man.
- There is the slave and slavery of SIN that depends on the wrong use of the will – this is the true slavery and Augustine says that is MISERABLE (Comm. Vrg. Jn. 41,4)
- On the other hand there is the slave and slavery of grace or of charity, that depends on the correct use of will in response to the project of God who wants all men to be saved (cfr. 1 Tim 4,3; 2,4; 2Pet. 3,4)
This kind of slavery is the TRUE FREEDOM.
Augustine says: “We were slaves of sin / concupiscence and having being freedom, we became slaves of charity” (Comm. Jn. 41,8)
In this sense, Augustine wishes and admonishes us in his Rule to be truly free: to become “slaves of charity” under grace. (Rule 48/ Liberoarbitrio 2,13, 37/ Lavorodeimonasi 11,12)
C) SERVANT – SERVER – even this significance is very usual
We always hear server of the Nation, of the Church, of charity, of the brothers.
- "SERVER" is the one, with a sense of devotion or of responsibility offers its proper office, its proper work, its proper time with the goal of favoring others instead of oneself – he wants others wellbeing and not using them – (it has the same evangelical meaning) - just like Jesus (cfr. Phil. 2, 5-11)
For Augustine, in the religious sphere, a server is the one who exercises ministry of the Christian Diakonia,who comply the works of mercy SERVES, who preaches SERVES, who administer the sacraments SERVES, he who obeys SERVES
For Augustine all is but an expression of service:
The manual work (Lav. Dei Monaci 3,4 / Rule 30-40)
Hospitality (Exp. Ps. 83,7)
Authority (Rule 46/ Disc. 340/4)
Obedience (Rule 44; 47; Disc. 213,11;340)
For these that Augustine considered the word “servant” as a FUNDAMENTAL CATEGORY of Christian existence and like a clue to CHRISTOLOGY AND ECCLESIOLOGY
He talks on Christ as servant, Mary as servant, the Church as servant, Monica as servant, the Christian as servant, the religious as servant
In the title of his letter 217 it describes like this: Augustine bishop, servant of Christ and in his name servant of his servants
- First motive of the preference
To serve the Most High signifies first and foremost that we are being served by HIM, by his love, to benefit from his mercy – being taken and saved from the dominion of a master – padrone.
To affirm the primacy of God and putting one’s life at his service, to sing of his greatness, to praise him, adore him, to thank him, love him, to live only for him.
The greatest human deed is to praise the Lord. (Exp. Ps. 44:9)
IN SPIRIT OF HUMILITY
A) "Denying Oneself"
Our service given to others and to God has only one way of actualizing in order to become an authentic service of love. “to serve in the spirit of humility.”
Without humility, the only way open to man is that of proud self-service, with vested interests and in a hypocrite way caused by his limits and bondage /baggage of sin.
Jesus himself precisely came to SERVE and not to be SERVED (Mt. 20:28, Mk 10:45, Lk. 22:27)
He indicated the first condition to whoever wants to follow him to deny oneself (Mt. 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk. 9:23)
To deny oneself means to do an act of humility in contrary to the pride in which our first parents have made pretending to be at the same level with God (Gen 3:1-7)
It means to get rid away from ourselves (Phil. 2:5-11)
B) Being discalced and the vow of Humility
Humility in its profound meaning can be equaled to one’s cult and can be concretizing in the signs of being barefooted and with the vow not to look for higher office
In the OAD, apart from many constitutive elements (Marian, Christo, and Trinity) all should be done in the spirit of humility.
The importance of these signs
Being without shoes and humility are two very strong signs of a most complete and radical plan of humility and service, which is that of God expressed in the mystery of incarnation and redemption in the mystery of the humble Jesus who did not finish washing the feet of his disciples!
- Not only and not more on the ascetic-penitential dimension from a complete detachment from earthly things in order to attain easily the contemplative life and to serve the Lord better
- But also in particular manner to the biblical – spiritual dimension of bare footedness of hearts sentiments to become more synchronize with the work of God in the salvation history and to live radically the invitation of Jesus
- Most of all, to live the Oral dimension of one’s participation in an intimate manner to the acts of Christ, the servant of Yahweh, the humble Jesus that in his total self-giving and in the humility of his kenosia have sanctified man and at the same time glorified God