Editorial Notes This electronic edition of 'The Twelve Degrees of Humility and Pride' has been prepared from the 1929 translation by Barton R. V. Mills, M. A



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They have no wine, says she. How could she better have combined modesty and confidence? There was no lack of faith in her devotedness, of seriousness in her voice, or of earnestness in her desire. She, however, though she was His Mother, waived the claims of kinship, and did not venture to ask for a miraculous supply of wine. With what face, then, can I, a common slave, to whom it is a high honour to be in the service at once of the Son and of the Mother, presume to ask for the life of one who has been dead for four days?
It is also recorded in the Gospel (1) that two blind men had sight given or restored to them one the sight which he had lost, the other that which he had never possessed for one had become blind, the other had been so born. But the one who had lost his sight earned marvellous mercy by piteous and persistent prayer, while the one who was born blind received from his divine enlightener a yet more merciful and more marvellous benefit without any previous petition from himself. To him it was afterwards said, Thy faith hath made thee whole. (2)
1. A third case of giving sight to the blind is recorded in Matt. ix. 27-31. St. Bernard does not mention it because his object was to contrast the circumstances of the miracles, and to show that the lesser one was the direct answer to prayer.
2. Luke xviii. 42.
I also read of the raising of two persons who had lately died and of a third one who had been dead for four days; but only the one who was still lying in her father's house was thus raised at his prayer the other two were restored by a great and unexpected manifestation of mercy.
So if, in like manner, it should happen (which may God avert) that any one of our brethren should meet not bodily but spiritual death; as long as he shall be with us, I, sinner that I am, will persistently assail the Saviour with my prayers and with those of the brethren. If he revives, we shall have gained our brother; but if we do not deserve to be heeded and the time comes when he cannot endure those who are alive, or be endured by them, but must be carried out for burial, I go on faithfully with my mourning, though I cannot pray with so much confidence. I dare not say openly, 'Lord raise up our dead brother' but with anxious heart and inward trembling I cease not to cry out. If by any chance at all the Lord shall listen to the desire of the poor, his ear will heed the readiness of their hearts. And there is that saying. Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? or shall physicians raise to life and give praise to thee? (1) and concerning him who has been dead four days.
1. Ps. Ixxxviii. 10 (Vulg. Ixxxvii. 11).
Shall anyone in the sepulchre declare thy mercy; and thy truth in destruction? (1) Meanwhile it is possible that the Saviour may be pleased to meet us unforeseen and unexpectedly, and moved by the tears, not by trie prayers of the bearers, to restore the dead man to those who live, or actually to recall from among the dead one who is already buried. But I should describe as dead the man who by excusing his sins, has already come down to the eighth degree. For praise perisheth from the dead as from one who does not exist. (2) But after the tenth degree, which is third from the eighth, he is already being carried out into liberty to sin, when he is expelled from the monastic community. But after he has passed the fourth degree he is rightly said to be 'four days dead', and when he falls into the fifth degree of habitual sin he is already buried. But God forbid that we should cease to pray in our hearts for such even as these though we do not venture to do so openly, as Paul also mourned for those whom he knew to have died impenitent. (3)
1. Ps. Ixxxviii. 10 (Vulg. Ixxxvii. 12).

2. Ecclus. xvii. 26. This is rendered 'praise perisheth from the dead as nothing' (Douai version).

3. 2 Cor. xii. 21.
For although they shut themselves out from our united prayers, they cannot altogether do so from their effects. They should nevertheless realize the great danger which those incur whom the Church, which prays confidently for Jews, heretics and heathen, dares not to mention in her worship. For when on Good Friday prayer is expressly offered for certain wicked persons, no mention is made of those who are excommunicated.
You may perhaps say, brother Godfrey, that in thus describing the degrees of pride instead of those of humility, I seem to have gone beyond your request and my own tardy promise. To which my answer is that I was unable to teach anything but what I had learned. I did not think it seemly on my part to speak of an ascent, since I am aware that my own movements have been in a downward rather than in an upward direction. Blessed Benedict may set before you the degrees of humility, for he has previously set His own heart upon them. I have nothing to put before you, unless it be my own downward course. Yet if that is carefully examined, the way to go up may haply be found therein. For if as you are going towards Rome, a man who is coming thence meets you, and you ask him the way, how can he better tell you than by pointing out the route that he has followed? In naming the castles, villages, cities, rivers and mountains which he has passed, he records his own journey and foretells yours, so that as you go on you may recognize the places that he has passed. In like manner in this downward course of mine you may possibly discover the upward steps, and as you ascend, may you study them to more purpose in your own heart than in my book.


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