One of the mistakes I made in the early years of my efforts to live a spiritual life was to dismiss minor temptations and humiliations as unimportant. If a humiliation was easily laughed off, it couldn't have spiritual significance, and if a temptation was easily dismissed, it couldn't have much ascetical purpose.
This was very wrong. In fact, the small temptations and humiliations of everyday life are critically important in the spiritual life, for they are the opportunities to train and exercise ourselves into the interior strength and sense we will need for the harder spiritual challenges we face.
This morning provided a good example. After Morning Prayer one of our student brothers whispered me a question: "Do you have the parish Mass today?" I responded that I did, and then looked forward to my confrere assisting at the Mass. Surely he had asked me this question because he would want to come to my Mass.
Therefore it was a small humiliation when I began the Mass and noticed that he wasn't there. "He asked because he didn't want to come if it was me!" arose the thought. (Never mind that this interpretation of things was incorrect; indeed, apprehending appearance instead of reality is the ordinary source of spiritual problems and dis-ease.) So what to do with this thought, this logismos arising from the conflict between appearances, my lack of humility, and the attack on my vanity?
When I was younger I would have just laughed off and dismissed such a thing. But now I know better. I know that my spiritual condition is too fragile and my devotion too shallow to ignore an opportunity to exercise my soul and build up some strength. So, after giving the invitation Let us pray at the beginning of Mass, allowing time for everyone to recollect themselves and form the intentions they wished to bring to the Sacrifice today, I did the same. I thanked God for the grace of the little humiliation. I made an act of thanksgiving for the mercy of my vocation, by which I have the gift of brothers that God can use to chip away at my vanity and inanity. I pray for the gift of real humility, and for God to be with me, and to help me use well the next time I am given a real humiliation.
The spiritual life is made of little, unglamorous things and momentary opportunities. Vanity dismisses them, but humility receives them gratefully.