Work for your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, you will be children of God. (Philippians 2:12-15)
by Sr Mary Magdalene Eitenmiller o.p.
[The sisters of St. Catherine's Convent, Cambridge are giving a reflection each week at Vespers on Wednesdays in Lent. This week Sr Magdalene reflects on the virtue of humility]
This short passage that we have just read from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, verses 12-15, encourages the Christians, in what is perhaps a better English translation, to “work for your salvation with fear and trembling.” “Fear and trembling.” What does it mean to work for our salvation in fear and trembling? St. Thomas Aquinas understands this to refer to the need for humility. “For the proud one does not fear, but the humble person does,” he says. And St. Paul warns, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he falls” (1 Cor 10:12). All that we do must be in keeping with the goal of our salvation, as well as the salvation of others. And we work for our salvation precisely by allowing God to work in us. But we must be humble in allowing God to transform us, for as Christ teaches, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). This is not to deny our free will, but rather, it is to show our absolute dependence on God’s grace and mercy. Humility involves a recognition of this need for God, as a little child needs the help of his loving father or mother.
And Humility helps us realize that God alone is the very goal of our