If you were to ask Christians to list the attributes of God, I do not think that humility would rank very high. It would probably barely even register. Humility is what we do, not God. Glory and Power and Might, yes. Humility, not so much. Even when we think of Love and Mercy, we do not often define these in terms of God’s humility from eternity.
These are not mutually exclusive — the attributes of freedom and the attributes of love. God can hold together contraries in his being, which we separate and pervert in our being. But it is impossible for us to know this, without God first enacting this possibility in Jesus Christ. And if we look to Jesus Christ as where the fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9), then humility defines God in his essence.
I just started reading Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s journals. He mentions God’s humility in one of his entries (below), which I found helpful. When we try to find humility within ourselves, it is when pride manifests itself sub contrario — as we are all too aware, if we’re honest. Instead, we have to look toward God’s humility and find our place within His life:
Essentially, all sins come from two sources: flesh and pride. But pride is more frightening (after all, it ruined the angelic powers). Christians have focused their attention, their religious “passion,” on flesh, but how easy it is to succumb to pride. Spiritual pride (truth, spirituality, maximalism) is the most frightful of all. The difficulty of the fight against pride lies in the fact that pride, unlike the flesh, appears in so many different forms and most easily appropriates that of the angel of light. In humility, people gain the knowledge of their unworthiness and defects, yet humility is the most divine of all possible qualities. We become humble, not because we see ourselves (one way or another, that always leads to pride because false humility is just another aspect of pride, perhaps the most difficult to conquer), but only if we see God and His humility.
Wednesday, February 28, 1973
[The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 4]