Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Canticle: Letter to the Philippians (2: 6-11) – He humbled himself

He humbled himself

We're taking another short break from the psalms to consider another canticle. This one is featured in the Liturgy of the Hours every Sunday in evening prayer, so we know it is a biggie. When you go read it, you'll recognize it from the fact that it is often mentioned in the regular liturgical readings. And it is one of my favorites since I need that reminder that Jesus' obedience is key to our salvation. Like everyone, I struggle with obedience so this is something that hits me fresh every time I read it. Once a week seems just about right!

Icon of the Mosaic Pantocrator (Agia Sophia)

In every Sunday celebration of Vespers the liturgy proposes anew the Christological hymn of the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2: 6-11) which is short but laden with meaning. We are examining the first part of this hymn that has just resounded (vv. 6-8), in which the paradoxical "self-emptying" of the Divine Word is described as he divests himself of his glory and takes on the human condition.

Christ, incarnate and humiliated by the most shameful death of crucifixion, is held up as a vital model for Christians. Indeed, as is clear from the context, their "attitude must be that of Christ" (v. 5), and their sentiments, humility and self-giving, detachment and generosity.


The basic element of this first part of the Canticle seems to me to be the invitation to enter into Jesus' sentiments. Entering into the sentiments of Jesus means not considering power, riches and prestige as the supreme values in our lives, for basically they do not respond to our most profound spiritual thirst, but rather, by opening our hearts to the Other, carrying with the Other our life's burden and opening ourselves to Our Heavenly Father with a sense of obedience and trust, knowing that by such obedience to the Father, we will be free. Entering into the sentiments of Jesus: this should be our daily practice of living as Christians.
Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience on Evening Prayer, June 1, 2005

I've linked above to where you can find this on the Vatican website. However, there are actually four different homilies, one for each week, in the series on the evening prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours. Two are by Saint John Paul II and two are from Pope Benedict XVI. You may read them all at Totus Tuus.

An index of canticle posts is here.   

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