Chapter Seven, Part Two
The first degree of humility, then, is to always have reverence of God before our eyes (cf Ps 36:2), shunning all forgetfulness and to be ever mindful of all that God has commanded, to always consider how those who despise God will receive the consequence of hell-fire for their sins, and that life everlasting is prepared for those who reverence God. And while we guard ourselves at every moment against sin and vices of thought, word, deed, and self-will, let us also hasten to cut off the desires of the flesh.
Our Father Benedict chooses rather punitive and fear-driven language to frame this first step of humility. I don't want to dismiss or explain away his harsh words, but it's important, I believe, to peer through them to what lies deeper than the literal. When I do this, I see the essence of the first step of humility to be a shifting of focus from the egocentric to the theocentric, from the things that concern only my small programs and agendas to those that participate in the eternal life of God.
If we are to be free from our various sins and vices, we must resist them "at every moment." Such resistance is maintained by keeping reverence of God always "before our eyes." A primary way we Benedictines keep our eyes on God is by returning to prayer again, and again, and again each time the bell rings. In the realm of my conscious attention, nothing, especially not me and my concerns, is to be given priority over the Opus Dei, the “Work of God” that is the Liturgy of the Hours.
We climb the first rung of this ladder over and over again in each moment, in the eternal Now, not once and for all.