Thursday, 25 April 2013



There are two kinds of humility, as there are two kinds of pride. The first kind of pride is when a man reproaches his brother, condemns and reviles him as someone of no account, regarding himself as his superior. If such a man does not speedily come to his senses and try to mend his ways, he comes, little by little, to the second kind of pride, which puffs itself up in the face of God Himself and ascribes to itself its achievements and virtues, as though the man has done it all himself, with his own intelligence and knowledge, and not with the help of God. From this can be seen what constitutes the two kinds of humility.

 The first humility consists in considering that one's brother has better judgment and is in all things superior to oneself -- or in considering oneself below all men. The second humility consists in ascribing one's achievements to God. This is the perfect humility of the saints.

No one can describe in words what humility is and how it is born in the soul, unless he learns this from experience. From words alone no one can know it. One day Abba Zossima was speaking of humility, when a sophist who was present asked him: "Do you not know that you have virtues? After all, you see that you are obeying the commandments: how then in that case do you regard yourself as a sinner?" The staretz could not find how to answer him but said simply, "I do not know what to say to you, but I consider myself a sinner." And when the sophist went on bothering him with the question "How?", the staretz continued to repeat the same thing: "I know not how, but I truly regard myself such. Do not confuse me." Or again, when Abba Agathon was nearing death the brethren asked him, "Are you not afraid, father?" He answered, "As far as I could I have made myself keep the commandments, but I am a man, and how can I know whether what I have done is pleasing to God. For God's judgment is one thing and man's another.

 A staretz once said about what brings a man to humility, "The ways to humility are bodily labors done intelligently, considering oneself below all others, and ceaseless prayer to God." Bodily labors bring the soul to humility, because the soul suffers with the body and shares in all that happens to it; as bodily labors humble the body, the soul is humbled with it. Considering oneself lower than all is a distinctive feature of humility, and if a man practices it and becomes accustomed to it, this by itself implants humility and uproots what we have called the first pride. For how can a man puff himself up before anyone, or blame or belittle anyone if he regards himself as lower than all? In the same way the practice of unceasing prayer obviously goes against the second kind of pride. For it is clear that a man inclines himself towards humility if, knowing that he can achieve no virtue without God's help, he never ceases to pray, asking God to show him mercy. Thus a man who prays without ceasing, if he achieves something, knows why he achieved it, and can take no pride in it; for he cannot attribute it to his own powers, but attributes all his achievements to God, always renders thanks to Him and constantly calls upon Him, trembling lest he be deprived of help. Thus he prays with humility and is made humble by prayer. The more he progresses in virtue the greater becomes his humility, and as his humility grows he receives help and again progresses in humility.

from E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, "Early Fathers from the Philokalia," (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), pp. 154 - 157

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...