Saint John Climacus
Anyone who’s vainglorious is a Christian idolater. Externally they pretend to worship God, but in fact their aim is to please other people, not Him. Everybody who wants to show off is vainglorious. If people such as that fast and pray, they get no reward from doing so. Because they do both to win the acclaim of other people.
God often hides from our eyes any good thing we might have about us. But anybody who praises us, or rather deceives us with praise, opens our eyes. And as soon as that happens, our inner riches simply disappear. It’s a great achievement if your can expel other people’s praise from your soul. But it’s an even greater accomplishment if you can reject the praise of the demons which urges you to boast and be proud inside yourself.
Real humility isn’t that you belittle yourself of your own volition. Because who hasn’t any patience with their own self? People who are really humble continue to love others even when being laughed at by them. People who boast of their natural gifts, that is their wit, their perception, their mellifluous tones and anything else that people acquire without much effort, will never gain supernatural gifts. Because if you’re ungrateful over little things, you’ll be shown to be the same over important ones.
There’s the glory that God gives, as He Himself confirms: “I will glorify those who glorify me (I Kings 2, 30). There’s also the glory that comes from the devil, through the praise of other people. This is why the Lord said: “Woe betide you when everyone praises you” (Luke 6, 26).
You’ll recognize and know full well the glory that God gives when you count as damage the glory given by other people, when you avoid at all cost and when, wherever you find yourself, you hide your way of life. But you’ll also know the glory of others when you do every little thing “to be seen by people”.
When they start to praise us, or, rather, deceive us, let’s quickly recall the multitude of our sins and then we’ll certainly be cognisant that we don’t deserve what they’re saying about us. Whenever there’s a fall into some sin, it’s always preceded by pride. “Pride goes before a fall”.
Proud people are like a pomegranate that’s shiny on the outside and rotten within. Because they’ve become very devils and enemies to their own selves. Those who are irrevocably linked to humility, become so much milder than other people, kind, caring and devout. They become peaceful, joyful, tractable, vigilant and tireless.
It’s my view that only the angels in heaven are able not to sin at all. Because I heard the earthly angel, Saint Paul, say: “It’s true that my conscience doesn’t trouble me over anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m really innocent. The only one who can judge me is the Lord: (I Cor. 4, 4).
Knowing that inner virtue is linked to external appearance, the Lord took on the garb of a servant and washed the feet of His disciples, indicating to us the method we should apply in order to progress along the path of humility. Because our soul is affected by our external concerns; what we do is imprinted on it and it conforms with that. If pride made some angels into devils, humility can certainly make demons angels. So, for this reason, let those who’ve fallen take courage.
Let’s struggle with might and main to reach the head of humility. And if we can’t manage that, at least let’s get to the shoulders. And if even that’s too much, let’s not miss out even on its embrace. Because I’m afraid that people who lose out on that as well won’t be in any position to gain anything at all in eternity.
Source: Φωνή των Πατέρων [Voice of the Fathers] 2, Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, Oropos.