Patristic Tradition

On Humility ( 09.03.2009 )

Not many elders today understand the Lord's love for us, and know the soul's struggle against her enemies, and that these enemies are to be overcome by Christian humility.

The Lord so loves man that He gives him the gifts of the Holy Spirit but until the soul learns to preserve grace she is much tormented.

The first year after I received the Holy Spirit, I thought to myself, ‘The Lord has forgiven me my sins: grace is witness to this. What more do I need?’ But that is not the way to think. Though our sins be forgiven, we must remember them and grieve over them all our lives, so as to remain contrite. I did not do this, and ceased to feel contrite, and suffered greatly from evil spirits. And I was perplexed by what was happening to me, and said to myself, ‘My soul knows the Lord and His love. How is it that evil thoughts come to me?’ And the Lord had pity on me, and Himself taught me the way to humble myself – ‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.’ Thus is the enemy vanquished. But when my mind emerges from the fire, suggestions of passion gather strength again.

Whoever like me has lost grace, let him wrestle manfully with evil spirits. Know that you yourself are to blame: you fell into pride and vanity, and the Lord in His mercy is showing you what it means to be in the Holy Spirit and what it means to wage war against evil spirits. Thus the soul learns by experience the harm that comes of pride, and so shuns vainglory and the praises of man, and evil thoughts. Then will the soul begin to recover her health, and learn to preserve grace. How can we tell whether the soul is well or ailing? The ailing soul is full of pride, while the soul that is well loves the humility taught her by the Holy Spirit, and if she does not know this, she reckons herself the worst of all human beings.

Though the Lord take her to heaven each day and show her all the heavenly glory in which He dwells, and the love of the Seraphim and Cherubim, and all the Saints - even then, with the knowledge of experience the humble soul will say, ‘Thou, O Lord, shewest me Thy glory because Thou lovest Thy creature, but do Thou give me tears and the power to thank Thee. To Thee belongeth glory in heaven and on earth, but as for me - I must weep for my sins.’ There is no other way of preserving the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Lord in His mercy gives freely.

The Lord showed great pity on me and made me under­stand that I must weep all my life. Such is the way of the Lord. And so I write now out of pity for those who, like me, are puffed up with pride, and therefore suffer. I write that they may learn humility, and find rest in God.

Some say, this was so once upon a time but now it is over and done with; but with God nothing ever loses virtue — it is only we who change, get worse and lose grace. But to the man who beseeches the Lord all things are given, not because we are worthy but because the Lord is merciful and loves us.

I write of this because my soul knows the Lord.


Saint Silouan the Athonite