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#1 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 04:55 PM

Dear friends,

Someone e-mailed recently to suggest we re-launch something we started out last year, but then rather piffled out on: a 'theme of the month' to invite various contributions around a specific, significant theme in Orthodoxy's patristic and monastic heritage.

So let us try! I've taken humility as a way to begin for October, given that it was suggested in the poll taken previously.

As before, all contributions on all things relating to the patristic and monastic understanding of humility most welcome!

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#2 Owen

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 07:36 PM

Maybe we should begin with the scroll that is seen in icons of St. Antony the Great. The inscription thereon reads, "I saw spread out over the world the traps of the demons, and asked 'How shall I escape these?' And a voice answered, 'Humility.'"

#3 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 07:54 PM

The man who endures accusations against himself with humility has arrived at perfection. He is marvelled at by the holy angels, for there is no other virtue so great and so hard to achieve.

St Isaac the Syrian

#4 Alice

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 08:44 PM

The man who endures accusations against himself with humility has arrived at perfection. He is marvelled at by the holy angels, for there is no other virtue so great and so hard to achieve.

St Isaac the Syrian


I am very interested in this..

Does this mean enduring accusations and slander without anger and attempts to self defend is humility?..
Is feeling a sense of defeat (helpless to do anything) the same as humility?
Is accepting that this is God's will and that there is nothing you can do to change it the same as humility?
Is keeping what you know about the accuser (which would clear your reputation and name) to yourself the same as humility?

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 10:26 PM

It would refer to the first one.

I am trying to find the story of the monk who was acused of impregnating a girl and was given the child to raise. He did not complain but took the child and began to raise it. Later in church the child still a babe was asked who the father was and said it was the blacksmith.

Another monk was accused by a prostitute of not paying and told his companion to pay her in full even though he did not do anything.

Paul

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 11:54 PM

I am very interested in this..

Does this mean enduring accusations and slander without anger and attempts to self defend is humility?..


Yes.

Is feeling a sense of defeat (helpless to do anything) the same as humility?

No.

Is accepting that this is God's will and that there is nothing you can do to change it the same as humility?

Not exactly. Not wanting or needing to change is not the same as not being able to change.

Is keeping what you know about the accuser (which would clear your reputation and name) to yourself the same as humility?

It can be.

#7 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 12:13 AM

Dear Alice, you wrote:

Does this mean enduring accusations and slander without anger and attempts to self defend is humility?..
Is feeling a sense of defeat (helpless to do anything) the same as humility?
Is accepting that this is God's will and that there is nothing you can do to change it the same as humility?
Is keeping what you know about the accuser (which would clear your reputation and name) to yourself the same as humility?


Perhaps it might be better to say that these are the tools of humility. They are parts of the ascetic arsenal. But pride can destroy and bring down even good tools.

Enduring accusations without offering self-defense or self-justification, if interiorly, in the heart, this builds up pride and self-satisfaction at how righteously one is behaving, is certainly not humility!

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#8 Paul Cowan

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 02:45 AM

Fr. Dcn;

Seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don't .

If we don't control our humility we get prideful. If we do control our humility we still can get prideful from the control of it. So how is a person to be emotionally neutral? I don't like to think I give alms for personal gain, but truth be told, I do have in the back of my mind, "I should help this person, its a "good" thing to do". Not that I am keeping a tally of who I help out, but it does cross my mind, "here's one more to help".

Paul

#9 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 08:47 AM

Do others feel humbled when they reflect on creation?

When I read Scripture I often find myself embaressed that I can get so caught up on "trivial matters" and think something of myself ... the reason is that I witness in the writing God's awesomeness and I really do stop and contemplate on what I am reading ... sometimes, God even has to tell it to me (us) straight. There are many wonderful examples of this delightful 'humbling' in the presence of the Word.

So, with this thought, I decided to open my Orthodox Bible randomly and offer passages from that section that I feel inspire 'humbling' in the presence of our Lord or where the Lord himself reminds us to be humble. Here goes:

The Bee

"The bee is small among winged creatures, But her fruit is first among sweet things. Do not boast about your fine clothes, Nor magnify yourself in the day you are honored; Because the works of the Lord are wondrous, and His works are hidden from men." ~Wisdom of Sirach 11.3-4

Clay in the Potters Hand

"All His ways are according to His good pleasure. Like clay in a potter's hand, Thus men are in the hand of Him who made them, To render them according to His judgement." ~Wisdom of Sirach 33:13

Job responding to the Lord:

"Even if I rebuke the Lord, hear such things, and am nothing? But what answer will I give to these things? I will put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once. I will not do so a second time." ~Job 40:4-5

Job's confession and repentance

" ... But hear me, O Lord, that I also may speak, I will ask You, and please teach Me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear. But now my eye sees You. Therefore I depreciate and waste away. I regard myself as dust and ashes." ~Job 42:4-6.

Abraham intercedes for Sodom

" ... Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: But suppose there were five less than ... " ~ Genesis 18 ...

#10 Alice

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:05 AM

It seems to me that one can exercise and practice humility because one knows it is the right thing to do without being prideful and thinking one is 'good' because of it.

We do many things because we know that they are what we are supposed to do by God..Unless we are saints, and even priests have said this, we are all human and we all struggle with the temptation to various sins. Since pride is a sin, if we consciously struggle against it, that should be a good thing. I don't think that knowing that we are doing the right thing is akin to pride...if we sin, we know that we will account for it in confession, so why do it, if we can help ourselves?

Perhaps there is a difference between a healthy ego/self esteem and the humility which accompanies it which consciously tries to keep pride in check , and practicing too much humility (for instance a person who always says and believes they are worthless).

Also, when one lives in the world there are many situations which need discernment.

I think that here is a good example of a good balance of humility to practice which can be applied to many situations: A priest of a certain parish once said in his sermon, (and in the particular congregation this was needed as the ethos there was to laud their successes) that if our children are successful and bright, that we shouldn't be prideful inside and think that it is because we have been great parents, and we are so smart, and did everything right, but rather give thanks to God for the gift, because it is He that bestows all good things and deemed it to be brought to our children and nothing that we did in particular.

I think another example of healthy humility is one I also heard (and can be a particular problem in parish communities, especially among women)...that we should give credit to others where they have been bestowed their particular talent and defer to that talent, rather than begrudge them and think that we are the best in all things. How many times I have heard my parish priest complain of the clash of egos that goes on in the women's Philoptochos society and the Parish Council, -- because everyone thinks they know best, they are the smartest, etc.

I think all in all, if we were to follow the ways of an earlier and more pious Orthodox generation, where after sharing any good thing of their lives, they added, 'Doxa ton Theo' (Glory and thanks to God), we would all automatically be more humble and that would be a good beginning to practicing it in all aspects of our secular lives.

In Christ,
Alice

#11 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 11:05 AM

Seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. If we don't control our humility we get prideful. If we do control our humility we still can get prideful from the control of it.


It seems to me that one can exercise and practice humility because one knows it is the right thing to do without being prideful and thinking one is 'good' because of it.


Precisely! And this is the very aim of the ascetical life: that we come to exercise these things as tools to humility rather than the fodder of pride. We must simply be aware that our sin can transform potential good into evil; and then reside in the wisdom of the Church to guide us aright in ensuring that it doesn't.

My thanks to you both for your comments.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#12 Mary

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 12:36 PM

Fr. Dcn;

Seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don't .

Paul


This was one of the first quotes that I heard from St John Climacus, while I was still looking into Orthodoxy. I totally love it:

"The sun shines on all alike, and vainglory beams on all activities. For instance I am vainglorious when I fast, and when I relax the fast to be unnoticed, I am again vainglorious by my prudence. When I am well dressed, I am quite overcome by vainglory. When I put on poor clothes, I am vainglorious again. When I talk I am defeated and when I am silent I am again defeated by it. However I throw this prickly pear, a spike stands upright." - St. John Climacus

Mary

#13 Michael Woods

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:08 AM

'Once a brother asked Saint Pachomius, the Father of communal monasterial life, saying: "Tell us about a vision from the visions which you see, so that we may profit by it."

The Saint replied: "Those who are like me, a sinner, are not given visions. But if you want to see brilliant vision from which you can truly profit, I shall guide you to it. If you see a humble man with a pure heart, that would be greater than all the visions; because through that vision, you would see the invisible God. Do not ask for a better vision." (That is, he means that he sees the image of God in that man.)'

#14 Ilaria

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:05 AM

Fr. Dcn;

Seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don't


Exactly! And this is how we get to understand that virtues are linked one with another, as well as sins
my question: which would be the virtue that is definitely linked with humility?

#15 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 08:14 AM

Exactly! And this is how we get to understand that virtues are linked one with another, as well as sins
my question: which would be the virtue that is definitely linked with humility?


The fathers tell us "Remembrance of Death", this is especially articulated well in the Life of St Silouan the Athonite by Elder Sophrony, God bless their souls.

#16 Peter S.

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 09:00 PM

The fathers tell us "Remembrance of Death", this is especially articulated well in the Life of St Silouan the Athonite by Elder Sophrony, God bless their souls.


Didnt elder Cleopa say that we must keep the remembrance of death at our left side and the fear of God on our right side. Then we will walk straight, in front of God. Alongside with the Jesusprayer in our heart he also says. And the mind in the heart.

#17 Lourens

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 06:38 AM

I believe true humility lies primarily in realizing one's correct state before God, rather than the way one is or "acts" among men.

What is the state of heart and mind when there is no (human) audience; when "alone" with God?

From an inward disposition that has realized, "God is God; I am not," will flow an outward humility expressed variously, employing the tools of humility (Fr Dcn Matthew).

Yet for humility to be true, one has to acknowledge both limitation and potential: Yes, God is holy, and I, the sinner, am not; but because God is holy, I am (to be) holy in Him (first), in order that I may be holy in all conduct or manner of living (as a result)[1 Peter 1:15].

A humility that results from a complete submission to Divine order has one knowing that "I can think, say, or do nothing of my own, but I think, speak, and act only as the Father enables me."

Such a soul has had a deep realization that in Him we live and move and have our being; in Him we live and act and are.

Respectfully,

Learner
.

#18 Alice

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:25 AM

Most of you probably know of the holy young hieromonk who conversates about Orthodoxy and spirituality with Prof. Kyriakos Markides in thei in his book 'A Mountain of Silence'. That hieromonk is now the Bishop of Limassol in Cyprus. Here in Athens we are lucky to have the Church of Piraues radio station to listen to all day and night, and many are the times which we are blessed to hear the charismatic Bishop and his culturally relevant sermons. Today was one such day on my way in the car to an errand.

The theme today was getting closer to God and how when we ask for this blessing, we are given the answer through situations--though they are not always answered in the way which we thought they might be.

Today, His Grace offered a true situation which happened to Elder Paissios of the Holy Mountain. He was in Greece somewhere at one time where he was walking on his way to a nearby church to receive Holy Communion. On the way, he asked God to help him be more humble...

Upon reaching the church, he presented himself to the Priest and informed him that he would like to receive Holy Communion. The Priest told him to stay in the altar where he would give him the Mystery, rather than go outside the altar and have to contend with the crowds. Before the time of offering Holy Communion, all of a sudden the Priest started to yell loudly, to swear at, and to insult the Elder--even bringing up sins of his past! The laity had no idea what was going on and they were stupified at the commotion which they were hearing from behind the altar. At the end of the service, the Priest suddenly became quite composed and sought the Elder's forgiveness saying that he did not know what came over him. It seems, says the Bishop, that God used this situation to answer the Elder's prayers to grant him humility.

Another story I caught in this sermon, related to how God answers prayers we seek for spiritual growth, but not always the way we hope for, was the story of a young woman. She prayed that she might get married in order to grow spiritually. She, ofcourse had in mind, a nice Christian family, a husband who would pray the morning and evening prayers with her, pray the prayer rope with her, etc...Well, she did indeed get married, but her married life was not the spiritual haven which she had hoped would help her grow in the Lord. Her husband was very difficult and was not at all the type who wanted to pray with her and share in the religious life with her. This difficulty helped her grow much in the Lord, as she clung to Him more and more for strength and consolation. His Grace pointed out that God had answered her prayer for a married life which would help her get closer to Him--just not in the way which she had envisioned it.

In Christ,
Alice

Edited by Alice, 16 October 2009 - 11:17 AM.


#19 Peter S.

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:14 PM

I know st. Benedict writes 12 steps of humility in his ch.7 of his monastic rule if I am not wrong. One of them (the first) is about fearing God. The second is to give up ones will. the third is about obedience to the abbot, and so on. But these are tools arent they? As humility is a virtue. But my question: Isnt humility a state primarly? A state in union with God, as when your mind is in the heart. Or is it also virtue? Is it a quality one has?

My assumption is that there are many states of mind that are humility. Many "humilities"/states I mean which all are Humility. The state in union with God as when st. Paul was in the 3. heaven. The 12. step of st. Benedict is a state where you naturally are doing the good in grace and happiness. With power from Christs love. It can be different kinds of living which results in different states. But in Philokalia (Kallistos and Ignatios Xan.) it says that the best way/kingly road is by the Jesusprayer and the mind in the heart. It can also be by another tool (one of the 12. steps?), ie in service as a servant to others (a lowly person). I assume this.

And that the monk also in the 12.step (naturally?) has a body language and carriage which shows that you are humble and a lowly person. But this is for monastics. Maybe he ment that you should have this carriage anyhow if it comes "naturally" or not, I mean if you are aware of it or not. Then I think it is something new and westernly and not what was practiced in Egypt, but I dont know. I know st. Benedict mentions the rule of st. Basilios, but not more.

Peter

#20 Peter S.

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:34 PM

The rule of st. Benedict also says that when one has accomplished all the steps and live in happiness one is not longer acting in fear of Gehenna. I dont know if this fear corresponds to remembrance of death. I dont think so but he is not mentioning remembrance of death in the 12. steps of humility.

In Christ
Peter




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