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Humility


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#21 Antonios

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 03:38 AM

"God wants and desires only one thing from us: our humbleness. He does not need anything else; just to humble ourselves, so He can actually make us partakers of His divine grace, which was granted to us through the mystery of Holy Baptism. Although we did not love Him yet, neither had we struggled to acquire His grace, He gave it to us as a gift out of His extreme kindness. He is only asking from us to humble ourselves and respond out of gratefulness and appreciation to His love. Thus, divine grace, which abides in us, will be activated and function accordingly. It will make us love God and get to know Him; it will do everything for us, if we only humble ourselves and allow for it to act."
(Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pg.88)

#22 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:22 PM

Dear friends,

I've enjoyed very much reading the comments in this thread - do keep them coming.

A thought that perhaps emerges out of them: How does one approach humility? It is well and good to say that we must be humble; can we perhaps focus on the practical steps the Fathers provide for attaining it?

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#23 Paul Cowan

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:42 PM

This is that double edged sword I spoke of earlier Fr. To say "how" I try to be humble no longer makes me humble in that I "show off" how I am humble.

But to risk not obeying, When in a meeting or just a personal conversation people are giving their opinions to this or that, I check myself to see if what I have to say is relevant or self promoting or even worth the very air my words may linger in. I am a very soft sopken person and since others know this about me, they talk over me or interrupt me to say what they have to say. I am polite and stop talking so they can but when they stop, I try again and am interrupted again. At this point, I figure God does not want me to share what I have to say, so I just keep quiet. Which perpetuates my soft-spokeness. When I press my opinion in a conversation, it is quite obvious how poorly my thoughts are received by others and helps remind me that I don't know as much as I think I do.

So as the Fathers say; Or rather what my dad used to say; Keep your mouth shut and show people how smart you are.

Paul

#24 Father David Moser

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:53 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.


This sounds quite a bit like St Silouan's "Keep your mind in hell and despair not"

Fr David Moser

#25 Peter S.

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 04:06 PM

This sounds quite a bit like St Silouan's "Keep your mind in hell and despair not"

Fr David Moser


Yes I also thought of that. But I thought more in the direction that when a sinner and criminal has in mind the thought of punishment, I mean possibility of a Hell, it prevents the criminal for doing more crime then what he actually does. It is so with me by experience that when I think of punishment I do less crime and sin. But this is fear of death isn't it. It is not remembrance of death?? And I don't think I practice by this what St. Silouan says by keeping your mind in hell. Maybe my fear is just the first step of that realization of not desparing in keeping my mind in hell? I doubt that and am not sure...Interrested in thoughts about this practice.

I think st. Benedict experienced that when he lived in grace he didn't fear Gehenna, so that means that keeping your mind in hell is a tool. A tool of humility?? I have problems with link my fear of the Judgement and st. Silouans "Keep your mind in hell" for the little I know.

And I agree whith what was written here: Anyhow I am doomed.


In Christ
Peter

#26 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 09:11 PM

We should never judge ourselves by saying we are "doomed" - it is simply best to reply "I am trying and whatever God wills for me"; forgive me this is the advice of Elder Porfyrios.

How do we approach humility? I am wondering if it is worth exploring St. Augustine's work because I have heard that he places humility at the center of Christian life and provides a Christological hermeneutic for distinguishing between true and false humility; all Christian virtues are rooted in these attributes revealed through Jesus Christ.

Extreme Humility
How can we go past the "Extreme Humility" as central to the theme of "humility"! In Greek, known as the "Akra Tapinosi".

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#27 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:38 AM

This is that double edged sword I spoke of earlier Fr. To say "how" I try to be humble no longer makes me humble in that I "show off" how I am humble.


Quite, Paul. But perhaps this is one of the many reasons it is helpful to look at the writings and examples of the Fathers, rather than ourselves. Most of us are far from pure enough to speak of our spiritual contest without it being either rooted in, or in some dangerous way, connected to our own pride; and so we all struggle (to various degrees) with the dangers connected to statements of 'I do this...'. But the Church knows this, and it is one of the reasons she preserves as so sacred the lives of the saints who have gone before and now surround us - those whose message, whose examples, of obtaining humility is a sure guide in our day.

Thank you for your comments.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#28 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:47 AM

I'm grateful that Vasiliki posted a copy of the 'Extreme Humility' icon in the context of this discussion. The history of this icon I always find as spiritually helpful as the icon itself. It stems from the days when the burial shroud of Christ was kept in Constantinople, in the Great Church, in a wooden box in the altar. At certain points in the year, the box was brought out to the front of the Royal Doors, and placed in front of a large cross stood there. Then (and this is the suggestion of historians who have studied it) a rather ingenious mechanism of extendible wooden rods was used to raise the shroud out of the box so that it 'stood aright' before the cross - and the faithful, who prostrated themselves, were faced with this icon of Christ in His divine rest, before His Cross: the true sign of deepest humility, that the Son sacrifice Himself to death for the sake of man.

So what does the offering of Christ teach, in terms of our struggle to obtain genuine humility? At the arrival of unjust persecution, bow your head. At the jeers of false accusations, cross your arms over your heart, whether physically or interiorly, and gratefully receive what is spitefully offered. And when faced with the question, 'How far, how far do I tolerate this shame, this injustice', remember that the answer is the grave. This is what the icon labels 'Extreme Humility', and it is humility that we venerate and must strive to emulate each day.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#29 Peter S.

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 10:30 AM

We should never judge ourselves by saying we are "doomed" - it is simply best to reply "I am trying and whatever God wills for me"; forgive me this is the advice of Elder Porfyrios.


I only meant as Paul we are doomed if we are prideful, and when we are not we are doomed because we are prideful in having that attitude.

Peter

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 20 October 2009 - 11:58 AM.
fixed quote


#30 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 11:05 AM

Elder Paisios on Humility, from p. 234 the Book 'With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man' p. 234

"In other words, Geronta, lack of humility and piety leads people to misinterpret the Gospel?"

"That's right; because, when humility is missing, the interpretations we are likely to give are the product of logical reasoning alone; they lack divine illumination"

#31 Peter S.

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 01:31 PM

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


Paul Cowan

Hi Vasiliki.

This I ment. Damned, not doomed... Sorry.

Peter

#32 Father David Moser

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 02:23 PM

This is that double edged sword I spoke of earlier Fr. To say "how" I try to be humble no longer makes me humble in that I "show off" how I am humble.


I recall many years ago when I was still a young deacon, I served at a liturgy where there was a bishop and a whole pack of priests, but only one deacon (myself). Needless to say I was quite busy and every priest had a suggestion, demand, request, whatever for me. By the end of the liturgy, I was run ragged and felt as though I had been dragged this way and that by the whole lot of them. Then one priest came up to me and complimented me that I served with great humility. In retrospect, I understand where that comment came from in that I was trying to be obedient to all and thus considered all there to be greater than I, however, at the time I was completely mystified why he would say such a thing. I will say, however, that this one comment proved to be a great temptation for me because for many years after that I was always trying to live up to that comment and serve "humbly". I took pride in my "humble" service. Even now I have to struggle with setting aside the pride of humility because of that one comment many years ago.

Fr David Moser

#33 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 12:40 AM

I was told by someone I respect to never compliment a monk when I was on the Holy Mountain or anywhere as it would be a temptation for them. I did not understand. I did after I struggled with my temptation to offer a compliment.

#34 Ilaria

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 07:31 AM

I think that humility by itself will never "show up" alone; virtues are nourishing one another
Love teaches us humility. And humility keeps love alive.

#35 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 09:18 AM

All virtues are gifts of the Holy Spirit; without God's grace and blessing, a virtue can not grow in the garden of our heart!

St Silouan on Humility:

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." ...

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.

To learn Christ-like humility is a great good. To the man who knows humility life is smooth and joyous, and the heart finds all things pleasant. Only to the humble does the Lord reveal Himself in the Holy Spirit, and if we do not humble ourselves we shall not see God. Humility is the light in which we may behold the Light which is God-in the words of the Psalmist: 'In thy light shall we see light. (Ps. xxxvi:9) The Lord taught me to stay my mind in hell, and not despair, and thus my soul humbles herself, but this is not yet true humility, which no words can describe. When the soul approaches the Lord she is afraid, but when she sees the Lord, the beauty of His glory fills her with innefable joy, and in the love of God and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the earth is quite forgot. [See post on Contemplation] This is the paradise of the Lord: All will live in love, and their Christ-like Humility will make every man happy to see others in greater glory. The humility of Christ dwells in the lowly ones-they are glad to be the least of men.

The man who has come to know God by the Holy Spirit has learned Humility of Him, and become like to His Master, Christ the Son of God, and is fashioned in His image:

O Lord, vouchsafe unto us the gift of Thy holy humility. O Lord, give us freely of Thy humble Holy Spirit, just as Thou didst freely come to save Thy people, and raise them to heaven that they might behold Thy glory. O Christ-like humility! I know thee but cannot attain unto thee! Thy fruits are sweet for they are not of this earth.

Great pains are needed, and many tears must be shed, to preserve the humble spirit of Christ.

Our hearts are frozen cold and we have no understanding of Christ's humility or love. True, this humility and love are made known through the grace of the Holy Spirit, but we do not believe it possible to draw this grace to ourselves. To do so, we must desire it with our very soul.

Edited by Vasiliki D., 21 October 2009 - 09:22 AM.
remove line breaks - continuous flow of post.


#36 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 03:05 PM

I do not think there are absolutes. One ascetic may, from his own experience and observation, accentuate one step toward humility, but it is not to the exclusion of others, which in fact may be more relevant to another person.

I know a young man who tried to commit suicide three times. The first two times he hung himself from a tree. The first time he passed out and awoke later with a sore neck and a headache. He determined to try again, this time with a longer rope so that he could succeed in breaking his neck. The second time failed as well. Being a mechanic and an engineer, he then devised a plan to kill himself with carbon monoxide. He removed the CO monitor from his car and placed it on the seat next to him so that he could monitor the CO level as it rose. He had diverted the exhaust into the interior of the car, and sealed it with an expensive type of insulation tape he had purchased. He fell asleep as he watched the CO indicator rise to well beyond the fatal level. He awoke several hours later. At that point he cried out to God to "fix" his life. The next day he was stopped in a routine traffic stop and he swears to this day that cocaine was planted by the cops. Who knows? The point is that he waited 10 months in jail without bail for his trial, and then the charges were dropped. But he is convinced that this was God's way of protecting him from killing himself by giving him time to reflect on his life and the changes that he needed to make. Does he now have humility? He's working on that, but he now recognizes the nature of the problem!

#37 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 09:17 PM

Dear Owen, while I sympathise for your suicidal friend and pray that his journey in humility becomes clearer, as does my own journey, the purpose of this thread is to share patristic thougths on humility?

TREASURE OF HUMILITY

In verses 1 to 11 from chapter 14, the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus Christ, in particular, says the following:

"When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

Reflecting on the above-mentioned, St. Theophanes, the Recluse writes the following:

"When you are invited somewhere, do not take the best place [Lk.l4:8]. Or, more generally, under any circumstances choose the lowliest part. The whole treasure of humility is condensed in this simple rule. Look into it carefully, examine various life situations and in each case make a choice of the lowliest part for yourself in advance. That will be your practice in humility; from the outward behavior it will gradually move inside, and sprouts of humility will be planted deep in your soul. As time goes by, they will grow, fed by the same practice, and eventually humility will fill up your soul and body and your entire life.

What will be the outcome? Moral nobility will shine upon you and cause everyone's respect: as it is written, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted". [Lk. 14:11]. But never think about it when practicing humility; think about humility itself. It brings blissful serenity into your soul; it eliminates all worries inside and shields your soul from all troubles outside. Just like a wave, meeting no obstacles, moves on without a splash or toss in the open sea, so the afflictions, inside and outside, never batter a humble soul, but move above it, so to speak, leaving no trace.

This could be called a practical advantage of a humble soul; and what a great light from above shines upon it, what comfort is given to it, what freedom is granted! Truly, humility alone is the focus of everything good!.."



Voice of Russia, 08.09.2009.

#38 Michael Woods

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 10:08 PM

"And what is the roof? It is my mind, which over - arches all that is within me. It is a roof made of many earthen and clay tiles, signifying earthly affairs. But if all these things are pulled away, and the strength of the mind within us is opened up and freed of the weight of earthly things, then I will be lowered, that is, I will be humbled. For I ought not to rise up in pridefulness that I have been unburdened of earthly things; but instead, after I have been unburdened of earthly things, I ought to be lowered, that is, humbled."
(St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

#39 John Frangos

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 11:00 AM

The word humility always reminds me of the word meek which in turn reminds me of the beatitudes. So I thought I'd have a look and see whether humility rates a mention in the beatitudes or how it fits in. Although not specifically mentioned it appears to be a prerequisite to each of the 8 beatitudes....!

#40 Mary M.

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 04:35 AM

Seems like humility is also recognizing that we're limited and need God's help. I can plan to cross the street to get to the other side,and though I'm careful I can't foresee a car running the red light or other disaster.I must depend on God to see me safely across the street; it really isn't up to me.

My mother is one of the most humble people I know in that when she knows she's in the wrong she humbly defers and accepts correction. It is amazing and very beautiful to watch her do that;very inspiring.




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