“One of the Fathers used to say, “Before anything else we need humility: a being ready to listen whenever a word is spoken to us, and to say, “I submit.” Because through humility every device of the enemy, every kind of obstacle, is destroyed.” (page 94) For humility alone can bring us into the spiritual life (as Abbot John used to say) even if slowly.
YES! We are very weak, and cannot labor very much, but can we not at least be humble? Happy indeed, brothers, is the one who has true humility. (Page 95)
When Blessed Anthony saw all the snares of the devil spread everywhere, he sighed, and asked God how anyone could ever avoid them. God answered him, “Humility. It is humility that enables you to escape them all!” And what is more astonishing, he added, “They cannot even touch you.”
Everyone faces painful experiences. How we handle these experiences can reveal our humility or our pride. Dorotheos gives us practical direction by showing us how a humble man handles painful experiences, “If a painful experience comes to a humble man, straightway he goes against himself, straightway he accuses himself as the one worthy of punishment, and he does not set about accusing anyone or putting the blame on anyone else.”
Two kinds of pride
- Despise a brother and consider him lower
- Lift yourself up against God
Two kinds of humility
- Hold a brother as wiser than yourself
- Attribute to God all virtuous acts
Dorotheos tells us that the closer we get to God the more we see ourselves as sinners. When we are humble we begin to bear fruit. “Every single one of the saints…acquired this humility from the fulfillment of the Commandments.” When you read the Desert Fathers you hear stories of great miracles, discernment and clairvoyance. The punch line almost always comes on their deathbed. The classic story is of the adoring disciples of a great Desert Father or Mother. They tell him that obviously he is going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They almost always answer, “I am only a beginner.” The cycle of prayer and humility is something to take note of: the humble prays and through his prayer grows in humility.
It is not only in prayer, but physical position can affect the disposition of the soul. “The dispositions of soul of a healthy person are one thing: those of a sickly person, another; of a hungry person, another; of a well-fed person, another. Similarly the dispositions of a man riding a horse differ from those of a man riding a donkey; those of the man seated on a throne from those of man sitting on the floor. The dispositions of one beautifully clothed differ from one in rags.” (page 102)
Dorotheos ends his thoughts with a blessing: “May God, who is so good, grant us the grace of humility which delivers man from so many evils and delivers him from the greatest temptations.”