Reflection: Humility

saintjustinpopovichwithchildFaith has its own thought-forms, having as it does its own way of life.  A Christian not only lives by faith [1], but also thinks by faith.  Faith presents a new way of thinking, through which is effected all the work of knowing in the in the believing man.  This new way of thinking is humility.

Within the infinite reality of faith, the intellect abases itself before the ineffable mysteries of new life in the Holy Spirit.  The pride of the intellect gives way to humility and modesty replaces presumption.  The ascetic of faith protects all his thoughts through humility, and thereby also ensures for himself the knowledge of eternal truth.

Drawing its strength from prayer, humility goes on growing and growing without end.  St. Isaac teaches that prayer and humility are always equally balanced, and that progress in prayer means progress also in humility, and vice-versa.  Humility is a power that collects the heart within itself and prevents its dissipating itself in proud thoughts and lustful desires.

Humility is upheld and protected by the Holy Spirit, and not only draws man to God, but also God to man.  Furthermore, humility was the cause of the Son of God taking flesh, that closest union of God with man: Humility made God a man on earth. Humility is the adornment of divinity, for the Word made flesh spoke with us through the human body with which had clothed himself.

Humility is a mysterious, divine power which is given only to the saints, to those who are perfected in the virtues, and it is given by grace.  It contains all things within itself.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit the mysteries are revealed to the humble, and it is these humble ones who are thereby perfect in wisdom.  The humble man is the fount of the mysteries of the new age.

Humility is temperance, and the two of them prepare in the soul a pledge for the Holy Trinity.  Temperance derives from humility, and it is by humility that the intellect is healed and made whole.  From humility flow a meekness and recollection that is the temperance of the sensesHumility adorns the soul with temperance.

When turned toward the world, a humble man reveals the whole of his personality through humility, imitating in this God incarnate.  Just as the soul is unknown and invisible to the bodily sight, so a humble man is unknown among men.  He not only seeks to be unnoticed by men but to be as utterly recollected within himself as is possible, becoming as one who does not exist on earth, who has not yet come into being, and who is utterly unknown even to his own soul.  A humble man belittles himself before all men, but God therefore glorifies him, for where humility blossoms, there God’s glory sprouts abundantly,and the plant of the soul produces an imperishable flower.


Endnotes:

[1] Second Corinthians 5:7

The text above is from Saint Justin Popovich’s essay The Theory of Knowledge of Saint Isaac The Syrian.  This is the fifth of several installments.  I am splitting up parts of his essay into short reflections.  Text in italic font is where St. Justin directly quotes St. Isaac.

The quoted text is taken from Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, which is a collection of essays by St. Justin Popovich, compiled and translated by Fr. Asterios Gerostergios.

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Jeremiah

Growing up in non-denominational churches, I became weary of many practices in the church. I decided it was time to find a church that enabled me to grow in my faith and talents, but that was also theologically deep. I was drawn to the Eastern Orthodox Church for several reasons. Check out my blog which details my journey into this ancient faith.

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