Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | April 20, 2009

Archimandrite Vasileios and Abba Isaac the Syrian on Humility

The clarity with which the good Archimandrite Vasileios and Abba Isaac the Syrian  manage  in discussion of humility seems very useful. Even the briefest of meditations on their offerings here seems to open doors for extending these thoughts in ways helpful for reducing what we need to know to the bare minimum. Minimalism may not be the Orthodox Way, but it is more in keeping with the limited retention capacities of  those of us more Thickheaded sorts. And realistic expectations of retention may be the beginning of far more wisdom than at least one of us manages for the time being. And then perhaps if one us retains a bit, then the prospects for one’s Orthopraxis extends far beyond the imagination where it seems so often confined. Hmmmm.

Humility is the end, the final goal.

All the struggles, the asceticism, the virtues, have the goal of bringing us to humility. “Without humility all our works are in vain, every virtue and every righteous labor.

The saints do not receive a reward for their virtue or their toil in pursuit of virtue, but because of the humility it engenders.

“If humility becomes ours, she will make us sons of God, and even without good works she will present us to God.” “But without her, works are of no profit to us, and rather prepare us for many evils.”

This is the fullness of the Kingdom; “the time appointed for the promise and the fulfillment of hope” (Vespers of Pentecost).

“Humility is a certain mysterious power which perfected saints receive when they have completed the whole course of their discipline.”

“This virtue includes all in itself.” It is the power that the Apostles received at Pentecost.

“It was concerning this that the Lord commanded: “Do not depart from Jerusalem, until you are clothed with power from on high”. Jerusalem is virtue; the power is humility.

In fact, it can be said that Abba Isaac is the great mystagogue of the mystery of humility. All his ascetical homilies have this as their goal and their source. All spiritual struggles flow out into the wide sea of humility. And from humility proceeds the divine rest which restores the beauty in which man was first created. “Anything whatsoever possessing humility is of its nature comely.”

He recognizes humility as deification (“the humble-minded man is reckoned by all as God”); and when he is about to speak of it, he hesitates and “is filled with fear” like one who knows that it means speaking about God.

This sacred hesitation and divine sensitivity rises from every page of his book, because the Abba overflows with the gift of humility.

And “this it is which has sweetened the fragrance of the race of men.”

May we, too, aspire to be so sweetened in due course…. this Pascha and ever.

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