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Pope Shenouda III
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Life of humbleness & meekness (3)

Pope Shenouda III | 17 July 2011

 • Once St. John the Short asked the brothers in the monastery, 'Who sold Joseph the righteous?' When they said, 'His brothers,' he said to them, 'No, not his brothers, but his humbleness, because he could say to those who bought him that he was the brother of the sellers, but in humbleness he kept silent, and was sold, yet he became governor of Egypt!' 

 St. Barsonofius said, 'Three virtues are very honorable. Who acquires them will be able to live amidst people or in the desert or anywhere else: namely, to blame oneself, to deprive oneself of one's desires, and to be below all the creation.
 He also said, 'The humble is underneath, and whatever is underneath cannot fall, whereas the lifted may easily fall.
  Mar Isaac said, 'Dignity flees from those who seek it, and seek those who flee from it!
 He also said, 'The more the humble degrade and deny themselves, the more they will gain dignity in the sight of all creation.'
 He also said, 'Nobody hates the humble, distresses him by a word, or disdains him, because his Master gave him the love of everybody. Wherever he goes everybody loves him and hold him in glory as if they see God's angel.'
When the wise, or who pretends to be wise, speaks, people hush him up, but they give the humble room to speak. Everybody listens to his wisdom and feels pleasure at his understanding and sweet words. To the taste of the listeners, his words are more delicious than honeycomb.
If humbleness lifts up the illiterate and unlearned, how much rather it will lift up the elite and venerable!  
  St. John of Assiut once was asked who the person is who has perfect knowledge, and he answered that it is he who considers all people better than himself. He also said, 'If we deal with ourselves as sinners, we will not be judged as sinners!'
 A Holy Father once said, "If someone with humble heartedness said to a friend, 'Forgive me'", the devils will burn. 
 St. Augustine likewise said, 'The bigger the building is, the deeper the foundation should be underneath. Likewise, the higher the building is, the lower the foundation should be. So, because the top is very high, that is, seeing God and His Kingdom and heaven, so also we have to bring the foundation deeper by humbleness. That is why we see the building underneath first, before seeing it up, and the top does not rise except after going down by humbleness.'
 He also said, 'Humbleness is the most esteemed virtue in the city of God, for it is the virtue which Christ the King of the City commended it to those who will dwell in it during their estrangement on the earth. In the same way, pride is the vice opposite to the virtue of humbleness. It is the vice prevailing over Satan the adversary of Christ, and is a feature of Satan's city. 
 Peladius, speaking about the faith of a priest of idols, said, 'He became a monk, and from the beginning he held to humbleness, saying, 'Humbleness is capable of putting to naught all power of the adversary, as I heard the demons saying: 'Whenever we arouse the monks, they hold to humbleness and apologize to each other. In this way they make void all our power!''
 The spiritual elderly father said, 'The treasure of the humble is within: that is the Lord.' He also said, 'Who cannot love you, O humble and good person, except one who always complains and grumbles, from whom you are away! Consider those great fathers of ours, how they paved the way for us … they put on the garment of humbleness, which is the garment of Christ, and by it they rejected Satan, and bound him with the fetters of darkness!'
 Abba Tadra is an example: The fetters of his prayers bound the demons outside his cell. He used to make himself the least of all people, and he even fled from the prestigious ministry.'
 Indeed, the soul of the humble is a dwelling place for God, as St. Evagrius said, 'The humble bows down his head with a contrite heart, and becomes a dwelling place for the Holy Trinity.'
 St. Simeon Al Amoudi said, 'Humbleness is the dwelling place of the Spirit, and the place of His rest.'
 Mar Aphram said, 'Great success and glorious honor is humbleness, and it involves no fall.'
 Mar Isaac said, 'Humbleness goes before grace, and greatness before disciplining.' This conforms to the words of St. James the Apostle, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Jas 4: 6) This is because the humble when the grace works within them and they succeed, their hearts are not lifted up. Rather each of them says with S. Paul the Apostle, "… yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor 15: 10). They put before their eyes the words of the Lord, "Without me you can do nothing." (Jn 15: 5) The proud is the opposite, whenever the grace works within him, he ascribes it to himself, and his pride increases. 
 His words also conform to the words of the Proverbs: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16: 18) The reason is that when the proud is puffed up, the grace forsakes him, so he falls that he may feel his weakness and be humbled and no more ascribes all success to his capability, efficiency or intelligence, forgetting the work of God in him. Such a proud person also falls because, "God resists the proud." (Jas 4: 6), because the proud do not put God before themselves nor give glory to God as Herod did, for "an angel of the Lord struck him … and he was eaten by worms and died." (Acts 12: 23) This is the end of the proud.
 St. Augustine has some contemplations on some Psalms related to humbleness, like (Ps 34: 18; 138: 6;113: 5- 8): "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit", "The Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly.", "Who is like the Lord our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes." St. Augustine, meditating on these Psalms, said, 'What a great mystery, my brethren! God is above all; if you raise yourself, you will not be able to touch Him. If you abase yourself, He will condescend to you!
God dwells on high in heaven. If you want to approach Him, be humble, for the higher you raise yourself, the farther He gets away from you. God is lofty as you know, so if you make yourself lofty like Him, He will move away from you. The Lord is high, yet He regards the lowly in heaven and on the earth. He raises the lowly, and He dwells in those whom He raises and makes of them His heavens. He is the high Lord who dwells in His saints. If we say that our Lord God regards the lowly in heaven, I suppose that by them is meant the humble who He called and already dwells in them, whereas those on the earth are those whom He calls to dwell in them.   
 St. Doretheos said, 'Who wants to build a house has to put mortar on each brick, without which the bricks and the house will both fall. Likewise, the bricks in the soul's building are the virtues, while the mortar is humbleness, for it is taken from the earth which is under the feet of everybody. Every virtue practiced without humbleness will be in vain. This is true, for some other fathers say the same, that every virtue practiced without humbleness will nourish the devil for vainglory.   
 Mar Isaac likewise said, 'As salt is necessary for all kinds of food, humbleness likewise is necessary for all virtues, for without it every work or virtue will be futile.'
 Mar Evagrius has the same opinion as Mar Isaac, for he says, 'Humbleness is a great gift from God, for how can anybody see himself so little!' Can one's nature change like that? Therefore, be sure that humbleness is a mysterious power, for nobody can degrade himself from all his heart without being forced to do!
 St. Augustine said, 'Let us hold to humbleness. If we already have it, let us not lose it. If not, let us learn it. Let us accept while in this life the commandment of humbleness so as to be worthy in the coming life of the dignity which God promised the humble.' 
 Other words of Mar Evagrius: 'Humbleness is a shield that protects the ascending. So, if you attain the height of virtues, you will need to be on your guard, because who is on the earth and falls will soon rise up. On the other hand, who is on high and falls will be tormented unto death.
 Mar Ephraim said, 'Learn from the person who cleans his house, for he bows his head to clean it, how much rather a person needs to bow diligently and humble himself to clean his soul and not leave anything in it which God hates!'
 He also said, 'In the humble soul, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwells, whereas in pride dwells he who said, "I will ascend into heaven … I will sit on the mount of the congregation … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High." (Isa 14)
 Mar Isaac said, 'Who speaks against the humble with disdain and scorn is not considered among the living, for he is like one speaking against God!'
He also said, 'Even the devils, in spite of all their evils and haughtiness, when they approach the humble they become like dust and all their evils, their malice and works come to naught.
'Who does not feel embarrassed when looking to the humble?! Before the glory of humbleness appeared, its holy shape had been scorned by everybody, but since the greatness of humbleness appeared in the whole world, everybody now reveres and honors it.
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