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Life of humbleness & meekness (4)

Pope Shenouda III | 24 July 2011

  One of the brothers asked St. Abba Bachomios one day, saying, 'Tell us about one of the visions you see that we may benefit.' The saint said, 'A sinner like me does not see visions, but if you want to see a wonderful vision of real benefit to you, know that a true humble and pure person is better than all visions, for in such a person you will see the Invisible God. No vision is better'

 St. Augustine said, 'You want to have everything! Well. Ask for it with humbleness. The Lord commended the faith of the Canaanite woman who said to Him, "True, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." (Mt 15: 27, 28) Again, to the centurion who said, "I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof," the Lord said, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" (Lk 7: 6- 9) Therefore, let us hold to humbleness lest we lose it, and if we do not have it yet, let us learn it.
 Abba Abraksios said, 'Humbleness is the tree that rises high.' He also said, 'Follow the example of the tax-collector, so as not to be condemned with the Pharisee.'
 St. Abba Anthony said, 'Love humbleness, for it covers all sins.'
 Abba Barmonophius said, 'Seek to have humbleness, for it destroys all the snares of the enemy.'
 Abba Isaiah said, 'Love humbleness, for it protects you from sin.'
 Abba Bachomius said, 'Take the way of humbleness; for God never disappoints the humble, whereas the fall of the proud is awful.' Avoid then pride of the heart because it is the most awful vice.
 He also said, 'Be humble in order to be happy, because happiness conforms to humbleness. Be humble so that the Lord may guard and strengthen you, for He looks to the humble. Be meek, so that the Lord may fill you with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, for He guides the meek and teaches the humble His ways.
 Abba John the Short said, 'We should first of all be humble, for this is the first commandment of which the Lord said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5: 3)
 The Spiritual Elderly Father said, 'Brother, put on humbleness all the time, for by it you will put on Christ who gives it to you.'
 Mar Isaac said, 'Love humbleness in whatever you do, for it delivers you from the unperceived snares that are always set on the ways which the humble never walk.'
 He also said, 'Do not seek to be honored while you are full of wounds within. Hate honors, and you will get them. Do not love honoring lest you be scorned.' 'Honor flees from those who seek it, and seeks those who flee from it wisely, and reveals their humbleness to everybody.' 'Be humble in your greatness, and do not be puffed up in your lowliness. Humble yourself, and degrade yourself before all people, then you will be lifted up over all princes of this world.' 'Be illiterate in your wisdom, and do not feign to be wise while you are illiterate.'
 He also said, 'You miserable, if you want to find life, hold to faith and humbleness so that by them you may find mercy, help, and God's voice within your heart. If you want to receive all this, hold first to simplicity, and walk before God with simplicity rather than with prudence.'
 The spiritual elderly father said, 'The prophet says: Woe to him who is wise in his own eyes. So, be like a servant before his master, rather than a brother with his brothers. Be first in works that others do not like to do, and be last in arrangements and management. Put on humbleness all the time and it will make of you a dwelling place for God.'
 He also said, 'As youths are required to fast and live in asceticism, so also the elderly should be humble and submit, for they always are exposed to vainglory. They need the struggling of the soul more than of the body.' 'A hidden treasure will not diminish nor be robbed, so also the treasure of knowledge in the heart will not be robbed by vainglory.'
 Mar Ephraim once said, 'As the body needs clothing whether it is hot or cold, so also the soul always needs the garment of humbleness. The humbleness of the mind is the soul's treasure … You may walk with bare feet rather than be bare from humbleness, for the Lord covers those who like humbleness.'
 He also said, 'If you find yourself crowned with high virtues, you will need more to have a humble mind, so that the foundation may be sound and the building stable without shaking.' 'Do not hold yourself high, for you may undergo  some calamity, then you will rebuke those who think highly of you … Love humbleness, for it is a fence that cannot be destroyed by the enemy, and a rock that is capable of destroying the wiles of Satan.' 
 St. Makarius the Great said, 'Fasting without prayers is like a broken winged eagle.'
 Mar Isaac said, 'If you practice virtue well yet you do not feel its support, do not be astonished, for unless a person is humble in what he does, he will not rewarded for it … The reward is not granted for the work done, but for the humbleness accompanying it. So who loses humbleness, has actually wasted his labor and work.' 'If you tried all the phases of virtue, you will not nevertheless find rest, nor be delivered from the crafts of the enemy, until you attain to the humbleness phase.'
 St. Abba Anthony said, 'If we forget our sins, God will remember them, but if we remembered them, God will forget them.' Beware forgetting your sins lest you be puffed up and become righteous in your eyes. If you are fought with self-righteousness and honor, say to yourself, 'I do not deserve anything because of my sins. If God had covered my sins from the sight of the people out of His great love and mercy, though I know them well, I ought not forget them lest I be puffed up by vainglory.'
 St. Isizerus said, 'Great is the honor of humbleness, and the fall of the haughty is greater. I would that you abide by humbleness and you will never fall.'
 St. Augustine said, 'Be humble in your humble Lord, and you will be lifted up in your Glorified Lord.'
 
   Beware false humbleness:    
   Humbleness is not a mere word, but life with spiritual rules. It is connected with a big number of virtues leading to or ensuing from them. We have to consider all this and know the means leading to humbleness and practice them.
 
   First, we have to know true humbleness and avoid false humbleness, for many use words showing humbleness while they are far from its spirit. They may even say they are sinful and weak, but they do not bear to hear others say this. They may bow their heads before the others while their hearts and thoughts never bow.
 
   I was astonished one day when I read the opening article of a Coptic magazine in which the writer was speaking about the humbleness of the Lord Christ during His baptism and how He bowed before John the Baptist who was beyond measures lower than Him. He bowed because He wanted to bring all righteousness to perfection. The writer then concluded his article with the words, 'Grant us likewise, O Lord, to bow before those who are lower than us, that we may bring all righteousness into perfection.' So, if that writer feels within that the others are lower than him, his bowing will not be humbleness, since the heart is lifted up within and he looks upon them as lower!'
 
   John Cassian once told a story about St. Serapion the Great, saying, 'Once a monk visited him, and when the saint invited him to pray and meditate on the Scripture, the monk said, 'I am not deserving'. Then when the saint asked him to sit on the mat instead of sitting on dust, he again said he was undeserving. The saint therefore advised him to stay in his cell and not go here and there. At that point, the monk could not bear it and blushed like a lion. St. Serapion then said to him, 'Humbleness, my son, is not to blame yourself falsely! It is to bear blame from the others.'
 
   The saint in his wisdom wanted to say that some people attribute to themselves falsely certain qualities they themselves do not believe they actually have, or they describe themselves as sinful and weak so that the others may consider them humble and praise them! Yet, if those qualities were ascribed to them, they would get angry, and if they knew that the others might believe the bad qualities they ascribe to themselves, they would not say that at all. Do acquire then true humbleness, with inner true conviction that you truly have such weaknesses.'
 
   Mar Isaac warned against taking the words of humbleness as a means for pride, saying, 'If you degrade yourself to receive honor, the Lord will expose you.' 'If your degrade yourself for the sake of the truth, the Lord will make His creation praise you and open before you the door of His glory of which He spoke before times. They will glorify you as they do the Creator, because you will be truly in His image and likeness.'
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