In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen. + EXTREME HUMILITY! like a key, will unlock the chamber of our heart to God’s infinite grace, mercy and love. As Saint Dorotheos of Gaza explains in his Discourses and Sayings, it is of the utmost importance when seeking to develop our spiritual talents and virtues, that all the virtues be solidified in the mortar of humility. When one seeks to build a house, brick by brick the mason works, for as it is the mortar that keeps the house together; the foundation, the walls, the beams, the roof, it is much the same when building a spiritual dwelling of Christ-like virtues in our heart. Humility is required because it is the mortar which keeps everything together. Without mortar there is no house, without humility there is no virtue, nor salvation. Humility comes from true, correct and utter obedience to Christ. In Proverbs 1:7, we read, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” When one lives a life in truth, in complete obedience to Christ and His Holy Orthodox Church, with the fear of God, Μετὰ φόβου Θεοῦ, then this servant of the Lord, adorned with the virtue of humility, “Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not tire.” -Isaiah 40:31
It was in pride that the Prodigal Son turned away from the Father and squandered his inheritance, it was in pride that David turned from our Lord and committed grave sins, it was in pride that the Pharisee glorified himself and turned away from our Lord, it was in pride that the other criminal crucified beside our Lord berated Him and turned away from our Lord, it was in pride that Lucifer sought to outshine our Lord and be greater still, it was in pride that Lucifer fell.
As the Great General the Archangel Michael cried out in command to the angels following Satan into the bowels of hell, “Stand well, stand in awe!” I too, as your spiritual guide, your priest charged with serving this parish and the faithful, cry out, “Στῶμεν καλῶς· στῶμεν μετὰ φόβου!” “Stand well, stand in awe!” Do not fall into the demonic trap of pride set to ensnare each of us, it is this sinful pleasure which has destroyed countless souls before you, be on guard always, in every encounter and thought that you have, be on guard always against this destructive, worldly passion.
When a man is overcome with the demonic passion of pride, he becomes like a dumb man, like a madman in a rage, like a ravenous wolf seeking to destroy all others, like a dead-man dwelling among the dead. The ironic thing about this heinous and repulsive passion, the passion of pride, is that it is certainly considered attractive and outwardly beautiful in the context of this world. But let us recall Christ’s admonishing of the prideful Scribes and Pharisees, the hypocrites as they are called by Jesus, to them our Lord boldly states,“For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…” -Matthew 23:27-28
A life rooted in pride is a life set to destruction. But if prideful living leads to spiritual death, its exact opposite, a humble life in Christ, leads to life-eternal. “The humble are like nightingales,” says Saint Paisios,“That hide in ravines and spread joy to the souls of men with their sweet songs.”
It was precisely in this humility that David returned to our Lord and was blessed, and in humility the Prodigal returned to the Lord, and was blessed, in humility the Tax-collector returned to our Lord, and was blessed, in humility the Adulterous woman returned to our Lord, and was blessed, in humility the Apostles returned to our Lord, and were blessed, and it was upon the cross beside our Lord that the repentant thief humbly cried out, “Lord, remember me in Your kingdom.” To which our Lord responded, “Truly, truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” In Proverbs 11:2, we read, “Wherever pride enters, there also is dishonor, but the mouth of the humble meditates upon wisdom.” In humility the thief on the cross repented, returned to our Lord, was blessed, and entered the gates of paradise.
Humility comes from genuine and true repentance, from a life of μετάνοια. A complete transformation, from a life mired in sinfulness, to a life redirected in complete obedience to Christ, dwelling in His Holy Church. Saint Paisios shared with one of his spiritual children, “My brother, don’t ask for anything in prayer except for repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the grace of God…”
It is when we live a prideful life according to the pursuits of this world, when we live a life devoid of Christ and the virtue of humility, that we will be living a life contrary to Christ. With pride, we will seek not His will, but our own, with pride we will attack others, seek to embarrass others and even be so blinded to think we are doing good, from John 16:2, “Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father, nor Me.” With pride there is nothing, nothing but inevitable spiritual destruction and a temporary existence in fierce combat against our Lord. In Psalm 140:10, we chant, “The sinners shall fall into their own nets.” The net of pride and worldly pursuits will surely ensnare all who fall away from Christ. Christ has no need for the prideful, whatever good a prideful man does will like the haters of Zion be put to shame by the Lord Almighty, for as grass in the fire they shall be burned up.
Take courage dear brothers and sisters, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a greater, yet narrower way still. Saint Porphyrios subtly shares with his spiritual children,“With the spirit of God, we become incapable of every sin.”
The thief on the cross repented in humility, and through this act achieved salvation. Let us too, flee from every and any manner of pridefulness and seek rather true repentance, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Let us not waste a moment, but let us remember Christ’s words to His disciples and to each one of us in Mark 8:34, “All those who wish to follow me, deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Me.” As we exalt the Holy and Lifegiving Cross, we remember our Lord’s humility, for us the Cross is a symbol of victory over death, a symbol of Christ’s extreme humility. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” -1 Corinthians 1:18
Once, Saint Dorotheus, whom we commemorate today, sent his disciple to fetch water, but the disciple returned saying that he saw a snake in the well and that the water in the well was now poisoned. Saint Dorotheus went to the well himself, took up a ladle of water, and making the sign of the Cross over it, he drank it, saying: “Where the Cross is, there the demonic powers do no harm.” We can reflect upon the Saints words and boldly state, where humility is, pride vanishes like smoke from the fire.
The cross that each one of us bears, when coupled with humility, will, like a key, unlock the chamber of our heart to God’s infinite divine grace, mercy and love. And now for each of us too, let us reject the world, and the sickness of pride, let us follow Christ’s command, and in repentance and humility, deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him, always and forever to His glory, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Δόξα τω Θεώ!