Acquiring a Humble Mind

Humble thinking is something hard to achieve. The higher the degree of humility, the more effort it requires to be earned. It is in two situations and manners that it takes root in those partaking in the holy knowledge: when the fighter for piety is mid-way in his spiritual experience, he has a more humble thinking because of the shortcomings of his body or of those who hate without reason those who work the righteousness, or because of bad thoughts. When the mind is enlightened by the godly Grace and gains much sensitivity and security, the soul acquires humble thinking as if it were its natural characteristic, since, being full of godly kindness, it can no longer fill itself with vanity, even if it were to achieve all of God’s commands ceaselessly – but rather, it regards itself to be lower than everybody else, once it partakes in God’s good will.

The first kind of humility often contains sadness and discouragement and the second one contains joy and a shyness (delicacy) full of wisdom. Because the former appears, as I have said, in those who are mid-way in their efforts, and the latter is sent to those who have come closer to perfection. The former often gets sad when it is deprived by earthly happiness. The latter, even if someone gave it all the riches of the earth, does not get impressed and does not feel the sting of the terrible arrows of sin – as being altogether spiritual, it no longer knows the bodily glory.

But everyone who has made such efforts has gone through the former kind in order to reach the latter. For if we were not softened up by the Grace, which brings upon us the counseling passions, to cleanse our free-will, we would not be given the brilliance of ultimate humility.

Apophthegms by the Elders of the Egyptian Desert

Excerpt from „Slava deşartă. Apoftegme ale Sfinţilor Părinţi selectate şi comentate de ieromonahul Savatie Baştovoi”, editura Cathisma, Bucureşti, 2007

Some Thoughts on Fasting

When the demon of vanity gets all fired up against us because of some brother or any other stranger visiting us, it is good to leave aside on that occasion some of the harshness of our usual fasting. By doing that, we will chase the demon away without him having achieved anything against us, or more yet – even wailing over his unsuccessful attempt. At the same time, we will rightfully fulfill the law of love, while keeping the secret of our physical refrain unrevealed, by the permission we have received.

Apophthegms by the Elders of the Egyptian Desert

Excerpt from „Slava deşartă. Apoftegme ale Sfinţilor Părinţi selectate şi comentate de ieromonahul Savatie Baştovoi”, Cathisma Publishing House, Bucureşti, 2007

The Compensation Law

If you want God to cover your sins, don’t show your virtues to the world. As what we do with the latter is what God will do with the former. And as you hide your virtue, don’t take pride in it for doing what is right. As rightfulness does not only lie in hiding the good things, but also in not thinking what you are not supposed to think.

St. Mark the Ascetic

Apophthegms by the Holy Fathers

Excerpt from „Slava deşartă. Apoftegme ale Sfinţilor Părinţi selectate şi comentate de ieromonahul Savatie Baştovoi”, Cathisma Publishing House, Bucureşti, 2007


…For that is the ikonomy of the people-loving God: He will often give many great gifts and good things to many, but he will leave them have some shortcomings, too, for their humbling, so that upon seeing themselves subject to those shortcomings, they may endure them and somehow take shame in them, lest they should become haughty.

And because of that they understand that the good things they have are not their merit, and neither can they overcome their mistakes – big or small – by themselves. Therefore this is all done in a wonderful way [through God’s ikonomy].

So that they will rejoice for their qualities and possessions and grow sad over their shortcomings; exalt in their gifts, but be humble for their shortcomings, so that upon seeing themselves well-built by God on the one hand and fallen on the other hand, they may keep humility in their mind so that by having it and struggling with their shortcomings, they will not lose it.

St. Gregory the Dialogist

Words vs Faith

An Elder said once: talking alot and inquisitively about matters of theosis and reading and researching texts that speak about faith will dry up one’s tears and chase away humility from man’s soul. Instead of that, my son, rather read the lives and words of the Saints and pious Fathers and they will enlighten your soul. (IV, 16)

It is not appropriate for the beginner – that is, for the one who starts repenting – to dwell on researching the dogmas. Most writings of this type have a polemic nature and they tend to slightly inflame one, so that the man who until recently thought himself a sinner now starts to forget about his issues and instead he imagines himself to be a great defender of faith, searching for people to whom he can show his knowledge. Being exclusively addressed to the mind, dogmatic writings do not require the “test” of actual practice such as the bodily efforts, therefore, people who are endowed with natural intelligence are easily deceived into believing that they know everything about faith. If it dwells on such things, the mind that has not been cleansed of one’s passions will achieve nothing more but change the object of its torments and musings, turning around forever in the multitude and novelty of the ideas, which will leave no more room for tears (repentance) and remembrance of one’s sins. By contrast, the lives and the “words” (the apophthegms) of the Saints have a practical nature and lead one to humility, since they present us with spiritual levels from which we are very far. St. John of the Ladder offers the same advice. Continue reading

Good Measure

A brother once went to an Elder in the Ferem* Mountain, who had a highly spiritual life and was well-advanced in working good deeds. Crossing himself before the Elder as usual, the monk asked him:
– Father, what should I do? My soul is wasting away.
The Elder asked him:
– How is your soul wasting away?
The brother answered:
– When I was living in the world as a layman, I used to fast very much, prayed and did night vigils, and had much spiritual zeal, humility, and tears – now that I have given up the world and have become a monk, I no longer see any of those good things in me.

Continue reading

On Humility

If someone invited you to his dinner for the love of Christ and will have you sit in the humblest place, do not embitter yourself, but rather, say this in your mind: “I am not worthy to sit even in this place.”

As, I tell you, neither the dishonour, nor the disdain and suffering of any kind that befall man will ever do without the knowledge and will of God, and that happens for man’s temptation and correction, or because of his sins. For indeed, who does not think and believe that God is the All-just Judge?

(Apophthegms by the Anonymous Elders of the Egyptian Desert)

Excerpt from „Slava deşartă. Apoftegme ale Sfinţilor Părinţi selectate şi comentate de ieromonahul Savatie Baştovoi”, Cathisma Publishing House, Bucureşti, 2007