– My Lord, a person often hears both in life and in the temple that he must be chaste, humble, patient, and must love, but rarely understands what it means to be so. And really, what does it mean?
– It means having virtues that can bring you closer to God and salvation. Each of the virtues listed by Saint Ephraim implies a certain state of mind and heart. For example, to be chaste means to have complete wisdom, to combine the purity of body and heart, purity of thoughts and actions in relation to the world around you and your neighbors. This is a very important virtue, and it is no accident that the Reverend places it in the first place. A person whose word differs from his deed and who judges other people based on his prejudices and passions is not reliable. You can’t rely on him, and he can’t build a normal human relationship with anyone.
To be humble is to resist the devil’s passion, pride, which causes all the troubles. It was through pride that Dennitsa lost the sky, and Adam lost Paradise. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4: 6), says the Holy Scripture. With humility, you can correct yourself, change your outlook on life and life itself.
To be patient means to have inner composure, to be able to overcome difficulties and sorrows. I also think that being patient means being hardworking.
The last virtue mentioned by Saint Ephraim is love. Love for man, for God. As the Apostle Paul says, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13: 10). To love means to be able to give up oneself to some extent in favor of one’s neighbor, to perform some feat for his sake. By acquiring this virtue, a person becomes like God.
– In the prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, we ask the Lord to grant us these virtues. But according to the Holy fathers, if we ask God to teach us humility, He will send a person who will humble us. What will the Lord give in response to a request for chastity, humility, patience, and love?
– It has been correctly observed that God sends us people or circumstances in which we will have to work in one way or another, to practice virtue. But do not think that this will always happen. The Lord has a plan for each person, and it is impossible to comprehend it. We can only pray to God, trust Him, and hope that He will give us everything necessary for correction and do it in a way that pleases Him, and not us.
– Humility is very often associated with self-abasement. Why? Is there really a connection?
– There is a certain connection, but humility and self–abasement are not synonymous. When a person works on some virtue, he gains experience, a habit. His sense of self is also changing. The one who constantly humbles himself can really consider himself the worst, the sinner of all. But, perhaps, such a feeling is peculiar only to a person of high spiritual life – a Saint. The monk Abba Dorotheus just has wonderful teaching about such a person – about the elder Zosimus. He was still called a Saint in his lifetime, but the old man considered himself a sinner. To the question “Why?” he could not answer anything, he just felt that way.
– Many believers, perhaps wishing to be like ascetics, for whom self – accusation and self-reproach are a special kind of ascetic activity, also openly call themselves sinners. Do You think this is correct?
– Experience shows that people say this about themselves out of pride, not out of humility. This is confirmed by any difficult, unpleasant situations in which, instead of really putting up with it, a person demonstrates himself as a real person – not at all the way he sees himself and wants to show others. Why this is necessary is not clear. Virtue must be active. If you want to be humble, be humble: once again bear with your neighbor, be silent in response to hurtful words.
– To be patient, to be silent, to admit oneself to be the worst of all-will such attitudes help a person in life? Today, people prefer to build relationships, both personal and business, with those who know their own worth, rather than with those who are willing to belittle themselves.
– I think they will. You just need to determine your own measure. A sense of their own sinfulness, their own unworthiness, is characteristic of ascetics. Their life, their teachings – are in turn a guide for those who want to achieve spiritual perfection, for monks. What is good for a monk is not acceptable for a layman, and Vice versa. Therefore, before following the instructions of the Holy fathers, before turning to their literary heritage, we need to know what kind of people they were, what they lived, what views they held. Only then will it be possible to understand what message they are trying to convey to us. Whether we agree with this idea or not is another matter.
Modern man, of course, will not be able to understand how you can consider yourself the worst of all. After all, for him, the main criterion for evaluating himself and others is external success and material well-being, and therefore he does not want to be the worst of all. Yes, however, and do not need to. All of us, in one way or another, have to achieve something in life, the main thing is to do it in a Christian, human way. Knowing the corruption of the world, look for compromises, make your way, but in no case do not push everyone around with your elbows, do not go over their heads. Don’t think of yourself as the worst of all – just don’t be like the Pharisee who thought everyone else was worse than himself, for which he was condemned by the Lord. Rather, as a tax collector, look at your actions and sins.
– Just not being arrogant is enough for that, isn’t it?”
– Enough, but only to be a good or sincere person. Being a good person and living according to your conscience is not a small thing, but we are talking about more – spiritual perfection. A spiritual person acts as the gospel, God, suggests. He accepts God’s plan for himself and fulfills it.
Humility is a spiritual ideal that is difficult to achieve. But it is necessary to strive for it – to remember that the spiritual life must come first, to remember that the Lord will not put to shame anyone who trusts Him and fulfills the gospel’s commandments – humbles himself, is not afraid to let others go ahead. Without the experience of spiritual life, this is difficult to accept and even more difficult to do. And you need to do it in order to get confirmation – the Lord is near, He does not leave.
– Is it always necessary to be humble?” For sure, there are situations in which it is better not to do this.
– It is necessary to put up with each other, but it is not always useful. A person may be wrong, maybe mistaken in something, make mistakes, and it is necessary to stop him, so as not to make the situation worse. For example, parents should not put up with the willfulness and disobedience of the child, and bosses should not let subordinates neglect their official duties. Such non-humility will be a manifestation of mindfulness, wisdom.
– How do you know if you are a humble person?”
– Try to put up with a situation that requires it: not to be offended, to suppress anger, irritation. The Holy fathers’ advice at least not to respond with a blow to a blow, if you can not turn the other cheek to the one who has hit you (see: MT 5: 39). It worked out well, this is an achievement, but we need to continue working on this virtue. It didn’t work out – so, all the more reason to continue working.
– You can put up with it outwardly, but in the soul still experience a storm of emotions. What should I do about it?
– The struggle with passions, as well as the work on virtues, takes place on different levels. First, we learn to cope with external manifestations. For example, don’t flare up and respond rudely to rudeness. Once we learn to control our words and actions, we must learn to control our feelings and thoughts. It is not just not to respond with a blow to a blow or a shout to a shout, but to understand yourself, to question yourself: “Maybe I’m really wrong.” Sometimes misdeeds and passions are more noticeable to others than to us. And if they were pointed out to us, we don’t need to be offended, we need to thank them. An intelligent person is exactly what distinguishes a calm reaction to a remark made to him. He will try to make sense of it and turn it to his advantage.
– The monk Nektary of Optina said: “Only when a man humbles himself completely and regards himself as nothing can the Lord create something truly great out of him.” And isn’t it bad to strive for something great on your own?
“Depends on who.” Laymen are not bad, but monks simply do not need it. For the latter, friendship with the world is enmity against God (James 4: 4). The Lord calls all to be perfect as the heavenly Father (see: MT. 5: 48) and to gather up treasures in heaven (MT. 6: 20), and not only on earth. Everyone does it to the extent of their strength and desires. Someone wants to achieve something in life, and someone is ready to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ (see: Mark 8: 34). In any case, the Lord is ready to lead everyone to salvation.
There are many examples in the gospel to prove this. Christ does not condemn those who, as in the parable of the poor widow, gave to the temple out of their abundance (see Mark 12: 41-44), nor does he condemn a young man who could not part with a large estate for His sake (see Mark 10, 17-30). Christ does not say that rich and successful people will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. He says that it will be more difficult for them, burdened with wealth and worries, to do this. Therefore, I repeat, there is nothing wrong with achieving some success in life. The main thing is not to go head over heels to your goal, not to take credit only for yourself, and remember that everything in this life is given to a person by the Lord and that it depends only on the person himself how he will dispose of it.
– The Holy Fathers also say that in order to be humble, one must submit and serve all. What does it mean?
– So the Lord himself says: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for the redemption of many (Mark1: 45). And we, As his disciples, must fulfill these words-serve our neighbors. But to serve is not to be a weak-willed slave. To serve means to notice the needs and pain of others, to help them, somehow infringing on yourself, sacrificing yourself.