St. John of Kronstadt on Humility

From St. John of Kronstadt‘s My Life in Christ:

On Humility

To be humble means to consider ourselves deserving, for our sins, of every humiliation, injury, persecution, and even blows; and to be meek means patiently to endure injustice, abuse, et cetera, and to pray for our enemies.

If you wish to be truly humble, then consider yourself lower than all, worthy of being trampled on by all; for you yourself daily, hourly trample upon the law of the Lord, and therefore upon the Lord Himself.

When any one, out of kindness, praises you to others, and they transmit these praises to you, do not consider them as a just tribute of esteem really due to you, but ascribe them solely to the kindness of heart of the person who thus spoke of you, and pray to God for him, that God may strengthen him in his kindness of heart and in every virtue; but acknowledge yourself to be the greatest of sinners, not out of humility, but truthfully, actually, knowing as you do your evil deeds.

A deep feeling of spiritual poverty, a lamentation at the existence of evil, a thirst after salvation, are to be found in every straightforward and humble soul.

Receive every one who comes to you, especially with a spiritual purpose, with a kind and cheerful aspect, although he or she may be a beggar, and humble yourself inwardly before everybody, counting yourself lower than he or she, for you are placed by Christ Himself to be the servant of all, and all are His members, although like you they bear the wounds of sin.

There is absolutely nothing for a Christian to be proud of in accomplishing works of righteousness, for he is saved, and is being constantly saved, from every evil through faith alone, in the same manner as he accomplishes works of righteousness also by the same faith. “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that (faith itself) not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man may glory.” So that no one can be proud of anything.

Spiritual poverty consists in esteeming oneself as though not existing, and God alone as existing; in honouring His words above everything in the world, and in not sparing anything to fulfil them, even one’s own life; in considering God’s Will in everything, both for ourselves and others, entirely renouncing our own will. The man who is poor in spirit desires and says with his whole heart: “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” It is as though he himself disappears; everywhere and in everything he wishes to see God – in himself and in others. “Let every thing be Thine, not mine.” He wishes to contemplate God’s holiness in himself and in all His kingdom, also His will; also to see Him alone entirely filling the human heart, as it should be, because He alone is all-merciful and all-perfect, all-creating; whilst the enemy -the Devil and his instruments, and those who oppose God – are thieves in the kingdom of God, and adversaries of God. To him who is poor in spirit the whole world is as nothing. Everywhere he sees God alone giving life to everything, and ruling everything; for him there is no place without God, no moment without God; everywhere and at every minute he is with God, and as though with Him alone. He who is poor in spirit does not dare and does not think of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, to discover God’s mysteries, to philosophise on the highest; he believes in the single word of the Lord, the Life-giver, knowing that every word of His is truth, spirit, and eternal life; and in the words of His Church, ever instructed in all truth by the Holy Ghost, he believes as a child believes his father or mother, not requiring proofs, but perfectly relying upon them. He who is poor in spirit considers himself the very last and the most sinful of all, reckons himself worthy of being trampled under foot by every one.

When I look more closely upon some of the poor, and talk with them, then I see how meek, lovable, humble, simplehearted, truly kind, poor in body, but rich in spirit they are. They make me – I who am rough, proud, evil, scornful, irritable, crafty, cold towards God and men, envious and avaricious – ashamed of myself. These are the true friends of God. And the enemy, being aware of their spiritual treasures, awakens in his servants -that is, in proud, rich men-contempt and ill-feeling towards them, and would like to wipe them off the face of the earth, as if they had no right to live and walk upon it. O friends of my God, my poor brethren! It is you who are the truly rich in spirit, whilst I am the real beggar, accursed and poor! You are worthy of sincere respect from us, who possess the blessings of this world in abundance, but who are poor and needy in virtues-abstinence, meekness, humility, kindness, sincerity, fervour, and warmth towards God and our neighbour. Lord! teach me to despise outward things, to turn my mental vision inward, and to value inward, and despise outward, things. Grant that I may observe this in my relations towards the rich and powerful of this world!

From A Treasury of Russian Spirituality by G.P. Fedotov.


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