The Fathers on the Spirit of Pride

From The Vitae Patrum:

An old man said, “Anyone freely praised by people is in not a little danger to his soul. But anyone not held in honor among people will finally be given glory.”

The same man said, “Seed will not germinate among weeds, and it is impossible for those who get praise and glory from the world to enjoy the harvest of heaven.”

The same man said, “When you are assaulted by thoughts of vainglory or pride, examine yourself whether you have obeyed all God’s commandments, loved your enemies, rejoiced in the success of your enemy and been saddened at his fall. If you constantly realize that you are an unprofitable servant and a greater sinner than all others, you will never then think highly of yourself however much good you may do, for you will remember that any boastful thought undoes all the good.”

An old man said, “Do not set yourself up against your brother, claiming that you are more reliable or abstinent than he. Be subject to the grace of God in the spirit of poverty and unfeigned charity, lest puffed up by the spirit of pride you lose all the fruit of your previous labors.”

Again he said, “Insofar as a man immerses himself in humility, so may he be exalted on high. Pride which would exalt itself to the skies is brought down to hell, and humility if it goes down to hell is lifted up to the heavens.”

Abba Macarius was once returning to his cell at daybreak carrying a bundle of palm leaves, when the devil met him carrying a sharp reaping hook. He tried to strike him down but failed.

“I suffer a great deal from you, Macarius,” he said, “for every time I want to harm you I am unable to do so. For whatever work you do I am forced to do even greater. You fast sometimes, I am never able to partake of any food; you frequently keep vigil, but I can never allow sleep to overcome me; but I declare that there is one thing in which you always come out the winner.”

“And what may that be?” inquired Macarius.

“Your humility alone it is that beats me.”

As the devil said this, the blessed Macarius lifted up his hands in prayer, and the unclean spirit vanished into thin air.

One of the fathers said, “Everything a monk labors at is worth nothing without humility. Humility goes before love just as John Baptist went before Christ, drawing all people to him. Humility draws you towards love, that is, to none but God, since God is love.”

A brother asked an old man what humility was. He replied, “It is the tree of life, growing up into the heavens.”

He also said, “Humility is the ground in which God told us to offer him sacrifice.”

An old man when asked how the soul could acquire humility replied, “Think only of your own sins.” He added, “Humility marks the perfection of a human being.”

Abba Motois said that humility consisted in never getting angry and never causing others to get angry.

He also said that humility consists in forgiving the brother who sins against you, even before he has repented.


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