1) St Makarios the Great
This is the mark of Christianity—however much a man toils, and however many righteousnesses he performs, to feel that he has done nothing, and in fasting to say, “This is not fasting,” and in praying, “This is not prayer,” and in perseverance at prayer, “I have shown no perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice and to take pains”; and even if he is righteous before God, he should say, “I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but only make a beginning every day.
2) St Makarios the Great
The soul that really loves God and Christ, though it may do ten thousand righteousnesses, esteems itself as having wrought nothing, by reason of its insatiable aspiration after God. Though it should exhaust the body with fastings, with watchings, its attitude towards the virtues is as if it had not yet even begun to labour for them.
3) St Makarios the Great
Abba Makarios constantly instilled the idea that the foundation of everything is humility: “If we see that anyone exalts himself and becomes haughty because he is a participant of grace, then even were he to perform signs and raise the dead, if he does not acknowledge his soul to be dishonored and debased, and himself poor in spirit and vile, he is robbed by malice and does nor know it.” This feeling of humility in the presence of an abundance of the gifts of grace is explained by St. Makarios in an excellent comparison: “If a king leaves his treasure with a poor man, the one who receives it does not consider this treasure as his own property, but everywhere acknowledges his poverty, not daring to spend another’s treasure, because he always reasons with himself: this treasure is not only not mine, but what is more has been left me by a powerful king, and he, when he wishes, will take it from me. Thus should those who possess the grace of God think of themselves. If they exalt themselves and their hearts begin to grow haughty, the Lord will take from them His grace, and they will be left the same as they were before receiving it.”
4) St Augustine
Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues. Hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
5) St Basil the Great
How are we to come to this humility and leave behind us the deadly swelling of arrogance? By exercising ourselves in it in all things, and by keeping in mind that there is nothing which cannot be a danger to us. For the soul becomes like the things to which it gives itself, and takes the character and appearance of what it does.
Let your demeanour, your dress, your walking, your sitting down, the nature of your food, the quality of your being, your house and what it contains, aim at simplicity. And let your speech, your singing, your manner with your neighbour, let these things also be in accord with humility rather than with vanity. In your words let there be no empty pretence, in your singing no excess sweetness, in conversation be not ponderous or overbearing. In everything refrain from seeking to appear important.
Be a help to your friends, kind to the ones with whom you live, gentle to your servant, patient with those who are troublesome, loving towards the lowly, comforting those in trouble, visiting those in affliction, never despising anyone, gracious in friendship, cheerful in answering others, courteous, approachable to everyone, never speaking your own praises, nor getting others to speak of them, never taking part in unbecoming conversations, and concealing where you may whatever gifts you posses.
6) St Theophan the Recluse
External labor and ascetic endeavors are means and not ends. The main thing is our feelings and inward dispositions… Above all preserve humility and pray to be given it, and find fault with yourself as often as you can, so as to attain this self-abasement. As soon as you wake up, try to realize your own worthlessness, and then strive to remain in this feeling all day. Abase yourself even more when facing the Lord in prayer. Who am I, and Whom have I the temerity to address In human speech?
Rejoice if you happen to meet with external humiliation that is not of your own seeking. Accept it as a special mercy of God. Make It your criterion that when you are displeased with yourself you are in a good state. But as soon as a feeling of self satisfaction creeps in, however slight, and you begin to rate yourself highly, know that you are not In a right state and begin to reprove yourself. For the Lord’s sake, I pray you, do not forget this. If self-abasement is lacking all the rest is nothing. There have been people who attained salvation by humility alone, without ascetic endeavours. But without humility no one has ever been saved or ever will be saved.
7) St Macarius of Optina
Woe to our times: we now depart from the narrow and sorrowful path leading to eternal life and we seek a happy and peaceful path. But the merciful Lord leads many people from this path, against their will, and places them on the sorrowful one.Through unwanted sorrows and illnesses we draw closer to the Lord, for they humble us by constraint, and humility, when we acquire it, can save us even without works, according to St. Isaac the Syrian.
8) St Isaac the Syrian
A humble man is never rash, hasty or perturbed, never has any hot and volatile thoughts, but at all times remains calm. Even if heaven were to fall and cleave to the earth, the humble man would not be dismayed. Not every quiet man is humble, but every humble man is quiet. There is no humble man who is not self-constrained; but you will find many who are self-constrained without being humble. This is also what the meek humble Lord meant when He said, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ [Matt 11:29] For the humble man is always at rest, because there is nothing which can agitate or shake his mind. Just as no one can frighten a mountain, so the mind of a humble man cannot be frightened.
If it be permissible and not incongruous, I should say that the humble man is not of this world. For he is not troubled and altered by sorrows, nor amazed and enthused by joys, but all his gladness and his real rejoicing are in the things of his Master. Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness: that is, chastity of the senses; a moderate voice; mean speech; self-belittlement; poor raiment; a gait that is not pompous; a gaze directed towards the earth; superabundant mercy; easily flowing tears; a solitary soul; a contrite heart; imperturbability to anger; undistributed senses; few possessions; moderation in every need; endurance; patience; fearlessness; manliness of heart born of a hatred of this temporal life; patient endurance of trials; deliberations that are ponderous, not light, extinction of thoughts; guarding of the mysteries of chastity; modesty, reverence; and above all, continually to be still and always to claim ignorance.
9) Desert father story
A certain brother asked one of the great Fathers what humility is. “Humility, my child, is always to feel yourself sinful and worse than all other people,” the elder explained. “This is a great and difficult feat. But you can accomplish it by applying yourself with unceasing labor.” “But how is it possible to see yourself as worse than all others continuously?” the brother wondered. “Learn to see the good qualities of others and to see your own faults, asking each day for forgiveness from God for them, and you will accomplish it,” the Saint advised.
10) St Theophan the Recluse
There is no need for me to repeat to you that the invincible weapon against all our enemies Is humility. It Is not easily acquired. We can think ourselves humble without having a trace of true humility. And we cannot make ourselves humble merely by thinking about It. The best, or rather, the only sure way to humility is by obedience and the surrender of our own will. Without this it is possible to develop a satanic pride In ourselves while being humble In words and In bodily postures. I beg you to pay attention to this point and, In all fear, examine the order of your life.
Does it include obedience and surrender of your will? Out of all the things you do, how many are done contrary to your own will, your own Ideas and reflections? Do you do anything unwillingly, simply because you are ordered, through sheer obedience? Please examine it all thoroughly and tell me. if there Is nothing of this type of obedience, the kind of life you lead will not bring you to humility. No matter how much you may humble yourself in thought, without deeds leading to self- abasement humility will not come. So you must think carefully how to arrange for this.
- “Fifty spiritual homilies of St Macarius the Egyptian”, Homily 26, p. 11. This is a book. Buy it on amazon or find it in google books.
- “Fifty spiritual homilies of St Macarius the Egyptian”, Homily 10, p. 4. This is a book. Buy it on amazon or find it in google books.
- St Makarios the Great of Egypt. Ref: www.johnsanidopoulos.com
- Aim at simplicity by St Basil the Great, p. 20. Ref: www.orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot. com
- “The Art of Prayer” by St Theophan the Recluse, p. 237. This is a book. Search for it online.
- Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina.
- Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian. Homily 72.
- “The Art of Prayer” by St Theophan the Recluse, p. 271. This is a book. Search for it online.