Gregory the Great: How the humble and the haughty are to be admonished Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistDifferently to be admonished are the humble and the haughty.

To the former it is to be insinuated how true is that excellence which they hold in hoping for it.

To the latter it is to be intimated how that temporal glory is as nothing which, even when embracing it, they hold not.

Let the humble hear how eternal are the things that they long for, how transitory the things which they despise.

Let the haughty hear how transitory are the things they court, how eternal the things they lose.

[…] The pride…of the devil became the occasion of our perdition, and the humility of God has been found the argument for our redemption.

For our enemy, having been created among all things, desired to appear exalted above all things.

But our Redeemer, remaining great above all things, deigned to become little among all things.

Let the humble, then, be told that, when they abase themselves, they ascend to the likeness of God.

Let the haughty be told that, when they exalt themselves, they fall into imitation of the apostate angel.

What, then, is more debased than haughtiness, which, while it stretches itself above itself, is lengthened out beyond the stature of true loftiness?

And what is more sublime than humility, which, while it depresses itself to the lowest, conjoins itself to its Maker who remains above the highest?

There is, however, another thing in these cases that ought to be carefully considered; that some are often deceived by a false show of humility, while some are beguiled by ignorance of their own haughtiness.

For commonly some who think themselves humble have an admixture of fear, such as is not due to men; while an assertion of free speech commonly goes with the haughty.

And when any vices require to be rebuked, the former hold their peace out of fear, and yet esteem themselves as being silent out of humility; the latter speak in the impatience of haughtiness, and yet believe themselves to be speaking in the freedom of uprightness.

Those the fault of timidity under a show of humility keeps back from rebuking what is wrong; these the unbridled impetuosity of pride, under the image of freedom, impels to rebuke things they ought not, or to rebuke them more than they ought.

Whence both the haughty are to be admonished not to be free more than is becoming, and the humble are to be admonished not to be more submissive than is right; lest either the former turn the defence of righteousness into a display of pride, or the latter, while they study more than needs to submit themselves to men, be driven even to pay respect to their vices.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 17.

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Augustine of Hippo: “The way of the ungodly shall perish” Friday, Jul 31 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaOn Psalm 1.

“The ungodly are not so, they are not so, but are like the dust which the wind casteth forth from the face of the earth” (ver. 4).

“The earth” is here to be taken as that stedfastness in God, with a view to which it is said, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Ps. 15:5-6).

With a view to this it is said, “Wait on the Lord and keep His ways, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the earth” (Ps. 36:34).

With a view to this it is also said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

A comparison too is derived hence, for as this visible earth supports and contains the outer man, so that earth invisible the inner man.

“From the face of which earth the wind casteth forth the ungodly,” that is, pride, in that it puffs him up.

On his guard against this he, who was inebriated by the richness of the house of the Lord, and drunken of the torrent stream of its pleasures, says, “Let not the foot of pride come against me” (Ps. 35:11).

From this earth pride cast forth him who said, “I will place my seat in the north, and I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14).

From the face of the earth it cast forth him also who, after that he had consented and tasted of the forbidden tree that he might be as God, hid himself from the Face of God (Gen. 3:8).

[…] “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous” (ver. 6).

As it is said, medicine knows health, but knows not disease, and yet disease is recognised by the art of medicine.

In like manner can it be said that “the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous,” but the way of the ungodly He knoweth not.

Not that the Lord is ignorant of anything, and yet He says to sinners, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).  “But the way of the ungodly shall perish” is the same as if it were said, the way of the ungodly the Lord knoweth not.

We can express this more plainly by saying that not to be known of the Lord means the same as to perish, and to be known of the Lord means the same as to abide.

Thus to be belongs to God’s knowing, but not to be to His not knowing. For the Lord says, “I Am that I Am,” and, “I Am hath sent me” (Ex. 3:14).

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Exposition of the Book of Psalms, Psalm 1, 4,6 (slightly adapted).  

Theodore the Studite: We shall be a Holy Temple to God, Beautified with Gifts upon Gifts Friday, Mar 14 2014 

Theodore_the_StuditeContinued from here….

And since we should become yet more humble and obedient by the study of the inspired Scriptures, let us beware lest we be puffed up in the vanity of our mind, so as to make our knowledge an occasion of evil, and like-wise also our power in speech and argument, our experience, our skill, our correctness in framing and uttering our words; our good reading, or maybe our subtlety, our skill of hand, our psalmody, our learning, our skill in music, our culture, and the like.

But let the gift of these things be to us rather a cause of fear and of self-abasement before God who has given them. For thus we shall find God merciful, — or rather bountiful, and ready to give us yet more, that we may be filled with good things. And we shall be a holy temple to God, beautified with gifts upon gifts.

But if we shall become presumptuous towards God, and seek to lord it over our brethren, stretching up, as it were, the neck of our souls, and raising our eyebrows and hoisting our shoulders and walking boastfully, seeking this or that, judging others in our pride and foolishness: — asking ever “why are not things otherwise?” or “why have not I the charge of this matter?” or “why should this man have the management of that business?” if we act thus, we are indeed vain and foolish, and are like those in the proverb who pour water into leaky vessels.

Not so, my brethren, not so. Let us not make our opportunities a cause of destruction or the day of work a day of loss; nor, when we may mount the walls of virtue, slip down into vice. Our opportunity is great, our days are delightful. For they are spent in following the commandments of God, in attaining everlasting wealth, in purchasing the kingdom of Heaven. Let us run, let us hasten.

I exhort you, I beseech you. I would kneel before you and implore you as my inmost life and all my joy, my boasting and my crown, my glory and praise. Those who have affirmed and those who have denied; those who have followed the way for long and those who are new to it; those from distant folds and those bred among us; all now of one herd and one flock, of one fold and one charge, nurslings of one shepherd ! Let us think no more of evil that might come. May you live thus and strive thus and be perfected thus in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the power with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and for ever. Amen.

Theodore the Studite (759-826): Great Catechesis, Discourse 61 in Alice Gardner, Theodore of Studium: His Life and Times (1905), pp. 90-91.

Theophylact of Ohrid: The Prayer of the Pharisee Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On Luke 18:9-14 (the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee).

The Lord ceaselessly purges the passion of pride in many ways.

This passion, more than any other, disturbs our thoughts, and for this reason the Lord always and everywhere teaches on this subject.

Here He is purging the worst form of pride.

For there are many offshoots of self-love. Presumption, arrogance, and vainglory all stem from this root.

But the most destructive of all these kinds of self-love is pride, for pride is contempt of God.

When a man ascribes his accomplishments to himself, and not to God, this is nothing less than denial of God and opposition to Him.

Therefore, like enemy to enemy, the Lord opposes this passion which is opposed to Him, and through this parable He promises to heal it.

He directs this parable towards those who trust in themselves and who do not attribute everything to God, and who, as a result, despise others.

He shows that when righteousness—which is marvelous in every other respect and sets a man close to God—takes pride as its companion, it casts that man into the lowest depths and makes demonic what was God-like just a short time before.

The words of the Pharisee at first resemble the words of a grateful man. For he says, God, I thank Thee. But the words that follow are full of foolishness.

He does not say, “that Thou hast made me to depart from extortion and iniquities,” but Instead, “I thank Thee that I am not an extortioner or worker of iniquity.”

He attributes this accomplishment to himself, as something done by his own strength. How can a man who knows that what he has, he has received from God, compare other men to himself unfavorably and judge them?

Certainly, if a man believed that he had received as a gift good things that in truth belong to God, he would not despise other men.

He would instead consider himself just as naked as his fellow men in regards to virtue, except that by the mercy of God his nakedness has been covered with a donated garment.

The Pharisee is proud, ascribing his deeds to his own strength, and that is why he proceeds to condemn others.

By saying that the Pharisee stood, the Lord indicates his haughtiness and lack of humility. In the same way that a humble-minded man is likewise humble in his demeanor, this Pharisee by his bearing displays his pride.

Although it is also said of the publican that he stood, note what follows: he would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, so that he was stooped in posture.

But the eyes of the Pharisee, together with his heart, were lifted up to heaven in boastful exaltation.

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St Luke, on Luke 18:10-14 (Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee) @ Chrysostom Press.

Bede the Venerable: Jesus and the Healing of Ten Lepers (3) Wednesday, Oct 16 2013 

icon_bede-On Luke 17:11-19

Continued from here…

And Jesus, answering said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? … There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger.

As to the body, it is easy to see that a man may have no leprosy; and yet he may not be sound of soul. But in the light of this miracle, it troubles the mind to know how one who is thankless can be said to be made clean?

But it is now easy to see, that this also can happen that someone within the society of the Church may know her true and pure doctrine, and may interpret it all in accord with the Catholic rule of faith;

he may distinguish the creature from the Creator, and by this show that he is free as it were from leprosy, from the spots of lies, and nevertheless be ungrateful to God and Lord Who made him clean, because uplifted in pride, he has not thrown himself down in loving humility to give thanks, and so has become like those of whom the Apostle said: When they knew God, they have not glorified Him as God or given thanks (Rom. 1:21).

Saying, they knew God, Paul shows that they had been made clean of leprosy; yet he goes on to call them ungrateful. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole. He who had fallen in humble devotion at the Lord’s feet, is told to rise, and go on his way.

For whoever is acutely aware of his own unworthiness, and humbles himself before God, is told by the comforting divine word, to rise, and to put his hand to strong things (Prov. 31:19); and growing daily in merit, go on his way to the more perfect things (Heb. 6:1).

For if faith made him whole who had hurried back to give thanks to his Saviour and to the One Who had made him clean, unfaith has brought spiritual ruin to those who, receiving favours from God, fail to return and give Him glory.

And so this lesson is joined to the one preceding it in the gospel (that of the unprofitable servants) for this reason; that there we learn, through the parable, that faith must grow through humility, while here more clearly we are shown by actual happenings, that it is not only confession of faith, but also the doing of the works that follow faith, which makes whole those who believe, and give glory to the Father Who is in heaven.  Amen.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (PL 92, Lib. III, Cap. X, col. 467); Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: “Will the Rhinoceros be Willing to Serve Thee?” (2) Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

Following on from here…

Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? (Job 39:9).

But at the very beginning of the rising Church – when the might of the wealthy was raising itself against her, and was panting for her death – who could then believe that she would subdue those stiff and stubborn necks of the haughty, and would bind them, with the gentle bands of faith, when tamed by the yoke of holy fear?

For she was tossed about, for a long while, in her beginnings, by the horn of this rhinoceros, and was struck by it, as though to be utterly destroyed. But by the dispensation of Divine grace, she both gained life and strength by death, and this rhinoceros, wearied with striking, bowed down his horn.

And that which was impossible to men, was not difficult to God, who crushed the stubborn powers of this world, not by words, but by miracles. For behold we observe daily the rhinoceroses becoming slaves, when we see the mighty of this world, who had before, with foolish pride, relied on their own strength, now subject to God.

The Lord was speaking, as it were, of a certain untamed rhinoceros, when He was saying; A rich man will hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23). And when it was replied to Him; And who will be able to be saved? He immediately added; With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matt. 25:26).

As if He were saying: This rhinoceros cannot be tamed by human strength, but yet it can be subdued by Divine miracles. Whence it is here also fitly said to blessed Job, as representing Holy Church; Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? i.e. As Myself, Who bore for a long while with his resisting the preaching of men, but yet suddenly overpowered him with miracles, when thus I willed it.

As if He said more plainly; Are they who are proud with foolish haughtiness, subjected to thy preaching, without My assistance? Consider therefore by Whom thou prevailest, and in every thing wherein thou prevailest bow down thy feeling of pride.

Or certainly, what wondrous works are wrought at last by the Apostles, who subject the world to God, and bend the pride of the mighty of this world, when subdued to His power, is brought before the notice of blessed Job, to bring down his confidence, in order that blessed Job may think the less highly of himself, the more he beholds such stubborn souls gathered together to God by others.

Let Him say then; Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? i.e. As it will serve Me, by means of those, whom I shall have sent.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 1-2 (on Job 39:9) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: “Will the Rhinoceros be Willing to Serve Thee?” (1) Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? (Job 39:9).

The devil, through envy, inflicted the wound of pride on healthful man in Paradise; in order that he, who had not received death when created, might deserve it when elated.

But since it is competent for Divine power, not only to make good things out of nothing, but also to refashion them from the evils which the devil had committed the humility of God appeared amongst men, as a remedy against this wound inflicted by the proud devil, that they who had fallen through imitation of their haughty enemy, might rise by the example of their humbled Creator.

Against, therefore, the haughty devil, God appeared amongst men, having been made a humble Man. The mighty of this world, that is, the members of the haughty devil, believed Him to be as despicable, as they saw Him to be lowly.

For the more the wound of their heart swelled up, the more it despised the soothing remedy. Our medicine therefore being spurned by the wound of the proud, came to the wound of the humble. For God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (1 Cor. 1:27).

And a work was wrought upon the poor, for the wealthy proud ones afterwards to wonder at. For while they behold in them new virtues, they were afterwards astounded at the miracles of those, whose life they before despised. And thence, returning immediately with fear to their own hearts, they dreaded that sanctity in miracles, which they had scorned in precepts.

Mighty things were therefore confounded by the weak; because while the life of the humble rises to veneration, the pride of the haughty has fallen.

Because therefore blessed Job is a type of Holy Church, and Almighty God foresaw that, in the early times of the rising Church, the mighty of this world would refuse, with the stubborn neck of their heart, to undertake its light burden, let Him say: Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee?

For the rhinoceros is quite of an untamed nature, so that, if it is ever taken, it cannot in any way be kept. For, as is said, it dies immediately from being unable to bear it.

[…] What is, therefore, designated by this rhinoceros, but the mighty of this world, or the supreme powers themselves of the kingdoms therein, who, elated by the pride of foolish boasting, whilst they are puffed up by false honour without, are made inwardly destitute by real miseries? To whom it is well said; Why boastest thou, O dust and ashes? (Sirach 10:9).

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 1-2 (on Job 39:9) @ Lectionary Central.

Dorotheus of Gaza: By compunction of heart, peace of mind returns to you Saturday, Mar 23 2013 

Dorotheos2If from the beginning man had humbled himself and listened to God and obeyed his command, there would have been no fall.

Again, after Adam had done wrong, God have him a chance to repent and be forgiven and yet he kept on being stiff-necked and unrepentant.

For God came to him and said, “Adam, where are you?” (Gen 3:12) instead of saying, “From what glory are you come to this? Are you not ashamed? Why did you sin? Why did you go astray?”—as if urging him sharply to say, “Forgive me!”

But there was no sign of humility. There was no change of heart but rather the contrary.

He replied, “the wife that you gave me”—mark you, not “my wife”—”deceived me”; “the wife that you gave me,” (Gen 3:13) as if to say, “this disaster you placed upon my head”.

So it is, my brethren, when a man has not the guts to accuse himself, he does not scruple to accuse God Himself.

Then God came to Eve and said to her, “Why did you not keep the command I gave you?” as if saying, “If you would only say, ‘Forgive me’, to humble your soul and be forgiven.”

And again, not a word! No “forgive me”. She only answered, “the Serpent deceived me!”—as if to say, if the serpent did wrong, what concern is that to me?

What are you doing, you wretches? Kneel in repentance, acknowledge your fault, take pity on your nakedness. But neither the one nor the other stooped to self-accusation, no trace of humility was found in either of them.

And now look and consider how this was only an anticipation of our own state! See how many and great the evils it has brought on us—this self-justification, this holding fast to our own will, this obstinacy in being our own guide.

All this was the product of that hateful arrogance towards God. Whereas the products of humility are self-accusation, distrust of our own sentiments, hatred of our own will.

By these one is made worthy of being redeemed, of having his human nature restored to its proper state, through the cleansing operation of Christ’s holy precepts.

Without humility it is impossible to obey the Commandments or at any time to go towards anything good. As Abba Mark says: without a contrite heart it is impossible to be free from wickedness or to acquire virtue.

Therefore, by compunction of heart you get a grip on the Commandments, are free from evil, gain virtue and, what is more, peace of mind returns to you.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620):  Conference on Renunciation @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Publican and the Pharisee (1) – The Pharisee Friday, Mar 1 2013 

Cyril_of_AlexandriaOur virtue therefore must not be contaminated with fault, but must be single-minded and blameless, and free from all that can bring reproach.

For what profit is there in fasting twice in the week, if your so doing serve only as a pretext for ignorance and vanity, and make you supercilious and haughty, and selfish?

You tithe your possessions, and make a boast thereof: but you in another way provoke God’s anger, by condemning men generally on this account, and accusing others; and you are yourself puffed up, though not crowned by the divine decree for righteousness, but heap, on the contrary, praises upon yourself.

“For I am not, he says, as the rest of mankind.” Moderate yourself, O Pharisee: “put a door to your tongue, and a lock.” You speak to God Who knows all things. Await the decree of the Judge.

None of those skilled in the practice of wrestling ever crowns himself: nor does any man receive the crown of himself, but awaits the summons of the arbiter.

Lower your pride: for arrogance is both accursed and hated by God. Although therefore you fast with puffed up mind, your so doing will not avail you: your labour will be unrewarded; for you have mingled dung with your perfume.

Even according to the law of Moses a sacrifice that had a blemish was not capable of being offered to God: for it was said unto him, “Of sheep, and ox, that is offered for sacrifice, there must be no blemish therein.”

Since therefore your fasting is accompanied by pride, you must expect to hear God saying, “This is not the fast that I have chosen, says the Lord.”

You offer tithes: but you wrong in another way Him Who is honoured by you, in that you condemn men generally.

This is an act foreign to the mind that fears God: for Christ even said, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.”

And one also of His disciples said, “There is one Lawgiver, and Judge: why then do you judge your neighbour?”

No man because he is in health ridicules one who is sick for being laid up and bedridden: rather he is afraid, lest perchance he become himself the victim of similar sufferings.

Nor does any man in battle, because another has fallen, praise himself for having escaped from misfortune.

For the infirmity of others is not a fit subject for praise for those who are in health: nay, even if anyone be found of more than usually vigorous health, even then scarcely does he gain glory thereby. Such then was the state of the self-loving Pharisee.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Homilies on the Gospel of St. Luke, 120 @ Pravoslavie.

Hippolytus of Rome: A Person Without the Holy Spirit is Frightened of the Struggle Friday, Nov 16 2012 

On chapter 3 of the book of Daniel…

Behold three youths who have set an example for all.

They were unafraid of the numerous satraps and of the words of the king.

They did not tremble when they heard about the fiery flames of the furnace, but they spurned all and the whole world for they thought only of the fear of God.

You see how the Spirit of the Father teaches eloquence to the martyrs, consoling them and exhorting them to despise death in this world, to hasten their attainment of heavenly goods.

But a person who is without the Holy Spirit is frightened of the struggle.

He hides himself, takes precautions against a death that is only temporal, is afraid of the sword, falls into a panic at the thought of the torture.

He no longer sees any other thing than the world here below, worries only about the present life, prefers his wife to everything else, is bothered only about love for his children, and seeks nothing but wealth.

Such a man, because he is not endowed with heavenly strength, is quickly lost.

That is why anyone who desires to come near the Word listens to the behest of the King and Lord of heaven:

Whoever does not bear his cross and follow me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not renounce all that he possesses cannot be my disciple.

Scripture tells us that after this those three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell into the white-hot furnace and walked about in the flames, singing to God and blessing the Lord.

[…] God saved those he wanted, in order that the wonders of his works might be revealed to the whole world.

But those whom he desired to undergo martyrdom, he crowned and let them come to him.

If he drew the three youths out of their predicament, it was to show the emptiness and folly of Nebuchadnezzar’s boastfulness and prove at the same time that what is impossible to man is possible to God.

Nebuchadnezzar had proudly declared: Who is the God that can deliver you out of my hands? God proved to him that he can free his servants when he wishes to do so.

That is why it is improper for man to oppose the decisions of God. For if we live, we live for the Lord. And if we die, we die for the Lord. Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord.

Hippolytus of Rome (c.170-c.236): Commentary on Daniel, II, 18-37 (SC 14:150-184); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of Week 33 in ordinary Time, Year 2.

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