According to the teachings of our Holy and
God-bearing Fathers - the athletes and lamps of Christian piety - the first of
all Christian virtues is humility. Without this virtue, no other virtue can be
acquired, and the spiritual perfection of a Christian is unthinkable. Christ
the Savior begins His New Testament precepts of blessedness with the precept of
humility. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of
In the usual sense of the word, we consider a
person poor who has nothing and must ask others for help. The Christian
(whether materially rich or poor) must recognize that he is spiritually poor,
that there is no good of his own within him. Everything good in us is from God.
From our own selves, we add only evil - self-love, caprices of sensuality, and
sinful pride. Each of us must remember this, for it is not in vain that the
Holy Scripture says: "God opposes the proud and gives Grace to the
As we have already said, without humility, no
other virtue is possible, for if man does not fulfil virtue in a spirit of
humility, he will inevitably fall into God-opposing pride, and will fall away
from God's mercy.
Together with a true, deep humility, each
Christian must have a spiritual approach such as that spoken of in the second
precept of blessedness. We know that humility abases and judges one. Often,
however, this is not a profound, constant frame of mind and experience of the
soul, but a superficial, shallow feeling. The Holy Fathers indicated one manner
by which the sincerity and depth of humility can be tested:
Begin to reproach a person to his face, for those
very sins and in those very expressions in which he "humbly" judges
himself. If his humility is sincere, he will hear out the reproaches without
anger, and sometimes will thank you for the humbling instruction. If he does
not have true humility, he will not endure the reproaches but will become
angry, since his pride will rear up on its haunches from the reproaches and
The Lord says, "Blessed are those who
mourn for they shall be comforted." In other words, blessed are they
who not only sorrow over their own imperfection and unworthiness, but mourn
over it. By mourning, we understand, first of all, spiritual mourning - weeping
over sins and the resultant loss of God's Kingdom. Moreover, amidst ascetics of
Christianity, there were many who, filled with love and compassion, wept over
other people - over their sins, falls and sufferings. It is also in keeping
with the spirit of the Gospel to account as mourners all those sorrowing and
unfortunate people who accept their sorrow in a Christian way: humbly and
submissively. They are truly blessed, for they shall be comforted by God, with
love. And those who, on the contrary, seek to obtain only pleasure and
enjoyment in the earthly life, are not at all blessed. Although they consider
themselves fortunate, and others consider them as such, according to the spirit
of the Gospel teaching, they are most unfortunate people. It is precisely to
them that this threatening warning of the Lord is directed: "Woe unto
you wealthy! For you have received your consolation.
Woe unto you who are full! For you shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now!
For you shall mourn and weep."
When a man is filled with humility and sorrow
about his sins, he cannot make peace with that evil of sin, which so stains
both himself and other people. He strives to turn away from his sinful
corruption and from the untruth of the surrounding life - to turn to God's
truth, to holiness and purity. He seeks this truth of God and its triumph over
human untruths and desires it more strongly than one who is hungry desires to
eat, or one who is thirsty desires to drink.
The fourth precept, which is bound to the first
two, tells us of this: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they shall be filled." When shall they be filled?
In part, here in the earthly life, in which these faithful followers of God's truth
already see, at times, the beginnings of its triumph and victory in the actions
of God's Providence and in the manifestations of God's justice and
omnipotence. But their spiritual hunger and thirst will be satisfied and
quenched in full there, in blessed eternity, in the "new heaven and new
earth, wherein righteousness lives."
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