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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 the Heavens!"

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 humble."

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 accusations.

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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