Orthodox River


St. Maximos the confessor

The passion of pride arises from two kinds of ignorance, and when these two kinds of ignorance unite together they form a single confused state of mind. For a man is proud only if he is ignorant both of divine help and of human weakness. Therefore pride is a lack of knowledge both in the divine and in the human spheres. For the denial of two true premises results in a single false affirmation.

Self-esteem is eradicated by the hidden practice of the virtues, pride, by ascribing our achievements to God.

The mark of monastic self-esteem is to be puffed up about one’s virtue and its consequences. The mark of monastic pride is to be conceited about one’s own achievements, to ascribe these achievements to oneself and not to God, and to hold others in contempt. The mark of worldly self-esteem and pride is to be puffed up and conceited about one’s beauty, wealth, power and moral judgment.

The passion of pride arises from two kinds of ignorance, and when these two kinds of ignorance unite together they form a single confused state of mind. For a man is proud only if he is ignorant both of divine help and of human weakness. Therefore pride is a lack of knowledge both in the divine and in the human spheres. For the denial of two true premises results in a single false affirmation.

Inner work destroys self-esteem, and if you despise no one you will repel pride.

The signs of self-esteem are hypocrisy and falsehood; those of pride are presumption and jealousy.

Pride and boastfulness are characterized by hypocrisy, guile, trickery, pretence and, worst of all, falsity.

St Thalassios the Libyan

Pride deprives us of God’s help, making us over-reliant on ourselves and arrogant towards other people.

There are two remedies against pride; and if you do not avail yourself of them you will find yourself given a third, far more painful to bear.

Prayer with tears, and having no scorn for anyone, destroy pride; but so do chastisements inflicted against our will.

Chastisement through the trials imposed on us is a spiritual rod, teaching us humility when in our foolishness we think too much of ourselves.

The intellect (νούς)’s task is to reject any thought that secretly vilifies a fellow being

St Peter Damaskos

These eight passions should be destroyed as follows: gluttony by self-control: unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18:11-12), and by considering oneself the least of all men. When the intellect (νούς) has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1:22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.

St. Philotheos of Sinai

Guarding the intellect (νούς) with the Lord’s help requires much humility, first in relation to God and then in relation to men. We ought to do all we can to crush and humble the heart. To achieve this we should scrupulously remember our former life in the world, recalling and reviewing in detail all the sins we have committed since childhood (except carnal sins, for the remembrance of these is harmful). This not only induces humility but also engenders tears and moves us to give heartfelt thanks to God. Perpetual and vivid mindfulness of death has the same effect: it gives birth to grief accompanied by a certain sweetness and joy, and to watchfulness (νέψις) of intellect (νούς). In addition, the detailed remembrance of our Lord’s Passion, the recollection of what He suffered, greatly humbles and abashes our pride, and this, too, produces tears. Finally, to recount and review all the blessings we have received from God is truly humbling. For our battle is against proud demons.

St. Peter Damaskos

The trials imposed by spiritual fathers in order to discipline and instruct their spiritual children are one thing; but the trials brought on by our enemies for our destruction are another. This is especially true when we are deluded by pride; for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (cf Jas. 4:6; Prov. 3:34. LXX). Every tribulation that we accept patiently is good and profitable; but if we do not accept it patiently, it drives us away from God and serves no useful purpose. When this happens, there is only one cure-humility. The humble man censures and blames himself and no one else when he suffers affliction. Consequently, he patiently awaits for God to release him, and when this happens he rejoices and gratefully endures whatever comes; and through his experience of these things he gains spiritual knowledge. Recognizing his own ignorance and weakness, he seeks diligently for the Physician and, seeking, he finds Him, as Christ himself has said (cf. Matt. 7:8). Having found God, he longs for Him; and the more he longs, the more God longs for him. Then, purifying himself as much as he can, he struggles to make room in himself for the Beloved for whom he longs. And the Beloved for whom he longs, finding room for Himself in this man, takes up His abode there, as the Gerontikon says. Dwelling there. He protects His home, and fills it with light. And the person thus filled with light knows and, knowing, he is known, as St John of Damaskos says.

St. Symeon Metaphrasitis

Where outward ascetic practice is concerned, which virtue is the most important? The answer to this is that the virtues are linked one to the other, and follow as it were a sacred sequence, one depending on the other. For instance, prayer is linked to love, love to joy, joy to gentleness, gentleness to humility, humility to service, service to hope, hope to faith, faith to obedience, and obedience to simplicity. Similarly, the vices are linked one to another: hatred to anger, anger to pride, pride to self-esteem, self-esteem to unbelief, unbelief to hardheartedness, hardheartedness to negligence, negligence to sluggishness, sluggishness to apathy, apathy to listlessness, listlessness to lack of endurance, lack of endurance to self-indulgence, and so on with all the other vices.

The devil tries to soil and defile every good thing a man would do by intermingling with it his own seeds in the form of self-esteem, presumption, complaint, and other things of this kind, so that what we do is not done for God alone, or with a glad heart. Abel offered a sacrifice to God of the fat and firstlings of his flock, while Cain offered gifts of the fruits of the earth, but not of the firstfruits: and that is why God looked with favor on Abel’s sacrifices, but paid no attention to Cain’s gifts (cf Gen. 4:3-5). This shows us that it is possible to do something good in the wrong way - that is to say, to do it negligently, or scornfully, or else not for God’s sake but for some other purpose; and for this reason it is unacceptable to God.

The devout soul, even if it practices all the virtues, ascribes everything to God and nothing to itself. God, on the other hand, when He sees its sound and healthy understanding and knowledge, attributes everything to the soul, and rewards it as though it had achieved everything through its own efforts. He does this in spite of the fact that, if He were to bring us to judgment, no true righteousness would be found in us. For material possessions and everything that man regards as valuable and through which he is able to do good, the earth and whatever is in it, all belong to God. Man’s body and soul, and even his very being, are his only by grace. What, then, is left to him that he can call his own, by virtue of which he can pride himself or vindicate himself? Yet when the soul recognizes - what is

St Symeon Metaphrastis Paraphrase of the Homilies of St Makarios of Egypt

VI The Freedom of the intellect (νούς)

Indeed the truth-that all its good actions for God’s sake, together with all its understanding and knowledge, are to be ascribed to God alone and that everything should be attributed to Him, then God accepts this as the greatest gift that man can make, as the offering that is most precious in His eyes.

In the eyes of God and of those who have a Christ-like life, to act with passion because of one’s dissolute character and to take pride in one’s virtues through a spirit of self-conceit are each as evil as the other. In the first case it is shameful even to speak of the things that those enslaved to the passions do in secret (cf Eph. 5:12); in the second case the self-vaunting of the heart is an abornination to God. The dissolute person alienates himself from God, for he is ‘flesh’ (cf Gen. 6:3), while the person who takes pride in his virtue is unclean in God’s sight because of his self-conceit.

God deserts those engaged in spiritual warfare for three reasons: because of their arrogance, because they censure others, and because they are so cock-a-hoop about their own virtue. The presence of any of these vices in the soul prompts God to withdraw; and until they are expelled and replaced by radical humility, the soul will not escape just punishment.

It is not only passion-charged thoughts that sully the heart and defile the soul. To be elated about one’s many achievements, to be puffed up about one’s virtue, to have a high idea of one’s wisdom and spiritual knowledge, and to criticize those who are lazy and negligent - all this has the same effect, as is clear from the parable of the publican and the Pharisee (cf Luke 18:10-14).

Do not imagine that you will be delivered from your passions, or escape the defilement of the passion-charged thoughts which these generate, while your mind is still swollen with pride because of your virtues. You will not see the courts of peace, your thoughts full of loving-kindness, nor, generous and calm in heart, will you joyfully enter the temple of love, so long as you presume on yourself and on your own works.

If your soul is allured by comeliness of body and usurped by the passion-imbued thoughts that it seems to evoke, do not assume that such comeliness is the cause of your agitated and impassioned state. The cause lies hidden in your soul, and it is your soul’s passionate disposition and evil habits that, as a magnet attracts iron, attracts to itself such impurity from the beauty it perceives. For all things are created by God and all, as He Himself says, are ‘wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen. 1:31), providing no ground at all for impugning His creation.

Just as seasickness is due, not to the sea’s nature, but to the already existing disorder of the body’s humors, so the soul’s confusion and turmoil are due, not to the beauty of countenance in the person that it perceives, but to its preexisting evil disposition.

The soul’s apprehension of the nature of things changes in accordance with its own inner state. Thus when its spiritual organs of perception operate in a way that accords with nature and the intellect (νούς) unerringly penetrates to the inner essences of things, clearly and cogently elucidating their nature and function, then it perceives things and persons and every material body as they are according to nature, and is aware that no seed of impurity or vitiation lies hidden within them. But when its powers operate in a way that is contrary to nature, and are in a state of self-antagonism, it perceives things likewise in a way that is not in accord with nature; their natural beauty does not exalt it to an understanding of their Maker, but because of its own impassioned proclivities engulfs it in self-destruction.

This passion is the subtlest of all the passions, and for this reason the person who fights against it must not merely be on guard against coupling with it or avoid assenting to it, but he must regard the very provocation as assent and must shield himself from it. Only in this way can he narrowly escape speedy defeat. If through inward watchfulness (νέψις) he manages to do this, the provocation itself will become an occasion for compunction. But if he fails to do it, the provocation induces pride; and once a person has fallen a victim to pride it is hard, in fact impossible, to cure him, for such a fall is the same as the devil’s. Yet even before this the passion for popularity brings such injury upon those it masters that it shipwrecks faith itself (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19). Our Lord confirms this when He says, ‘How can you have faith in Me when you receive honor from one another and do not seek for the honor that comes from the only God?’ (cf John 5:44).