Humility (continued), Book V
V.xv. 26.  Once when abba Macarius was walking back from the marsh with some palm leaves, the devil met him armed with a reaping hook with which he tried to cut him down but failed. "I suffer great injury because of you, Macarius," he said, "for I am never able to prevail against you. I tell you, whatever you do I am forced to do also. For when you fast, I get no bread, when you keep vigil I can't sleep. And it is one single thing of yours which beats me."  "Oh? And what's that?" said Macarius. "Your humility," said the devil. "That's where I lose."
V.xv. 27. 
(Also in III.188 & VII.xxxiii.3) Abba Mathois of Raythum once visited Gebalon with his brother, and the bishop of that place came to this famous man and ordained him presbyter. And while they were eating together the bishop said, "I'm sorry, father. I know you didn't really want me to do this, but I ventured to do so as I wanted your blessing."  The old man humbly said, "It's something I hardly expected, and the worst thing about it is that I shall be compelled to part from my brother, and I'm sure I shan't be able to say by myself all the prayers which we usually say together."  Well, I'll ordain him too," said the bishop, "if you think he is worthy of it."  "Whether he is worthy of it I know not," said abba Mathois. "All I do know is that he is better than I am."   So the bishop ordained him as well, but they distanced themselves from the honour of that kind of life and never actually approached the altar to offer the holy sacrifice. For the old man said, "I trust that God won't judge me harshly for not daring to fulfil my ordination by consecrating the oblations. That task is for those who live without reproach."
V.xv. 28.  Abba Matthois said, "When people come close to God all they can see is their own sin. When Isaiah the prophet saw God all he could say was, 'Woe is me, for I am a person of unclean lips'" (Isaiah 6.5)
V.xv. 29.  It was said of abba Moyses that when he was ordained and they vested him with the superhumeral, the Archbishop said to him, "See, abba Moyses, you've been made white."  "Inside or outside, do you think?" said Moyses. Wishing to test him, the Archbishop said to the other clerics, "When Moyses tries to go to the altar, drive him out, but follow him and listen to what he has got to say about it."  So they began to drive him out saying, "Get out of here, you Ethiopian."  As he went he said to himself, "You are only being given what you deserve, you creature of earth and filth. You are scarcely human yourself, so how can you dare to intrude yourself among people?"
V.xv. 30.  When abba Pastor was in the monastery he asked the Abbot if he could see abba Nestoro, of whom he had heard a great deal. But the Abbot was unwilling to send him there alone and would not allow it. After a few days however, the cellarer of the monastery asked if he could go and see abba Nestoro for spiritual advice and the Abbot gave permission saying, "Take this other brother with you who also asked to see abba Nestoro. I refused him before because I didn't want to send him alone. When the cellarer was with abba Nestoro he opened his mind to him and the abba helped him greatly in what he replied. Then abba Pastor spoke to the old man, saying , "Abba Nestoro, how did you find the strength to suffer a great deal of trial and tribulation once in the monastery without complaint or discouragement?"  It took a lot of persuasion, but at length the old man said, "Forgive me (
sc. if you think I am boasting), father, but when I joined the monastery I said to myself, "You and the ass are one. Just as an ass is beaten and says nothing, suffers all sorts of indignities and does not retaliate, so should you be like that, as it is written in the psalms, 'I am become as it were a beast before thee, nevertheless I am always by thee' (Psalm 73.22).
V.xv. 31. 
(A shorter version of III.17) It was said of abba Olympius in Scete that he was a slave and took what he had earned each year to his masters in Athens. They would meet him and greet him, but the old man poured water into a basin to wash their feet. But they would say, "No, father, you embarrass us." And he would reply, "But I declare that being your slave I am so thankful that you have released me to serve God. So I wash your feet, and bring you my earnings." But they wouldn't have it. In reply to their refusal he said, "If you won't accept my earnings there would be nothing for it but to remain here and continue as your slave."  So then they respected his wishes and said, "All right, have it your own way."  And in their turn they treated him as an honoured guest, and provided him with what was necessary for him to do an agape with them. For this he became famous throughout Scete.
V.xv. 32.  Abba Pastor said, "You should constantly breathe an atmosphere of humility and the fear of God, like the air which you breathe in and out."
V.xv. 33.  Abba Pastor was asked by a brother, "How should I conduct myself in the place where I live?" And the old man replied, "Take care to be like a pilgrim, and don't imagine that what you say is of any importance where you live, and be content."
V.xv. 34.  Again he said, "To humble yourself in the eyes of God, not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, and to thrust away your own will from you - these are the tools by which the soul operates."
V.xv. 35.  Again he said, "Don't measure yourself by your own standards, but by someone who is known to live a good life."
V.xv. 36.  Again he said that a brother asked abba Alonius how he understood the word 'contempt'. And he answered, "Put yourself on a lower level than the irrational beasts while realising that they cannot be adjudged blameworthy."
V.xv. 37.  Again he said, "Humility is the ground on which the Lord demands that sacrifices be made."
V.xv. 38.  Again he said, "If you know your own place you will not be upset.
V.xv. 39.  Again he said, "Abba Alonius was the server at table once for the seniors, and they praised the way he did it. But he made no reply. Afterwards somebody asked him why head not replied and he said, "If I had replied to them it would have seemed that I was taking pleasure in their praises."
V.xv. 40.  Abba Joseph said, "Once when we sitting with abba Pastor he referred to Agathon as an abba, and we said, 'He is only a youngster. What are you calling him an abba for?' And abba Pastor said, 'it is what comes out of his mouth that earns him the title Abba.'"
V.xv. 41.  It was said of abba Pastor that he never spoke while any other old man was speaking, but always appreciated what anyone else said.
V.xv. 42.   Once when Theophilus of blessed memory, bishop of Alexandria, visited Scete, the gathered brethren said to abba Pambo, "Say something to him so that he will be impressed by us here." And the old man replied, "If he is not impressed by my silence he is not likely to be impressed by what I might say."
V.xv. 43.  Abba Pystus told of how he and six other solitary brothers went to visit abba Sisois in the Isle of Clysmatus, asking him to give them some spiritual counsel. Sisois begged to be excused on the grounds that he was not sufficiently learned, but told them how he had once visited abba Hor and abba Athre. Abba Hor had at that time reached an infirm old age of eighty-eight. When he asked them to give him some counsel abba Hor said, "I doubt whether I have anything worth saying to you. But watch what we do, if you want an example to follow." Now abba Athre was famed for his obedience, abba Hor for his humility, and Sisois spent some days with them to watch these virtues in practice. He saw abba Athre do something quite remarkable. Someone had brought them one small fish, and abba Athre wanted to prepare it for abba Hor. He had picked up the knife and began to cut it open when abba Hor called him, "Athre! Athre!"  He left the knife inside the fish immediately without  finishing the task, and ran to abba Hor. I was astonished at his obedience. He hadn't even said, 'Wait until I have finished cutting this fish up.' Sisois said to abba Athre, "Where do you get this obedience from?" to which he replied, "He's the obedient one, not me."
And he beckoned me and said, "Come with me, and you will see how obedient he is."  So he deliberately burnt some of the fish in the cooking of it,  and gave it to abba Hor, who ate it saying nothing. "Is it all right, old man?" asked Athre.  "Yes, very nice." said Hor. Then he took him another little piece, very well cooked indeed, and said, "Look, I've spoiled this, old man. I burnt it." and he replied; "Yes, it has turned out rather badly."  Abba Athre turned to Sisois and said, "Now do you see how obedient this old man is?"  After leaving them Sisois tried himself to follow what they did to the best of his ability. When abba Sisois had finished telling the seven brothers this story one of then said, "Be kind to us and give us a word of your own." And he said, "There is no end to what you must learn if you are to fulfil all the Scriptures." Another one of them said, "How do you define pilgrimage, father?"  And he replied; "Silence - And wherever you go, say to yourself, 'I am of no importance here.' That's what pilgrimage is.'"
V.xv. 44.  A brother came to abba Sisois in abba Antony's mountain and in the course of conversation he asked, "Do you think you have now arrived where abba Antony got to, father?" And he replied, "If even one of my thoughts were like those of abba Antony I would by now have become like fire all through. But I do know a man who after immense labour has learned to discipline his thoughts."
V.xv. 45.  The same brother asked him, " Do you think that the devil persecutes us in the same way as he did the ancients?"  "Much more," said Sisois. "For he knows that the end is approaching and he is worried."
V.xv. 46.  To some others who came to him asking for a word he said nothing but; "No. I'm sorry" over and over again. Seeing some baskets there they asked Abraham his disciple how they disposed of them, and he replied, "We send them out sometimes locally sometimes elsewhere." Sisois overhear this and said, "And I gather in sometimes locally sometimes from elsewhere." Hearing this they were greatly edified by his humility and went away satisfied.
V.xv. 47.  A brother said to abba Sisois, "It seems to me that my memory is totally fixed on God." And the old man said, "To have your mind fixed on God is not such a great things as to see yourself below every other creature. It is physical work which encourages this and leads you to humility."
V.xv. 48.  Amma Syncletica of blessed memory said, "Just as you can't build a ship without nails, so it is impossible for human beings to be saved without humility."
V.xv. 49.  Abba Hyperichius said, "The Tree of Life is in the heavens, and the humility of the monk reaches up to it."
V.xv. 50.  He also said, "Imitate the publican lest you be condemned like the Pharisee. And cultivate the gentleness of Moyses, purging the pride in your heart and turning to the fountains of living waters."
V.xv. 51. Abba Orsisius said, "If you put a broken bit of unbaked tile into your foundations near a river it won't last a single day, but once it is baked it becomes like stone. Someone with any amount of worldly knowledge is like this until baked in the fire of temptation, and it is a good thing for anyone who knows his limitations, and at first sinks under the weight of them, to stand steadfast in the faith, like Joseph, as the word of God explains. Joseph was greatly tempted in the midst of the people where he lived, and if you want to praise him think of how he was an alien, greatly tempted, in a distant land where there were no visible signs of the worship of God. But the god of his fathers was with him, who brought him through all his troubles, and is now with his fathers in the kingdom of heaven. We too, aware of our limitations, can be quite sure that we can never flee from the righteousness of God."
V.xv. 52. There was a solitary old man living in the desert with no obligations to anyone, who thought within himself that he had developed his virtues to near perfection. And he prayed to God, "Show what to do in order to prove my virtues, and I will do it."  Wishing to humiliate him in his thinking, God said to him, "Go to the archimandrite and do whatever he tells you."  In the meantime, before he got there, God warned the archimandrite, saying, "See, there is this solitary coming to you. Tell him to take a stick and go and feed the pigs."  The old man went to the archimandrite, knocked at his door and went in. After their greetings, the sat down and the old man said, "Tell me what I must do in order to continue on the path of salvation."  "Will you do whatever I tell you?" said the archimandrite. "Yes, I will," he replied.  "Take a stick and go and feed the pigs," said the archimandrite. People who knew him or had heard of him saw him feeding the pigs and said, "Have you see this famous solitary we have heard so much about? He's gone off his head, tormented by demons, feeding the pigs."  And God saw his humility and how patiently he bore people's insults, and allowed him to go back to his own place.
V.xv. 53.  A certain old solitary monk was struck on the cheek by someone possessed of a demon and foaming at the mouth. But he immediately turned the other cheek, and the demon, unable to bear his humility, departed from him
V.xv. 54.  And old man said, "When thoughts of pride and exaltation come into your mind examine your conscience as to whether you have kept the commandments, loved your enemies, rejoiced when your enemy succeeds, mourned when he is brought low, accepted yourself as an unprofitable servant and worse than all other sinners. If you have accepted these things about yourself, then you have made amends for everything else, knowing that thoughts of this kind are a universal remedy."
V.xv. 55.  An old man said, "Do not set yourself up against your brother, claiming that you are more abstinent or reliable or intelligent than  he. Be subject to the grace of God in the spirit of poverty and unfeigned charity, lest puffed up by the spirit of pride you lose all the fruit of your previous labours. Stay in Christ, preserved in spiritual salt."
V.xv. 56.
(A similar saying in VII.xiii.4) An old man said, "Anyone who is praised or honoured above what he is worth runs a greater risk of being brought low, But he who has no reputation at all among men will in the end be lifted up."
V.xv. 57.  A brother asked an old man, "Is it a good thing to be eager to do penance?"  And the old man said, "We have been told that it was when Joshua the son of Nun was prostrate on his face that God appeared to him."
V.xv. 58.  An old man was asked why it is that we are plagued with demons and he replied that it is because we have thrown away our armour of accepting insults with humility and poverty and patience.
V.xv. 59.  A brother asked an old man, "If a brother from outside comes to me wanting to tell me his thoughts, should I tell him not to do so?"  "Yes," said the old man, "for you are not your brother's keeper and furthermore if you were to tell him not to do something you never know but what you might find yourself falling into the same fault. It should be sufficient for him that you wish to preserve your silence.
V.xv. 60.  An old man was asked to define humility and he said it consisted in forgiving your brother from your heart, even before he had apologised.
V.xv. 61.  And old man said, "In every trial don't blame your brother but only yourself, saying, 'It is because of my own sins that this trial has come upon us.'"
V.xv. 62.  An old man said, "I have never been ambitious to seek a higher place, nor have I been upset if I have been put down. I have set my whole mind on praying to God that he would kill the old man in me."
V.xv. 63.  A brother asked an old man, "How do you define humility?" and the old man replied, "Blessing those who persecute you."  "But what if you can't rise to those heights?" the brother asked. "Just walk away and choose to say nothing," he replied.
V.xv. 64.  A brother asked an old man how a pilgrim should behave, and the old man said, "I know a pilgrim brother who went into a church where it so happened that they were having an agape and he sat down at a table to eat with the brothers. Some of those present said, 'Who invited you in? Get up and get out.'  So he got up and went. Others were angry because he was sent out, and they went out after him and called him back. Later on he was asked how he had felt when first of all he was driven out and then called back in again, and he replied, 'I simply thought of myself to a pet dog who goes out when it is told and comes back when it is told.'"
V.xv. 65. 
(A shorter version of III.25) Some people once came to an old man in Thebes, bringing with them someone possessed by a devil for the old man to cure. The old man wrestled with the demon for some time, and then said, "Depart as God commands."  I will go," said the demon, "but first give me the answer to this question, Who are the sheep and who are the goats?"  And the old man said, "The goats are people like me, but as to who the sheep are, only God knows that." Hearing this, the demon cried with a loud  voice, "It's your humility which drives me out."  And he departed in the self-same hour.
V.xv. 66. 
(A shorter version of III.19) There was a certain monk from Egypt who was staying in the outskirts of Constantinople, when the emperor Theodosius the younger came by that way, and he left all those in his retinue and went and knocked on the monk's door. The monk opened the door, didn't recognise him as the Emperor, but asked him in thinking that he was an army officer. The prayed together and sat down. the Emperor then began to ask him about the monks in Egypt, and the old man said, "They all pray for your wellbeing."  Looking about the cell to see what was in it the Emperor could see nothing but a small basket of bread and a jug of water. But the monk said to him, "Come, let us have some refreshment." And he put out some bread with some oil and salt for him to eat and some water to drink. The Emperor then said to him, "Do you know who I am?" and the old man said; " No, but the Lord does." "I am the Emperor Theodosius," he said. At once the old man humbly bowed before him, and the Emperor said, "Blessed are you, for your life is secure,  and you have no dealings with the world. I tell you truly, born though I am to the imperial throne I have never enjoyed food and drink as much as I have this day. I have had enough and more than enough." And he tried after that to bestow some honour on the old man, but he went back to Egypt.
V.xv. 67.  The old men used to say, "The more we are tempted, the more we are humiliated, but God seeing our weakness protect us. If we get conceited however he takes away his protection from us and we perish."
V.xv. 68.  The devil once appeared to a brother in the guise of an angel of light and said to him, "I am the angel Gabriel and I have been sent to you."  But he said, "Just check whether it isn't somebody else that you have been sent to, for I am not worthy to have an angel sent to me."  And the devil immediately disappeared.
V.xv. 69.  And they also said, "If it really is an angel who appears to you, don't believe it too readily, but humble yourself and say, "Because of my sins I am not worthy see angels."
V.xv. 70.  It was said of another old man that being tempted of demons while sitting in his cell, they openly appeared to him, but he spurned them. When the devil saw that he had been beaten he appeared again saying, "I am Christ."  When the old man saw him he shut his eyes. "I am Christ, so why do you shut your eyes?" the devil said. And the old man replied, "It is in the next life that I hope to see Christ, not this."  And hearing this the devil disappeared.
V.xv. 71.  The demons said to another old man they wanted to lead astray, "Would you like to see Christ?"  But he said, "To hell with you and what you say. For I believe what Christ has already said, 'If anyone should say to you Lo here is Christ or Lo there believe him not (Matthew 24.23).'"  and the devil immediately disappeared.
V.xv. 72.  It was said of another old man that he fasted for seventy weeks, eating only once a week, asking God to reveal to him the meaning of a certain section of the Holy Scriptures, but when God revealed nothing to him he said to himself, "I have taken all this labour upon myself and gained nothing. I'll go to my brother and ask him about it." As soon as he had gone out and shut the door behind him an angel was sent to him who said, "The seventy weeks you have fasted have not brought you a scrap nearer God. But now that you have humbled yourself to go off and ask your brother I have been sent to tell you the meaning." And having explained to him what he was asking about he disappeared.
V.xv. 73.  An old man said, "If with humility and in the fear of God you enjoin your brother to do anything it will be as a word coming from God and will make your brother willing to do what you have asked. But if you think you can order your brother about, not in the fear of God but on your own authority, wishing to exercise power, God who sees the secrets of every heart will not help the brother to hear what is asked of him or to do it. It is easy to tell what is enjoined according to the will of God and what springs merely from self-will or the exercise of power. For what comes from God is asked in humility and with prayer; what comes from the exercise of power comes with anger and turmoil, as is natural when it comes from the devil.
V.xv. 74.  I would rather be conquered in a spirit of humility than to prevail in a spirit of pride.
V.xv. 75.  An old man said, "Don't look down on your companion, for you don't really know who it is who has the Spirit, he or you. By 'companion' I mean your 'servant'."
V.xv. 76.  A brother asked an old man whether it would be right to say anything if he found that the behaviour of some of the brothers among whom he lived was unacceptable. And the old man said, "If they are older than you, or of the same age, you will find that silence will bring you greater peace, in that by making yourself smaller than they you will be on firmer ground."  "But I am very upset inside, father," said the brother. "So what should I do?"  "If you feel you must do something about it," said the old man, "offer a humble rebuke once. But if they won't listen hand the matter over into the hand of God; he will bring you consolation. In doing this God's workman is brought closer to God through the denial of his own will. But take care that your concern is really in accordance with the will of God. And in any case as far as I can see it is always good to keep silence. Silence brings you humility."
V.xv. 77.  A brother asked an old man what was the way for a person to make progress. And the old man replied, "You can only make progress through humility. The more you bend down in humility the more you are raised up in progress."
V.xv. 78.  And old man said, "Whenever anyone humbles himself and apologises the devil of temptation burn."
V.xv. 79.  If you have the gift of silence you won't take credit for possessing any of the virtues even if you do have them, for you will say, 'I am not qualified to speak about that.'!
V.xv. 80.  An old man said,  "If the miller does not blindfold the animal turning his millstone round, the animal will turn and eat all the fruits of his labours. Similarly we should not contemplate all the good things we have done by the dispensation of God, lest we think we are saints and lose our reward. When we observe such thoughts we should condemn ourselves as we justly deserve, and it is that thought which will serve as a blindfold in respect of our few good works. When you accuse yourself you are in no danger of losing your reward."

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