OUR eighth and last combat is against the spirit of pride, which evil, although it is the latest in our conflict with our faults and stands last on the list, yet in beginning and in the order of time is the first: an evil beast that is most savage and more dreadful than all the former ones, chiefly trying those who are perfect, and devouring with its dreadful bite those who have almost attained the consummation of virtue.
AND of this pride there are two kinds: the one, that by which we said that the best of men and spiritually minded ones were troubled; the other, that which assaults even beginners and carnal persons. And though each kind of pride is excited with regard to both God and man by a dangerous elation, yet that first kind more particularly has to do with God; the second refers especially to men. Of the origin of this last and the remedies for it we will by God's help treat as far as possible in the latter part of this book. We now propose to say a few things about that former kind, by which, as I mentioned before, those who are perfect are especially tried.
THERE is then no other fault which is so destructive of all virtues, and robs and despoils a man of all righteousness and holiness, as this evil of pride, which like some pestilential disease attacks the whole man, and, not content to damage one part or one limb only, injures the entire body by its deadly influence, and endeavours to cast down by a most fatal fall, and destroy those who were already at the top of the tree of the virtues. For every other fault is satisfied within its own bounds and limits, and though it clouds other virtues as well, yet it is in the main directed against one only, and specially attacks and assaults that. And so (to make my meaning clearer) gluttony, i.e., the appetites of the belly and the pleasures of the palate, is destructive of strict temperance: lust stains purity, anger destroys patience: so that sometimes a man who is in bondage to some one sin is not altogether wanting in other virtues: but being simply deprived of that one virtue which in the struggle yields to the vice which is its rival and opposed to it, can to some extent preserve his other virtues: but this one when once it has taken possession of some unfortunate soul, like some most brutal tyrant, when the lofty citadel of the virtues has been taken, utterly destroys and lays waste the whole city; and levelling with the ground of vices the once high walls of saintliness, and confusing them together, it allows no shadow of freedom henceforth to survive in the soul subject to it. And in proportion as it was originally the richer, so now will the yoke of servitude be the severer, through which by its cruel ravages it will strip the soul it has subdued of all its powers of virtue.
AND that we may understand the power of its awful tyranny we see that that angel who, for the greatness of his splendour and beauty was termed Lucifer, was cast out of heaven for no other sin but this, and, pierced with the dart of pride, was hurled down from his grand and exalted position as an angel into hell. If then pride of heart alone was enough to cast down from heaven to earth a power that was so great and adorned with the attributes of such might, the very greatness of his fall shows us with what care we who are surrounded by the weakness of the flesh ought to be on our guard. But we can learn how to avoid the most deadly poison of this evil if we trace out the origin and causes of his fall. For weakness can never be cured, nor the remedies for bad states of health be disclosed unless first their origin and causes are investigated by a wise scrutiny. For as he (viz., Lucifer) was endowed with divine splendour, and shone forth among the other higher powers by the bounty of his Maker, he believed that he had acquired the splendour of that wisdom and the beauty of those powers, with which he was graced by the gift of the Creator, by the might of his own nature, and not by the beneficence of His generosity. And on this account he was puffed up as if he stood in no need of divine assistance in order to continue in this state of purity, and esteemed himself to be like God, as if, like God, he had no need of any one, and trusting in the power of his own will, fancied that through it he could richly supply himself with everything which was necessary for the consummation of virtue or for the perpetuation of perfect bliss. This thought alone was the cause of his first fall. On account of which being forsaken by God, whom he fancied he no longer needed, he suddenly became unstable and tottering, and discovered the weakness of his own nature, and lost the blessedness which he had enjoyed by God's gift. And because he "loved the words of ruin," with which he had said, "I will ascend into heaven," and the "deceitful tongue," with which he had said of himself, "I will be like the Most High," and of Adam and Eve, "Ye shall be as gods," therefore "shall God destroy him forever and pluck him out and remove him from his dwelling place and his root out of the land of the living." Then "the just," when they see his ruin, "shall fear, and shall laugh at him and say" (what may also be most justly aimed at those who trust that they can obtain the highest good without the protection and assistance of God): "Behold the man that made not God his helper, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and prevailed in his vanity."
THIS is the reason of the first fall, and the starting point of the original malady, which again insinuating itself into the first man, through him who had already been destroyed by it, produced the weaknesses and materials of all faults. For while he believed that by the freedom of his will and by his own efforts he could obtain the glory of Deity, he actually lost that glory which he already possessed through the free gift of the Creator.
AND so it is most clearly established by instances and testimonies from Scripture that the mischief of pride, although it comes later in the order of the combat, is yet earlier in origin, and is the beginning of all sins and faults: nor is it (like the other vices) simply fatal to the virtue opposite to it (in this case, humility), but it is also at the same time destructive of all virtues: nor does it only tempt ordinary folk and small people, but chiefly those who already stand on the heights of valour. For thus the prophet speaks of this spirit, "His meat is choice." And so the blessed David, although he guarded the recesses of his heart with the utmost care, so that he dared to say to Him from whom the secrets of his conscience were not hid, "Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are my eyes lofty: neither have I walked in great matters, nor in wonderful things above me. If I was not humbly minded;" and again, "He that worketh pride shall not dwell in the midst of my house;" yet, as he knew how hard is that watchfulness even for those that are perfect, he did not so presume on his own efforts, but prayed to God and implored His help, that he might escape unwounded by the darts of this foe, saying, "Let not the foot of pride come to me," for he feared and dreaded falling into that which is said of the proud, viz., "God resisteth the proud;" and again: "Every one that exalteth his heart is unclean before the Lord."
HOW great is the evil of pride, that it rightly has no angel, nor other virtues opposed to it, but God Himself as its adversary! Since it should be noted that it is never said of those who are entangled in other sins that they have God resisting them; I mean it is not said that God is opposed "to the gluttonous, fornicators, passionate, or covetous," but only "to the proud." For those sins react only on those who commit them, or seem to be committed against those who share in them, i.e., against other men; but this one has more properly to do with God, and therefore it is especially right that it should have Him opposed to it.
AND so God, the Creator and Healer of all, knowing that pride is the cause and fountain head of evils, has been careful to heal opposites with opposites, that those things which were ruined by pride might be restored by humility. For the one says, "I will ascend into heaven;" the other, "My soul was brought low even to the ground." The one says, "And I will be like the most High;" the other, "Though He was in the form of God, yet He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, and humbled Himself and became obedient unto death." The one says, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;" the other, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." The one says, "I know not the Lord and will not let Israel go;" the other, "If I say that I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know Him, and keep His commandments." The one says, "My rivers are mine and I made them:" the other: "I can do nothing of myself, but my Father who abideth in me, He doeth the works." The one says, "All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them are mine, and to whomsoever I will, I give them;" the other, "Though He were rich yet He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich." The one says, "As eggs are gathered together which are left, so have I gathered all the earth: and there was none that moved the wing or opened the mouth, or made the least noise;" the other, "I am become like a solitary pelican; I watched and became as a sparrow alone upon the roof." The one says, "I have dried up with the sole of my foot all the rivers shut up in banks;" the other, "Cannot I ask my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" If we look at the reason of our original fall, and the foundations of our salvation, and consider by whom and in what way the latter were laid and the former originated, we may learn, either through the fall of the devil, or through the example of Christ, how to avoid so terrible a death from pride.
AND so we can escape the snare of this most evil spirit, if in the case of every virtue in which we feel that we make progress, we say these words of the Apostle: "Not I, but the grace of God with me," and "by the grace of God I am what I am;" and "it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure." As the author of our salvation Himself also says: "If a man abide in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." And "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." And "Vain is it for you to rise up before light." For "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy."
FOR the will and course of no one, however eager and anxious, is sufficiently ready for him, while still enclosed in the flesh which warreth against the spirit, to reach so great a prize of perfection, and the palm of uprightness and purity, unless he is protected by the divine compassion, so that he is privileged to attain to that which he greatly desires and to which he runs. For "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." "For what hast thou which thou didst not receive? But if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?"
FOR if we recall that thief who was by reason of a single confession admitted into paradise, we shall feel that he did not acquire such bliss by the merits of his life, but obtained it by the gift of a merciful God. Or if we bear in mind those two grievous and heinous sins of King David, blotted out by one word of penitence, we shall see that neither here were the merits of his works sufficient to obtain pardon for so great a sin, but that the grace of God superabounded, as, when the opportunity for true penitence was taken, He removed the whole weight of sins through the full confession of but one word. If we consider also the beginning of the call and salvation of mankind, in which, as the Apostle says, we are saved not of ourselves, nor of our works, but by the gift and grace of God, we can clearly see how the whole of perfection is "not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy," who makes us victorious over our faults, without any merits of works and life on our part to outweigh them, or any effort of our will availing to scale the difficult heights of perfection, or to subdue the flesh which we have to use: since no tortures of this body, and no contrition of heart, can be sufficient for the acquisition of that true chastity of the inner man so as to be able to gain that great virtue of purity (which is innate in the angels alone and indigenous as it were to heaven) merely by human efforts, i.e., without the aid of God: for the performance of everything good flows from His grace, who by multiplying His bounty has granted such lasting bliss, and vast glory to our feeble will and short and petty course of life.
FOR all the long years of this present life disappear when you have regard to the eternity of the future glory: and all our sorrows vanish away in the contemplation of that vast bliss, and like smoke melt away, and come to nothing, and like ashes are no more seen.
WHEREFORE it is now time to produce, in the very words in which they hand it down, the opinion of the Fathers; viz., of those who have not painted the way of perfection and its character in high-sounding words, but rather, possessing it in deed and truth, and in the virtue of their spirit, have passed it on by their own experience and sure example. And so they say that no one can be altogether cleansed from carnal sins, unless he has realized that all his labours and efforts are insufficient for so great and perfect an end; and unless, taught, not by the system handed down to him, but by his feelings and virtues and his own experience, he recognizes that it can only be gained by the mercy and assistance of God. For in order to acquire such splendid and lofty prizes of purity and perfection, however great may be the efforts of fastings and vigils and readings and solitude and retirement applied to it, they will not be sufficient to secure it by the merits of the actual efforts and toil. For a man's own efforts and human exertions will never make up for the lack of the divine gift, unless it is granted by divine compassion in answer to his prayer.
NOR do I say this to cast a slight on human efforts, or in the endeavour to discourage any one from his purpose of working and doing his best. But clearly and most earnestly do I lay down, not giving my own opinion, but that of the elders, that perfection cannot possibly be gained without these, but that by these only without the grace of God nobody can ever attain it. For when we say that human efforts cannot of themselves secure it without the aid of God, we thus insist that God's mercy and grace are bestowed only upon those who labour and exert themselves, and are granted (to use the Apostle's expression) to them that "will" and "run," according to that which is sung in the person of God in the eighty-eighth Psalm: "I have laid help upon one that is mighty, and have exalted one chosen out of my people." For we say, in accordance with our Saviour's words, that it is given to them that ask, and opened to them that knock and found by them that seek; but that the asking, the seeking, and the knocking on our part are insufficient unless the mercy of God gives what we ask, and opens that at which we knock, and enables us to find that which we seek. For He is at hand to bestow all these things, if only the opportunity is given to Him by our good will. For He desires and looks for our perfection and salvation far more than we do ourselves. And the blessed David knew so well that by his own efforts he could not secure the increase of his work and labour, that he entreated with renewed prayers that he might obtain the "direction" of his work from the Lord, saying, "Direct thou the work of our hands over us; yea, the work of our hands do thou direct;" and again: "Confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us."
AND so, if we wish in very deed and truth to attain to the crown of virtues, we ought to listen to those teachers and guides who, not dreaming with pompous declamations, but learning by act and experience, are able to teach us as well, and direct us likewise, and show us the road by which we may arrive at it by a most sure pathway; and who also testify that they have themselves reached it by faith rather than by any merits of their efforts. And further, the purity of heart that they have acquired has taught them this above all; viz., to recognize more and more that they are burdened with sin (for their compunction for their faults increases day by day in proportion as their purity of soul advances), and to sigh continually from the bottom of their heart because they see that they cannot possibly avoid the spots and blemishes of those faults which are ingrained in them through the countless triflings of the thoughts. And therefore they declared that they looked for the reward of the future life, not from the merits of their works, but from the mercy of the Lord, taking no credit to themselves for their great circumspection of heart in comparison with others, since they ascribed this not to their own exertions, but to divine grace; and without flattering themselves on account of the carelessness of those who are cold, and worse than they themselves are, they rather aimed at a lasting humility by fixing their gaze on those whom they knew to be really free from sin and already in the enjoyment of eternal bliss in the kingdom of heaven, and so by this consideration they avoided the downfall of pride, and at the same time always saw both what they were aiming at and what they had to grieve over: as they knew that they could not attain that purity of heart for which they yearned while weighed down by the burden of the flesh.
WE ought therefore, in accordance with their teaching and instruction, so to press towards it, and to be diligent in fastings, vigils, prayers, and contrition of heart and body, for fear lest all these things should be rendered useless by an attack of this malady. For we ought to believe not merely that we cannot secure this actual perfection by our own efforts and exertions, but also that we cannot perform those things which we practise for its sake, viz., our efforts and exertions and desires, without the assistance of the divine protection, and the grace of His inspiration, chastisement, and exhortation, which He ordinarily sheds abroad in our hearts either through the instrumentality of another, or in His own person coming to visit us.
LASTLY, the Author of our salvation teaches us what we ought not merely to think, but also to acknowledge in everything that we do. "I can," He says, "of mine own self do nothing, but the Father which abideth in me, He doeth the works." He says, speaking in the human nature which He had taken, that He could do nothing of Himself; and shall we, who are dust and ashes, think that we have no need of God's help in what pertains to our salvation? And so let us learn in everything, as we feel our own weakness, and at the same time His help, to declare with the saints, "I was overturned that I might fall, but the Lord supported me. The Lord is my strength and my praise: and He is become my salvation." And "Unless the Lord had helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in hell. If I said, My foot is moved: Thy mercy, O Lord, assisted me. According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, Thy comforts have given Joy to my soul." Seeing also that our heart is strengthened in the fear of the Lord, and in patience, let us say: "And the Lord became my protector; and He brought me forth into a large place." And knowing that knowledge is increased by progress in work, let us say: "For thou lightest my lamp, O Lord: O my God, enlighten my darkness, for by Thee I shall be delivered from temptation, and through my God I shall go over a wall." Then, feeling that we have ourselves sought for courage and endurance, and are being directed with greater ease and without labour in the path of the virtues, let us say, "It is God who girded me with strength, and made my way perfect; who made my feet like hart's feet, and setteth me up on high: who teacheth my hands to war." And having also secured discretion, strengthened with which we can dash down our enemies, let us cry aloud to God: "Thy discipline hath set me up unto the end, and Thy discipline the same shall teach me. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, and my feet are not weakened." And because I am thus strengthened with Thy knowledge and power, I will boldly take up the words which follow, and will say, "I will pursue after my enemies and overtake them: and I will not turn again till they are consumed. I will break them, and they shall not be able to stand: they shall fall under my feet." Again, mindful of our own infirmity, and of the fact that while still burdened with the weak flesh we cannot without His assistance overcome such bitter foes as our sins are, let us say, "Through Thee we will scatter our enemies: and through Thy name we will despise them that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow: neither shall my sword save me. For Thou hast saved us from them that afflict us: and hast put them to shame that hate us." But further: "Thou hast guided me with strength unto the battle, and hast subdued under me them that rose up against me. And Thou hast made mine enemies turn their backs upon me, and hast destroyed them that hated me." And reflecting that with our own arms alone we cannot conquer, let us say, "Take hold of arms and shield: and rise up to help me. Bring out the sword and stop the way against them that persecute me: say to my soul, I am thy salvation." "And Thou hast made my arms like a brazen bow. And Thou hast given me the protection of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath held me up." "For our fathers got not the possession of the land through their own sword; neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand and Thine arm and the light of Thy countenance because Thou wast pleased with them." Lastly, as with anxious mind we regard all His benefits with thankfulness, let us cry to Him with the inmost feelings of our heart, for all these things, because we have fought, and have obtained from Him the light of knowledge, and self-control and discretion, and because He has furnished us with His own arms, and strengthened us with a girdle of virtue, and because He has made our enemies turn their backs upon us, and has given us the power of scattering them like the dust before the wind: "I will love Thee, O Lord my Strength; the Lord is my stronghold, my refuge and my deliverer. My God is my helper, and in Him will I put my trust. My protector and the horn of my salvation, and my support. Praising I will call upon the name of the Lord; and I shall be saved from mine enemies."
NOT alone giving thanks to Him for that He has created us as reasonable beings, and endowed us with the power of free will, and blessed us with the grace of baptism, and granted to us the knowledge and aid of the law, but for these things as well, which are bestowed upon us by His daily providence; viz., that He delivers us from the craft of our enemies; that He works with us so that we can overcome the sins of the flesh, that, even without our knowing it, He shields us from dangers; that He protects us from falling into sin; that He helps us and enlightens us, so that we can understand and recognize the actual help which He gives us, (which some will have it is what is meant by the law); that, when we are through His influence secretly struck with compunction for our sins and negligences, He visits us with His regard and chastens us to our soul's health; that even against our will we are sometimes drawn by Him to salvation; lastly that this very free will of ours, which is more readily inclined to sin, is turned by Him to a better purpose, and by His prompting and suggestion, bent towards the way of virtue.
THIS then is that humility towards God, this is that genuine faith of the ancient fathers which still remains intact among their successors. And to this faith, the apostolic virtues, which they so often showed, bear an undoubted witness, not only among us but also among infidels and unbelievers: for keeping in simplicity of heart the simple faith of the fishermen they did not receive it in a worldly spirit through dialectical syllogisms or the eloquence of a Cicero, but learnt by the experience of a pure life, and stainless actions, and by correcting their faults, and (to speak more truly) by visible proofs, that the character of perfection is to be found in that faith without which neither piety towards God, nor purification from sin, nor amendment of life, nor perfection of virtue can be secured.
I KNEW one of the number of the brethren, whom I heartily wish I had never known; since afterwards he allowed himself to be saddled with the responsibilities of my order: who confessed to a most admirable elder that he was attacked by a terrible sin of the flesh: for he was inflamed with an intolerable lust, with the unnatural desire of suffering rather than of committing a shameful act: then the other like a true spiritual physician, at once saw through the inward cause and origin of this evil. And, sighing deeply, said: "Never would the Lord have suffered you to be given over to so foul a spirit unless you had blasphemed against Him." And he, when this was discovered, at once fell at his feet on the ground, and, struck with the utmost astonishment, as if he saw the secrets of his heart laid bare by God, confessed that he had blasphemed with evil thoughts against the Son of God. Whence it is clear that one who is possessed by the spirit of pride, or who has been guilty of blasphemy against God,--as one who offers a wrong to Him from whom the gift of purity must be looked for--is deprived of his uprightness and perfection, and does not deserve the sanctifying grace of chastity.
SOME such thing we read of in the book of Chronicles. For Joash the king of Judah at the age of seven was summoned by Jehoiada the priest to the kingdom and by the witness of Scripture is commended for all his actions as long as the aforesaid priest lived. But hear what Scripture relates of him after Jehoiada's death, and how he was puffed up with pride and given over to a most disgraceful state. "But after the death of Jehoiada the princes went in and worshipped the king: and he was soothed by their services and hearkened unto them. And they forsook the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served groves and idols, and great wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of this sin." And after a little: "When a year was come about, the army of Syria came up against him: and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and killed all the princes of the people, and they sent all the spoils to the king to Damascus. And whereas there came a very small number of the Syrians, the Lord delivered into their hands an infinite multitude, because they had forsaken the Lord the God of their fathers: and on Joash they executed shameful judgments. And departing they left him in great diseases." You see how the consequence of pride was that he was given over to shocking and filthy passions. For he who is puffed up with pride and has permitted himself to be worshipped as God, is (as the Apostle says) "given over to shameful passions and a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient." And because, as Scripture says, "every one who exalts his heart is unclean before God," he who is puffed up with swelling pride of heart is given over to most shameful confusion to be deluded by it, that when thus humbled he may know that he is unclean through impurity of the flesh and knowledge of impure desires,--a thing which he had refused to recognize in the pride of his heart; and also that the shameful infection of the flesh may disclose the hidden impurity of the heart, which he contracted through the sin of pride, and that through the patent pollution of his body he may be proved to be impure, who did not formerly see that he had become unclean through the pride of his spirit.
AND this clearly shows that every soul of which the swellings of pride have taken possession, is given over to the Syrians of the soul, i.e., to spiritual wickedness, and that it is entangled in the lusts of the flesh, that the soul being at last humbled by earthly faults, and carnally polluted, may recognize its uncleanness, though while it stood erect in the coldness of its heart, it could not understand that through pride of heart it was rendered unclean in the sight of God; and by this means being humbled, a man may get rid of his former coldness, and being cast down and confused with the shame of his fleshly lusts, may thenceforward hasten to betake himself the more eagerly towards fervour and warmth of spirit.
AND so it is clearly shown that none can attain the end of perfection and purity, except through true humility, which he displays in the first instance to the brethren, and shows also to God in his inmost heart, believing that without His protection and aid extended to him at every instant, he cannot possibly obtain the perfection which he desires and to which he hastens so eagerly.
THUS much let it suffice to have spoken, as far as, by God's help, our slender ability was able, concerning spiritual pride of which we have said that it attacks advanced Christians. And this kind of pride is not familiar to or experienced by most men, because the majority do not aim at attaining perfect purity of heart, so as to arrive at the stage of these conflicts; nor have they secured any purification from the preceding faults of which we have here explained both the character and the remedies in separate books. But it generally attacks those only who have conquered the former faults and have already almost arrived at the top of the tree in respect of the virtues. And because our most crafty enemy has not been able to destroy them through a carnal fall, he endeavours to cast them down and overthrow them by a spiritual catastrophe, trying by this to rob them of the prizes of their ancient rewards secured as they were with great labour. But as for us, who are still entangled in earthly passions, he never deigns to tempt us in this fashion, but overthrows us by a coarser and what I called a carnal pride. And therefore I think it well, as I promised, to say a few things about this kind of pride by which we and men of our stamp are usually affected, and the minds especially of younger men and beginners are endangered.
THIS carnal pride therefore, of which we spoke, when it has gained an entrance into the heart of a monk, which is but lukewarm, and has made a bad start in renouncing the world, does not suffer him to stoop from his former state of worldly haughtiness to the true humility of Christ, but first of all makes him disobedient and rough; then it does not let him be gentle and kindly; nor allows him to be on a level with and like his brethren: nor does it permit him to be stripped and deprived of his worldly goods, as God and our Saviour commands: and, though renunciation of the world is nothing but the mark of mortification and the cross, and cannot begin or rise from any other foundations, but these; viz., that a man should recognize that he is not merely spiritually dead to the deeds of this world, but also should realize daily that he must die in the body--it makes him on the contrary hope for a long life, and sets before him many lengthy infirmities, and covers him with shame and confusion. If when stripped of everything he has begun to be supported by the property of others and not his own, it persuades him that it is much better for food and clothing to be provided for him by his own rather than by another's means according to that text (which, as was before said, those who are rendered dense through such dulness and coldness of heart, cannot possibly understand.) "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
THOSE then who are possessed by such distrust of mind, and who through the devil's own want of faith fall away from that spark of faith, by which they seemed in the early days of their conversion to be enkindled, begin more anxiously to watch over the money which before they had begun to give away, and treasure it up with greater avarice, as men who cannot recover again what they have once wasted: or--what is still worse--take back what they had formerly cast away: or else (which is a third and most disgusting kind of sin), collect what they never before possessed, and thus are convicted of having gone no further in forsaking the world than merely to take the name and style of monk. With this beginning therefore, and on this bad and rotten foundation, it is a matter of course that the whole superstructure of faults must rise, nor can anything be built on such villainous foundations, except what will bring the wretched soul to the ground with a hopeless collapse.
THE mind then that is hardened by such feelings, and which begins with this miserable coldness is sure to go daily from bad to worse and to conclude its life with a more hideous end: and while it takes delight in its former desires, and is overcome, as the apostle says, by impious avarice (as he says of it "and covetousness, which is idolatry, or the worship of idols," and again "the love of money," says he, "is the root of all evils") can never admit into the heart the true and unfeigned humility of Christ, while the man boasts himself of his high birth, or is puffed up by his position in the world (which he has forsaken in body but not in mind) or is proud of his wealth which he retains to his own destruction; and because of this he is no longer content to endure the yoke of the monastery, or to be instructed by the teaching of any of the elders, and not only objects to observe any rule of subjection or obedience, but will not even listen to teaching about perfection; and such dislike of spiritual talk grows up in his heart that if such a conversation should happen to arise, he cannot keep his eyes fixed on one spot, but his gaze wanders blankly about here and there, and his eyes shift hither and thither, as the custom is. Instead of wholesome coughs, he spits from a dry throat: he coughs on purpose without any need, he drums with his fingers, and twiddles them and scribbles like a man writing: and all his limbs fidget so that while the spiritual conversation is proceeding, you would think that he was sitting on thorns, and those very sharp ones, or in the midst of a mass of worms: and if the conversation turns in all simplicity on something which is for the good of the hearers, he thinks that it is brought forward for his especial benefit. And all the time that the examination of the spiritual life is proceeding, he is taken up with his own suspicious thoughts, and is not on the watch for something to take home for his good, but is anxiously seeking the reason why anything is said, or is quietly turning over in his mind, how he can raise objections to it, so that he cannot at all take in any of those things which are so admirably brought forward, or be done any good to by them. And so the result is that the spiritual conference is not merely of no use to him, but is positively injurious, and becomes to him an occasion of greater sin. For while he is conscience stricken and fancies that everything is being aimed at him he hardens himself more stubbornly in the obstinacy of his heart, and is more keenly affected by the stings of his wrath: then afterwards his voice is loud, his talk harsh, his answers bitter and noisy, his gait lordly and capricious; his tongue too ready, he is forward in conversation and no friend to silence except when he is nursing in his heart some bitterness against a brother, and his silence denotes not compunction or humility, but pride and wrath: so that one can hardly say which is the more objectionable in him, that unrestrained and boisterous merriment, or this dreadful and deadly solemnity. For in the former we see inopportune chattering, light and frivolous laughter, unrestrained and undisciplined mirth. In the latter a silence that is full of wrath and deadly; and which simply arises from the desire to prolong as long as possible the rancorous feelings which are nourished in silence against some brother, and not from the wish to obtain from it the virtues of humility and patience. And as the man who is a victim to passion readily makes everybody else miserable and is ashamed to apologize to the brother whom he has wronged, so when the brother offers to do so to him, he rejects it with scorn. And not only is he not touched or softened by the advances of his brother; but is the rather made more angry because his brother anticipates him in humility. And that wholesome humiliation and apology, which generally puts an end to the devil's temptation, becomes to him an occasion of a worse outbreak.
I HAVE heard while I have been in this district a thing which I shudder and am ashamed to recall; viz., that one of the juniors--when he was reproved by his Abbot because he had shown signs of throwing off the humility, of which he had made trial for a short time at his renunciation of the world, and of being puffed up with diabolical pride--most impertinently answered "Did I humiliate myself for a time on purpose to be always in subjection?" And at this wanton and wicked reply of his the elder was utterly aghast, and could say nothing, as if he had received this answer from old Lucifer himself and not from a man; so that he could not possibly utter a word against such impudence, but only let fall sighs and groans from his heart; turning over in silence in his mind that which is said of our Saviour: "Who being in the form of God humbled Himself and became obedient"--not, as the man said who was seized with a diabolical spirit of pride, "for a time," but "even to death."
AND to draw together briefly what has been said of this kind of pride, by collecting, as well as we can, some of its signs that we may somehow convey to those who are thirsting for instruction in perfection, an idea of its characteristics from the movements of the outward man: I think it well to unfold them in a few words that we may conveniently recognize the signs by which we can discern and detect it, that when the roots of this passion are laid bare and brought to the surface, and seen and traced out with ocular demonstration, they may be the more easily plucked up and avoided. For only then will this most pestilent evil be altogether escaped, and if we do not begin too late in the day, when it has already got the mastery over us, to be on our guard against its dangerous heat and noxious influence, but if, recognizing its symptoms (so to speak) beforehand, we take precautions against it with wise and careful forethought. For, as we said before, you can tell a man's inward condition from his outward gait. By these signs, then, that carnal pride, of which we spoke earlier, is shown. To begin with, in conversation the man's voice is loud: in his silence there is bitterness: in his mirth his laughter is noisy and excessive: when he is serious he is unreasonably gloomy: in his answers there is rancour: he is too free with his tongue, his words tumbling out at random without being weighed. He is utterly lacking in patience, and without charity: impudent in offering insults to others, faint-hearted in bearing them himself: troublesome in the matter of obedience except where his own wishes and likings correspond with his duty: unforgiving in receiving admonition: weak in giving up his own wishes: very stubborn about yielding to those of others: always trying to compass his own ends, and never ready to give them up for others: and thus the result is that though he is incapable of giving sound advice, yet in everything he prefers his own opinion to that of the elders.
AND when a man whom pride has mastered has fallen through these stages of descent, he shudders at the discipline of the coenobium, and--as if the companionship of the brethren hindered his perfection, and the sins of others impeded and interfered with his advance in patience and humility--he longs to take up his abode in a solitary cell; else is eager to build a monastery and gather together some others to teach and instruct, as if he would do good to many more people, and make himself from being a bad disciple a still worse master. For when through this pride of heart a man has fallen into this most dangerous and injurious coldness, he can neither be a real monk nor a man of the world, and what is worse, promises to himself to gain perfection by means of this wretched state and manner of life of his.
WHEREFORE if we wish the summit of our building to be perfect and to rise well-pleasing to God, we should endeavour to lay its foundations not in accordance with the desires of our own lust, but according to the rules of evangelical strictness: which can only be the fear of God and humility, proceeding from kindness and simplicity of heart. But humility cannot possibly be acquired without giving up everything: and as long as a man is a stranger to this, he cannot possibly attain the virtue of obedience, or the strength of patience, or the serenity of kindness, or the perfection of love; without which things our hearts cannot possibly be a habitation for the Holy Spirit: as the Lord says through the prophet: "Upon whom shall My spirit rest, but on him that is humble and quiet and fears My words," or according to those copies which express the Hebrew accurately: "To whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little and of a contrite spirit and that trembleth at My words?"
WHEREFORE the Christian athlete who strives lawfully in the spiritual combat and desires to be crowned by the Lord, should endeavour by every means to destroy this most fierce beast, which is destructive of all virtues, knowing that as long as this remains in his breast he not only will never be free from all kinds of evils, but even if he seems to have any good qualities, will lose them by its malign influence. For no structure (so to speak) of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless first the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart, which being securely laid may be able to bear the weight of perfection and love upon them in such a way that, as we have said, we may first show to our brethren true humility from the very bottom of our heart, in nothing acquiescing in making them sad or in injuring them: and this we cannot possibly manage unless true self-denial, which consists in stripping and depriving ourselves of all our possessions, is implanted in us by the love of Christ. Next the yoke of obedience and subjection must be taken up in simplicity of heart without any pretence, so that, except for the commands of the Abbot, no will of our own is alive in us. But this can only be ensured in the case of one who considers himself not only dead to this world, but also unwise and a fool; and performs without any discussion whatever is enjoined him by his seniors, believing it to be divine and enjoined from heaven.
AND when men remain in this condition, there is no doubt that this quiet and secure state of humility will follow, so that considering ourselves inferior to every one else we shall bear everything offered to us, even if it is hurtful, and saddening, and damaging--with the utmost patience, as if it came from those who are our superiors. And these things we shall not only bear with the greatest ease, but we shall consider them trifling and mere nothings, if we constantly bear in mind the passion of our Lord and of all His Saints: considering that the injuries by which we are tried are so much less than theirs, as we are so far behind their merits and their lives: remembering also that we shall shortly depart out of this world, and soon by a speedy end to our life here become sharers of their lot. For considerations such as these are a sure end not only to pride but to all kinds of sins. Then, next after this we must keep a firm grasp of this same humility towards God: which we must so secure as not only to acknowledge that we cannot possibly perform anything connected with the attainment of perfect virtue without His assistance and grace, but also truly to believe that this very fact that we can understand this, is His own gift.
John Cassian Index | Lectio Divina | OSB Home Page
OSB. Lectio. Cassian. Institutes. Book 12 / Converted to HTML for Christian Classics Ethereal Library, February 29, 1996, and Reformatted for the Order of St. Benedict, December 31, 1997, by Elizabeth T. Knuth / Rev. 990731 / © Copyright 1996-1999 by OSB, MN 56321-2015 and Elizabeth T. Knuth / URL: http://archive.osb.org/lectio/cassian/inst/inst12.html