The Whole of Spiritual Warfare Wages Around Humility

MariabaptFrom the Elder Sophrony’s Widsom from Mount Athos:

Thus the whole spiritual warfare wages round humility. The enemy fell from pride, and would draw us to perdition by the same means. The enemy praises us, and should the soul listen to his praise grace withdraws until she repents. Thus throughout her life the soul is occupied with the lesson of Christ-like humility. So long as she has not humility wrong thoughts and impulses will always torment her. But the humble soul finds the rest and the peace of which the Lord tells.

Fasting and abstinence, vigil and withdrawal into silence, and other exploits of spiritual discipline all help, but humility is the principal power.

Humility is not learned in a trice. That is why the Lord said: ‘Learn lowliness in heart and meekenss of me.’ To learn takes time. And there are some who have grown old in the practice of spiritual endeavor, yet still have not learned humility, and they cannot understand why things are not well with them, why they do not feel peace and their souls are cast down.


  1. says

    I’m not sure what to make of this passage from Elder Sophrony. He says: “…should the soul listen to his praise grace withdraws until she repents.” But doesn’t repentance itself depend on grace? That seems painfully clear in my struggle with humility. I know I am not humble because I’d rather be somebody else–somebody whose gifts, in my estimation, are more needed by the Church than mine. As a result, I have a hard time accepting who I am, gratefully, as a gift from God. I know that isn’t right and that it stems from pride in my own estimation of things. But I have no idea how to overcome that problem by my own efforts. All I can do is pray and give thanks without feeling like it. That does not make grace descend; it can only open the heart to grace. But it doesn’t even do that very well unless it grows from repentance, which only grace can effect.

  2. says

    There is obviously a sense in which grace is always given and present – and yet there is also this mysterious sense to which the Elder refers – common in the intimate writings of the saints of the “withdrawal of grace.” The general interpretation is that this presence and withdrawal is a dynamic of our experience of God that God uses to draw us closer to Him. All things are for our salvation – and never for anything else. I am assured beyond doubt about this.