Humility and Love


The following is from the Afterword of Father Sophrony’s Saint Silouan the Athonite.

If we cast our thoughts back over the bimillenary history of Christianity we are dazzled by the enormous wealth of Christian culture. Vast libraries full of the grandiose works of the human mind and spirit – innumerable academies, universities, institutes, where hundreds of thousands of young people drink thirstily of the living waters of wisdom. Tens of thousands of splendid churches, the marvellous inspiration of human genius; numberless precious works created by other forms of art, music, painting, sculpture, poetry. And much, much more. But the Staretz [St. Silouan], as it were, ignored all that, concentrating on one thing only – humility and love for enemies. Everything is there.

I remember one occasion in my life when I was carried away by the works of the Holy Fathers and said regretfully to the Staretz, ‘What a pity I have neither the strength nor the time to study theology.’ To which he answered:

‘And you think that important?’ Then, after a moment or two’s silence, he added, ‘In my opinion only one thing is important – humbling oneself, for pride stops us from loving.’


  1. Fr. Freeman,

    Being an unlearned man it is a comfort to me that what is essential in our faith in not to be found in the splitting of theological hairs or in the mastery of obscure philosophical concepts. What is most important and what has certainly brought about the most profound change in me is that we humble ourselves, that we rein in our pride. Only then, as St. Silouan so clearly demonstrates time and again, can we love as we are commanded. Only then can we have hope of salvation.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. You bring a great deal of clarity to a great many frazzled minds like my own.

  2. Fr. Freeman,

    Long time reader; first time to comment –

    First, thank you for this wonderful blog site. It is a source of true encouragment and spiritual refreshment daily.

    Secondly, thank you for posting this particular piece. I think it is evident when we reflect on the criteria that Christ Himself foretold that He will use on judgement day to judge that it is the degree to which one has lived a life of self-emptying love towards God and neighbor that is key. This is not to say that dogma is not important and unnecessary. But, it seems that the proper place of dogma is in directing people away from false teachings about the Gospel and the Faith. For after all, the more perfectly one loves (by God’s grace) the more perfectly they shall know God. It is all about the heart and love and not about the head and knowlege, per se. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. If we but humble ourselves and love, then we are living absolute Truth.

    I have a good friend who has often stated, and I believe it to be so true, that “the greatest theologians in the world are those who truly love God and truly love and care for others”. Not for self gain or with ulterior motives, mind you. But with total self sacrifice.


  3. Thank you T and Fr. Stephen!
    I believe that God reminds my heart that I may never know the greatest theologians, because this true love of God and others does not make headlines often. I am also reminded to be grateful and thankful to God for those He has allowed me to know who have given love and care to me and mine, such love and care that it is only later (and through the grace of God) that I realize the good done for me.

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