Chapter 17 – The Essentials of Virtue – Humility, Selflessness, and Goodness

 

Humility:  submission to the value system of God in all things; characterized by:

  • acknowledgment that the value of a human soul is solely determined by God, although He blesses His children with different talents, abilities and qualities, all souls are precious to Him
  • willingness to put another’s needs and concerns before one’s own
  • performing all good deeds solely for the love of God without thought of any immediate recognition, reward or praise from others; being satisfied and comforted solely by knowing that one has pleased God;  selfless, sacrificial service to God and man;  having a servant’s heart
  • giving credit where credit is due, being thankful for all one’s blessings (talents, strengths, possessions, abilities, etc.); ability to praise another’s talents, blessings, and achievements without jealousy or envy; ability to encourage and assist another’s spiritual growth without thought of self
  • willingness to perform any task in obedience to God, from menial to strenuous, either low or high profile, either controversial or mundane, and doing so without thought of self
  • uncompromised exaltation and praise for God who is Lord of All, right reverence for God, meekness especially in the presence of God as well as in our relations with others
  • purity, gentleness, simplicity, peacefulness, dignity, prayerfulness, and reverence in one’s demeanor and mannerisms;  courteous and polite, acknowledging and affirming another’s worth to God in all interactions, acknowledging the dignity of all souls
  • ability to accept one’s saintliness and sinfulness simultaneously without either denial or pride
  • fear of God, discernment in Truth without compromise
  • absence of pride, arrogance, self-promotion, attention seeking, conceit, self-centeredness, and without attitudes of superiority in regards to one’s life, abilities, or ideas
  • absence of violence, contempt, ill will, vengeance, or condemnation in dealings with others
  • ability to accept criticism without reprisal, or injustice without retribution;  hearing criticism  with acceptance, tolerance, patient endurance, and temperance, ever deferring to God as judge
  • evidence of the grace of God at work on one’s soul, that spiritual battles are being won

 

 Selflessness:  without concern for one’s self, unselfish; ability to put another’s well-being ahead of one’s own concerns; self-sacrificing

 

Goodness:  approved by God and characterized by godliness; the righteousness of God within us expressed outwardly; thoughts and behaviors that are pleasing and acceptable to God; beneficial and having worth in the divine economy; expressions of purity; all deeds that result from being filled with the Holy Spirit and submissive obedience to His divine will; divine beauty; manifestations of His grace

 

In this chapter, we look at the basic and indispensable elements of being virtuous.  This is not to suggest that any of the virtues already discussed are dispensable, for without a firm foundation in place, we would not even be able to approach the loftier heights of godliness.  The virtues of humility, selflessness and goodness are essential in the sense that when they are compromised, their opposing vice wrecks any semblance of virtue already established.  There is no place in the virtuous soul for the conceit of pride, the filth of ungodliness, or the wantonness of the selfish.  Without humility, we lose God as our motivation.  Without selflessness, we serve ourselves instead of serving God and others.  Without goodness, we lose the presence of God altogether.

 

Humility

 

To be humble is to understand and accept our place in the divine economy of God.  Each of us is unique, but we are all just one among a countless number.  Each of us has unique talents, gifts and abilities, but none of these is to be used by us to determine our worth; determining the worth of souls is the sole province of God and we are all precious to Him.  He created us all and we are all likewise loved by Him.  Each of us has a role to fill with tasks ordained by God, but the work of our Lord will go on when it’s our time to go and be with Him; none of us need see ourselves as indispensable.

 

The beauty and goodness of humility can be seen more clearly by looking at the traits that compromise it, and then imagining a soul without such vices.  Humility properly reveres and respects God and His dominion, eliminating any pretense of our being in control, an arrogant sort of rebellion that laps the fringes of outright blasphemy.  The humble soul is not a braggart or boaster and does not allow sinful pride to control their speech with words of self-promotion, self-elation, and self-exaltation.  Humility allows a soul to defer their place to another rather than becoming incensed over perceived indignities; there is graciousness and gentleness instead of hoggish self-interest.  The humble soul doesn’t suffer the need for recognition and praise from others, and therefore isn’t prone to ostentatious, outlandish or grandiose behaviors.  Fanaticism, taking dares and thrill seeking are summarily eliminated.  Humility understands that all souls are precious to God and that human worth is not determined by the things of the flesh (Php.3:1-11); all notions and emanations of superiority as well as haughty attitudes and mannerisms, disappear.  Humble souls are thankful for their blessings, accepting of their station in life and harbor no need to complain or be bitter over perceived injustices or inequities.

 

Humility itself has an elusive character, for as soon as we claim to have it or become satisfied with our progress, it is gone.  To develop our humility, let’s first review the list in chapter 10; the implications of the spiritual growth suggestions should take on a weightier tone since we’ve progressed in our appreciation of virtue.  Likewise, more intense introspection needs to be done to secure the true motivations of our hearts and align our desires with the ways of God.  With greater self-scrutiny comes the need for a greater willingness to claim our shortcomings, our misguided motivations, and our resulting ungodly behaviors.  In addition, a greater courage is needed to forsake our newly uncovered habits of the flesh and adopt the ways of our Lord.  Often the crux dividing humility from its many opposing vices is determined by our value system.  We need to ask ourselves, are we willing to surrender our rights, accept less than what we think we are due, or suffer indignities for the sake of obedience to God and the preservation of our virtue?  When we are challenged or threatened, remembrance of Christ as our most holy example and then entrusting all our concerns to Him is how we learn to make God our first priority.  When we consider ourselves and our concerns as the most important determinants in our decision making, when we value our comforts and ourselves too much to endure anything for any reason other than what serves and pleases us, when our wants and desires outweigh the Truth of God and all eternal concerns, we can be assured that our virtue is being compromised.

 

To learn to put God first and value the eternal more than the temporal, we need to be secure in our identity as children of God and likewise derive all sense of self-worth from God.  Only when we truly know who we are in Christ can we persevere through the unfriendly trials an ungodly world inflicts upon Christians.  Without an identity firmly founded in Christ, our motivations are often based on making a statement about ourselves in acts of self-preservation or promotion.  Furthermore, when our motivation is to establish an identity or protect a self-image, we’re probably not seeing ourselves as mere children of God.  On the contrary, we are attempting to base our identity on the fantasies and delusions of the flesh.  This compromises our virtue and is a poor witness of gospel Truth; in order for others to see Christ in us we have to know with certainty that we are in Him.  Also, if we allow our sense of self-worth to be determined by people and things instead of God, we subscribe to a sense of self-worth subject to the fickle and capricious ways of the secular world that ultimately destroys the peace of our Lord within us.  When a child of God replaces godly dignity with temporal things such as careers, possessions, mental or physical capabilities, heritage, conquests, and the like, the resulting sinful pride becomes an affront to God.  These misconceptions beg to be destroyed so that matters of more importance may be allowed to progress, that being our relations with God and our acquisition of virtue.  The greater our reliance upon the flesh in determining our identity and self-worth, the greater is our potential for personal devastation when such things are compromised or lost altogether.  It is the nature of the flesh to expire; nothing of the flesh is taken up to be with God.  As hard as it might be to let go of the flesh and humbly adopt an identity solely based on our birth as children of God, making this decision has glorious results and is a full-sized step towards a joyful and abundant life in Christ.  Also, aside from being rewarded for our obedience when we do so, we also spare ourselves immeasurable grief by not having to learn these lessons the hard way through trials and providential disciplinary actions.  Lastly, when God holds our identity and dignity in His hands, neither our circumstances nor other people can take them from us, and we are far less likely to allow our walk with our Lord to be compromised by the insults and indignities an ungodly world aims at Christians.  To be an effective witness for Christ, we cannot spend our energies defending ourselves from attacks on our flesh.

 

Humility requires self-scrutiny that in turn requires the virtue of discernment [discrimination] if the results are to be at all meaningful and helpful.  Without, the habits of the flesh are not likely to be discovered.  It is embarrassingly easy to fool ourselves and even more shameful when we attempt to pass our delusions onto others.  For instance, seeking to be esteemed by our fellows by using ourselves as the good example when in communal prayer only serves to negate our virtue in the moment and our rewards in eternity (Mt.6:1-4).  This isn’t meant to discourage a good report that serves as both a good example and encouragement to others.  We just need to remember to keep our focus on God when doing so by merely mentioning our deeds in obedience while expounding on the blessed results and expressing thankfulness for being a trusted servant.  We should emphasize the awesome works of the Holy Spirit that have been our privilege to behold and be wholly content knowing we have pleased our Lord without seeking undo attention for ourselves.  Another aspect of self-examination is to determine whether we are fully surrendered to Him in the moment.  A quick spot check has been known to help with this determination.  All we need do is pause a moment and ask ourselves this question, “If the Lord had something else for me to be doing at this time, would I be able to stop what I’m doing and do the task my Lord has called me to do?”  When living in the flesh, the call of our Lord always seems to come at an inopportune time, or be deemed impractical or unprofitable.  Another way to determine if we are operating in the flesh or the spirit is to look at the results.  If our motivations result in behaviors consistent with manifestations of the flesh, we have lapsed from the spirit and into the flesh.  Conversely, if we see fruits that we can attribute to the Holy Spirit, we very likely are abiding in Him (cf. Gal.5:16-23).  Note, results are not meant to indicate whether we were successful in the completion of any particular task given us.  We have either obeyed or disobeyed Him.  Determining whether outcomes are right or wrong is the sole province of God.  Our abilities are too limited to make such judgments definitively.  Our part is to trust in Him and obey the direction of our Lord.  The results we speak of consist solely of our motivations and how we conduct ourselves in the moment.  Should it appear the text has digressed, let us just be reminded that humility requires intense introspection.  Such introspection requires critical discretion based on Truth and this can only be done in total submission to His authority.  Subordinating our human will to His divine will is how we rightly respond to the convictions and callings the Holy Spirit impresses upon our conscience.

 

Selflessness

 

In discussing humility, we’ve already touched on many of the basic elements of selflessness by outlining what we need to do to put others before ourselves.   We discuss selflessness by itself in order to emphasize its criticality in determining virtue from non-virtue; when acting on unselfish motivations, we lean toward virtue.  Jesus clearly states this when we says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24).  To deny ourselves is to forego what is rightfully ours, to abstain for the sake of Christ, or to make sacrifices for the sake of others.  We do this by humbly acknowledging the greater good of God over our selfish, self-serving motivations.  Though we must be well ourselves before we can be of service to God, it’s not often that circumstances are so dire that we risk fatal consequences when putting the needs of others before our own.  Note; the wellness spoken of here is all inclusive of our physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual health.  We should also be the able to distinguish service to God from imposing requests from others.

 

Selflessness negates greed and affirms the economy of God.  The economy of God places God, His will for us, and virtue, ahead of all other considerations. Quite simply, we cannot put God first if our first consideration is always for ourselves.  We are to entrust our care and our concerns to God, then trust and obey Him.  To put God first, we must know our motivations, and to know our motivations again requires introspection.  Unexamined and blind obedience is for the childlike mind, and though this is the best approach early in our Christians lives (Mt.18:2-4, Mk.10:15), we are not to abandon our mental faculties in our pursuit of a greater faith.  Rather, we should learn and grow in our understanding of the economy of God instead of roiling in the folly of secular reasoning (Mt.16:26, 1Cor.3:1-3).  However, conversion to Christianity requires an act of pure faith because the doubting, secular mind refuses to accept what can’t be demonstrated or logically and scientifically proved; human intelligence is not the source of faith, God is.  Once the seed of faith has been planted, we are to cultivate its growth (Mt.13:1-23, 31-32), and nurture a more mature faith (1Cor.13:9-11).  A critical aspect of spiritual growth integral to selflessness is learning to be content with what we have (Mt.20:1-16, Lk.3:14).  By tracing back the source of any discontentedness we may harbor, introspection will unearth the fault within us that robs us of our joy in Christ.  Whether the source is envy or greed, an infringement upon our rights or possessions, perceived injustice or inequality, being disappointed or betrayed by others, nothing should be cause to compromise our virtue.  We are to love our enemies and be content in all things, knowing the peace of our Lord.  By shining the light of Christ on the source of our shortcomings, we can then replace them with virtues, and align our thoughts and deeds with the will of God.  In so doing, we thwart the demons, causing them to flee by using their malevolence as motivation for goodness, bringing us closer to God and knowing a greater faith.

 

Goodness

 

Goodness means God is present for only God is good (Lk.18:19).  It is by learning about God and from knowing Him that we are able to discern goodness from evil.  The collective human experience is so inundated with erroneous concepts of good and bad, of right and wrong, we need to be extra cautious with this virtue in order to appreciate its depth in Truth.  Overexposure, inane familiarity, and the preponderance of secular expressions, all serve to profane the use and meaning of what is good.  As we learn of goodness, our task will be to rid ourselves of its secular concepts and applications, then restore its eternal meaning and implications along with the reverence, wonder, magnitude and beauty of goodness.  Learning to equate what is good with God and godliness should likewise help us to free ourselves of sinful impurities; this manner of self-correction is also a way to practice the virtue of remembrance.

 

As Christians, as surely as the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we harbor the goodness of God wherever we go (1Cor.6:19).  Learning virtue is as much about allowing the fullness of His holiness into our lives, as it is learning to express His goodness outwardly.  Our goodness is the light Jesus tells us to shine for all to see so that we might glorify God (Mt.5:16).  By extolling the goodness of God through our undefiled speech and rightly motivated actions, we develop a greater intimacy with God and an appreciation for the beauty of His ways as we learn what is pleasing and acceptable to Him.  Our spiritual discernment likewise improves as we practice watchfulness, heeding the promptings of the Holy Spirit our conscience perceives, ever leading us toward goodness and away from evil.

 

The virtue of goodness brings many beautiful things into our lives.  When we show goodness to others and they respond to our good intentions, we may be privileged to see the seeds of godliness take root and have the opportunity to participate in another’s spiritual growth.  To see a vile sinner being cleansed of sin, to see their lives sanctified and restored by the Holy Spirit, is a truly miraculous and wondrous sight to behold.  Goodness radiates the power of His presence and the conviction of absolute Truth.  It frees the addict from their obsession whether it is alcoholism, gambling, homosexuality, promiscuity, power (dominance, controlling), pornography, gossip, drugs, violence, thievery, or idleness, or whatever compromises a soul’s freedom.  Goodness, when learned and appreciated early in life, can prevent the adoption of sinful habits altogether.  Doing so also gives the seeds of goodness a longer life to grow, producing fruits upon fruit and an abundant life of many harvests.  An affinity with nature and all creation develops as we grow in goodness since all creation is His and it bears the attributes of the Creator (Rom.1:18-20).  Our role as caretakers of the Earth, of the lands and seas and the creatures within, becomes a part of our thoughts as we pursue goodness (Gen.2:15).  Our relationships will likewise flourish when nurtured with goodness since aligning our motives and concerns with the ways of God is how He meant for our lives to be, sinless and in accord with His will for us.

 

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and show them goodness (Lk.6:27-36).  We are likewise to pray for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44).  Should we have difficulty obeying these teachings that are so contrary to our fleshly human nature, it helps to remember that God desires none be lost but rather all come to repentance (2Pe.3:9).  We are not to return evil for evil or take an eye for an eye as we see fit (Mt.5:38-42).  We are to be motivated by the goodness of the Holy Spirit instead of pleasing ourselves.  We’re not to sate the ravenous desires of our flesh for vengeance, retribution or exacting our own sense of justice.  We are to allow the loving light of our Lord to shine on the darkness of sin with the hope of illuminating the pathway out of hell for a lost soul.  We tell others that with God all things are possible and that the abundant life in Christ is likewise available to them.  By showing the lost goodness, by showing them loving-kindness and forgiveness, by letting them meet God in our expression of His will, we may be blest with a glimpse of the joy of Heaven when a lost sinner repents (Lk.15:7).

 

Partaking of the work that pleases God is our privilege and an eternal treasure.  Reflecting the goodness of God has many rewards for us as well.  The flesh mainly considers physical features when determining beauty and thereby judges many a soul to be unattractive in some way, when in Truth, those who share in the goodness of God and let His light shine for all to see, are the ones who possess real beauty.  A physical appearance that appeals to the flesh is not truly beautiful without virtue (Pr.11:22).  Men of integrity who take to heart their responsibilities as husbands, fathers and as leaders, and women who cherish their roles as wives, mothers and being supportive, because of being true to the order God decreed, are never to be considered ugly, offensive, or otherwise deficient.  God created both masculinity and femininity and each reflects the beauty of the Creator.  So do we when we remain true to our created gender, surrendering our will and desires to God, allowing Him to shape our spiritual development from whatever characteristics we were given at our time of conception.  In the economy of God, again, contrary to the prevalent value system in the secular world, roles do not determine human worth.  Also, it is a false secular notion that says being true to one’s gender limits fulfillment in life, for we find abundance and fulfillment in Christ alone.

 

Like the magnificence of a colorful sunset, the beauty of goodness has such a warm countenance that it attracts many to pause a moment just to behold and absorb its serenity.  When we exude the goodness of God, we can expect pained and troubled souls to be drawn to us as they seek relief from their sufferings.  They will want for themselves what is ours in Christ.  As the crowds flocked to Jesus in search of a better life, when hurting souls sense the Holy Spirit in us, they likewise seek the same qualities of goodness.  However, like the brilliance of the sunrise that causes those who prefer their ungodliness to remain veiled in darkness, some will curse the light that exposes their unsavory and vile deeds.  We can be hated for our goodness when our light causes others to feel the guilt, shame, or foulness that accompanies a life of sin and separation from God.  Being good to souls consumed by semi- or sub-conscious self-loathing, to heap burning coals of goodness upon their sin-sickened heads (Rom.12:20), we may just provide the glimpse of Truth or taste of the Heaven that fractures a hardened heart into repentance.  And they, like us, can know Christ and then begin to build upon the talents given to them at birth.  Be they meager or mighty, by applying polish and tending with care, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will produce a life that is a worthy gift to lay before our King.  For faith moves the mountain of sin, dislodges the bad habits, allows the antisocial to become hospitable, changes meanness into loving-kindness, and the miser becomes charitable.  As children of God, we are the purveyors of the wealth of goodness of all creation and of the abundance of life in the Holy Spirit; we are to share the bounty (Lk.3:7-11).

 

Scriptural References:

 

Humility:

Ps.18:27, God upholds the humble and humbles the proud

Ps.25:9, our Lord teaches the teachable and reveals to the humble what is right

Pr.3:34, God contends with the mockers in kind while giving grace to the humble

Pr.11:2, humility leads to wisdom while pride brings dishonor and shame before God

Pr.15:33, God honors the humble

Pr.22:4, God rewards the humble with richness of life

Mic.6:8, to be with God we walk humbly, enjoying kindness and preserving justice

Mt.5:5, God rewards the humble (gentle) with a great inheritance

Mt.11:28-30, our Lord Christ Jesus draws us to Him with gentleness and humility

Lk.1:46-49, the example of His humble servant Mary

Eph.4:1-6, walk in a manner worthy of God, humbly, gently, and patiently seeking unity

Php.2:1-4, unity of spirit and purpose are made possible with humility and selflessness

Col.2:16-23, false humility, like legalism and false piety, have no place in Christ

Col.3:12-14, humility as a component of love which bonds the children of God in unity

Jas.1:21, to rightly hear and receive the Word of God requires humility

Jas.3:13-16, jealousy, selfishness and arrogance are contrary to wisdom from above

Jas.4:6-10, God opposes the proud but exalts and gives grace to the humble

1Pe.3:8-12, we are to bless lost souls with sympathy, kindness and humility

1Pe.5:5-7, be humble and without anxieties and trust our caring Lord to provide

 

Selflessness: 

Mt.16:24-27, disciples of Christ deny self and bear their burdens faithfully

Lk.12:32-34, do not hoard assets, instead be charitable and amass riches in Heaven

Lk.10:30-37, an example of a servant’s heart and tending to the needs of others

Jn.15:9-17, love one another as Christ loves us, bearing all costs in obedience to Him

 

Goodness: 

Gen.1, the beauty of creation that God declared to be good and entrusted to mankind

Ps.16.2, without our Lord there is no goodness in us

Ps.31:19, our Lord has abundant goodness to give to those who take refuge in Him

Ps.34, a psalm that contrasts those who seek goodness from those who indulge in evil

Ps.92:1-4, thanksgiving and praise as examples of goodness

Ps.111:10, obedience enlightens our understanding of goodness

Ps.112:4-5, goodness is bestowed upon the generous; the charitable are justified

Pr.2:1-9, an outline of the path towards goodness

Pr.3:27, instruction not to withhold goodness from deserving souls

Pr.13:2, godly speech fosters goodness in return

Mt.5:14-16, Jesus tells us to let our goodness that glorifies God shine for all to see

Mt.7:17-20, the children of God display goodness; an ungodly soul cannot

Mt.12:33-37, goodness comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit

Mt.13:24-30, 36-43, on Earth, the evil and the good coexist and grow together

Lk.2:10-14, proclaiming the coming of Christ is good news

Lk.6:27-35, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and show them goodness

Lk.6:35-38, show goodness and mercy regardless of recipient’s worthiness

Jn.10:11-18, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep

Rom.12:21, we are to overcome evil with goodness

Gal.5:22-23, goodness comes from the Holy Spirit in us

Php.2:12-13, it is for His goodness and pleasure that God teaches His children His ways

Col.1:9-14, good works teach us about God and expand the influence of His kingdom

1Tim.4:4-5, when rightly aligned with God in prayer, all things are good

1Tim.5:25, goodness shines brightly for all to see while evil can’t be hidden forever

1Tim.6:17-19, instruction to do good, to be generous, and to share

Titus 3:1-11, St. Paul contrasts goodness with ungodliness; do good deeds and be fruitful

 

Commentaries:

 

Humility:

“God has freed us from bitter slavery to tyrannical demons and has given us humility as a compassionate yoke of devoutness. It is humility which tames every demonic power, produces in those who accept it every kind of sanctity, and keeps that sanctity inviolate.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 117 #15

 

“Since salvation comes to you as a free gift, give thanks to God your saviour.  If you wish to present Him with gifts, gratefully offer from your widowed soul two tiny coins, humility and love, and God will accept these in the treasury of His salvation more gladly than the host of virtues deposited there by others (cf. Mk.12:41-43).”

St. Theognostos (8th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 369 #45

 

“The substance of wealth is gold; of virtue, humility.  Just as he who lacks gold is poor, even though this may not be outwardly apparent, so the spiritual aspirant who lacks humility is not virtuous.”

Ilias the Presbyter (12th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 38 #40

 

 

Selflessness:

“The presence of the passion of avarice reveals itself when a person enjoys receiving but resents having to give.  Such a person is not fit to fulfill the office of treasurer or bursar.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 95 #76

 

“Herein we find the mysterious dialectic of the person: the more a person seeks himself, the more he slips away from himself.  The more important he considers himself, the more insignificant he becomes.  The vain, calculating person who lives only for himself thinks that he is attaining a fuller, stronger selfhood.  In reality, he is becoming interiorly crippled because he never moves in that free space which only unselfishness creates.  As we depart from ourselves and give our attention to the other, to the work, or to the task, the true self awakens and grows.  A person is more truly himself the more freely he leaves himself for the other person with whom he is dealing or for the task that confronts him.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 156,

Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

 

“Whenever a person, in opposition to God, clings to his soul, he loses it, but when he gives it to God, he finds it.  Man gives his soul to God in every act of obedience to God’s holy will and, at the same moment, God gives it back to him, and the soul has become more truly itself than it was before”

ibid. pg. 157

 

Goodness:

“The mystics speak of the ‘birth of God in man’.  This is a mysterious phrase about whose ultimate meaning we shall not speak here, but one thing we can understand immediately: God wishes to enter into man, to find a place in him and assume a human form, here in this person who is generically one among countless others, but personally is unique; that is, he is himself.

There is a resemblance to God in all things.  Everything expresses Him, each according to its own kind, and this expression of God constitutes its basic created nature.  But God wishes to express Himself in a man in a special way, in each person according to his particular character.  This is the inmost core of what we call ‘personality’, a reflection – if we may be permitted this comparison – of the Incarnation of the eternal Son.  The real, essential Incarnation took place in Christ, but by His grace, which confers His image, God wishes to enter into every person and express Himself in him, and in everyone in a special and unique manner.  Every believer should be an expression of God.  The foundation is laid in Baptism, in the ‘new birth of water and the Holy Spirit”, as we learn from the nocturnal conversation of the Lord with Nicodemus [Jn.3:1-20].  And every act of the believer in doing the will of God constitutes a step in that direction.”

Romano Guardini (1885-1968); “Learning the Virtues” pg. 156-157;

Sophia Inst. Press © 1998

“The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 53  #4

 

“Since the soul is more noble than the body and God incomparably more noble than the world created by Him, he who values the body more than the soul and the world created by God more than the Creator Himself is simply a worshipper of idols.”

ibid. #7

“Demonic thought consists in a conceptual image compounded with passion.  One thinks, for example, of a human being, but this thought is accompanied by mindless affection, that is to say, but the desire for a relationship not blessed by God but involving unchastity; or else it is accompanied by unreasoning hatred, that is to say, by rancour or spite.  Again, one thinks of gold avariciously or with the intention of stealing or seizing it; or else one is roused to hatred and blasphemy against God’s works, thus causing one’s own perdition.  For if we do not love things as they should be loved, but love them more than we love God, then we are no different from idolators, as St. Maximos says [cf. Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 53].  But if, on the other hand, we hate and despise things, failing to perceive that they were created ‘wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen.1:31), we provoke the anger of God.

Angelic thought, finally, consists in the dispassionate contemplation of things, which is spiritual knowledge proper.  It is the mid-point between two precipices, protecting the intellect and enabling it to distinguish between its true goal and the six diabolic pitfalls that threaten it.  These pitfalls lie above and below, to the right and left, and on the near side and on the far side of the intellect’s true goal.  Thus spiritual knowledge proper stands as though at the centre, surrounded by these pitfalls.  It is the knowledge taught by those earthly angels who have made themselves dead to the world, so that their intellect has grown dispassionate and hence sees things as it should.  In this way, the intellect does not go above its true goal out of pride or self-esteem [narcissism], thinking it understands things merely through its own power of thought; nor does it fall below its true goal, prevented by ignorance from attaining perfection.  It does not veer to the right through rejecting and hating created things, or to the left through mindless affection for them and attachment to them.  It does not remain on the near side of its true goal because of its utter ignorance and sloth, nor trespass on its far side, lured by the spirit of meddlesomeness and senseless curiosity that arises from contempt or maliciousness.  Rather, it accepts spiritual knowledge with patience, humility and the hope that is born of a deep faith.  In this way, through its partial knowledge of things the intellect is led upwards towards divine love.  But, even though it possesses some knowledge, it is aware that it is still ignorant; and this awareness keeps it in a state of humility.  Thus through persistent hope and faith it reaches its goal, neither hating anything completely as evil, or loving anything beyond measure.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 134-135

 

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One thought on “Chapter 17 – The Essentials of Virtue – Humility, Selflessness, and Goodness

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