The essence of liberation from prelest is the acquisition of humility.

On the Essence of Humility

Professor N. E. Pestov. "The Modern Practice of Orthodox virtue".

Chapter 22. The Essence of Humility.

Professor N.E. Pestov

Humility is the garment of divinity.

Ven. Isaac the Syrian

God comes mostly to simplicity and humility.

Ven. John Climacus

On the basis of poverty in spirit, the virtue of humility – as a gift of God – arises and begins to grow in the Christian.

What is humility? John Climacus, the hegumen of Mount Sinai, asked this question to many spiritual fathers. In response to this question, St. John got a range of definitions of humility from the elders.

One of them said: “Humility is constant forgetfulness of one's achievements”. Another said: “It is the admission that in all the world one is the least important and is also the greatest sinner”. A third said: “It is the mind's awareness that one is weak and helpless”. A fourth said: “It is the disposition of a contrite soul and the abdication of one's own will” etc.

But none of the obtained definitions satisfied St. John, and he gave his own response to this question: “Humility is a grace in the soul and with a name known only to those who have had experience of it. It is indescribable wealth, a name and a gift from God”.

Humility does not Consider itself to be Humble

St Ignatius (Brianchaninov). "On prelest". On true and false humble-mindedness.

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

'Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility' (Col 2:18).

True humility is found in obedience and following Christ (Phil. 2: 5-8). True humble-mindedness is spiritual wisdom. It is a gift of God; it is the work of divine grace in the mind and heart of a person.

But there can also be a voluntary humble-mindedness - it is created for itself by the vain soul, the soul deceived and flattered by false teaching, the soul that flatters itself, the soul that seeks flattery from the world, the soul that totally strives for earthly success and earthly pleasures, the soul that has forgotten eternity and God.

Voluntary, self-invented humble-mindedness consists of a countless variety of tricks through which a person's pride tries to snatch the honour due to true humble-mindedness, seeking it from the blind world, from the world that loves its own, from the world that praises sins masqueraded as virtue, from the world that hates virtue when virtue appears in its holy simplicity, in the holy and firm obedience to the Gospels.

Nothing is as antagonistic to Christian humility as willful humble-mindedness that rejects the yoke of obedience to Christ, and under the hypocritical mask of service to God instead blasphemously serves Satan.

If we will constantly look at our own sins, if we will try to study them in detail, then we will find in ourselves not a single virtue, certainly not humble-mindedness.

Peter of Damaskos on Humility

St. Peter of Damaskos. "Book II. Twenty-Four Discourses". X. Humility.

The truly humble man never ceases to reproach himself, even when the whole world attacks and insults him. He acts in this way, not simply in order to attain salvation as it were passively by enduring with patience whatever befalls him, but in order to press forward actively and deliberately to embrace the sufferings of Christ. From these sufferings he learns the greatest of all the virtues, humility: the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, the gateway to the kingdom of heaven, that is to say, to dispassion. He who passes through this gateway comes to God; but without humility his road is full of pain and his effort useless. Humility bestows complete repose upon whoever possesses it in his heart, because he has Christ dwelling within him. Through it grace remains with him and God’s gifts are preserved. It is the offspring of many different virtues: of obedience, patient endurance, shedding of possessions, poverty, fear of God, spiritual knowledge and others as well. But above all it is the offspring of discrimination, the virtue that illumines the farthest reaches of the intellect. Yet let no one think that it is a simple, casual matter to become humble. It is something beyond our natural powers; and it is almost true to say that the more a person is gifted, the harder it is for him to attain humility. It presupposes great judgment and endurance in the face of the trials and evil spirits that oppose us. For humility slips through all their snares.

Abba Dorotheos on Humility

Abba Dorotheos. "Concerning humility of wisdom. Second instruction."

One of the elders has said: "Before everything else humility of wisdom is needful for us, so that we may be ready to say to every word which we hear, forgive me; for by humility of wisdom all the arrows of the enemy and adversary are broken." Let us examine what meaning the words of the elder has. Why does he not say that continence (temperance) is needed first of all? For the Apostle says, (I Cor. 9:25) Every man that strivest for the mastery is temperate in all things. Or why did the elder not say that before everything else the fear of God is needful for us? For in the Scriptures it is said: (Ps. 110:10) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and again, (Prov. 15:27) By the fear of the Lord everyone departs from evil. Why did he not say that before everything else alms-giving or faith is necessary for us? For it is said, (Prov. 15:27), By alms and by faithful dealings sins are purged away, and the Apostle says, (Heb. 11:6) Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God).

Humility of the Man is a Measure of His Spiritual Growth

Letters of hegumen Nikon (Vorobyov) to spiritual children.

Hegumen Nikon (Vorobyov)

Letter 192.

Dear ... ,

Peace and mercy from God be with you and S. I have received your letter. You have not written about your condition for a long time. I am glad of what you write about, if you really experience what you describe. Often, people describe only their dreams or something they have read or heard from somebody. What is described by you necessarily happens with every person properly going the spiritual way. Save you soul, work, pray, maintain peace with everybody, judge nobody, but have pity for everybody, do not judge those who sin openly, but sigh about them to God, so that He absolves them and instructs them for salvation.

Humility of the man is a measure of his spiritual growth. The higher is the man in his spirit, the humbler he is. And vice versa, the humbler is the man, the higher he is. Not prayer rules, not bows, not fasting, not reading of God's Word, but humility makes the man closer to God. Without humility, all, even the greatest, labours do not make good, and can even ruin the man. And nowadays one can see that if a person prays a little more, reads Psalms sometimes, observes fasting – and already he considers himself to be higher than others, disapproves his neighbours, begins to teach, when nobody asks for it etc., and so he demonstrates his spiritual emptiness and departure from God “into a far country”. Fear a high opinion or yourself.

Jesus Christ said that even if you have done all those things which are commanded you (i. e. fulfilled everything according to the commandments), believe you to be unprofitable servants that have done that which was their duty to do. And salvation is a gift of God to the humble and the people with a broken heart. Thus, we should ask God for humility. Humility cannot be combined with judgment of our neighbours and sensitivity to offense. If we judge others or take offence, when others somehow offend us, we have no humility. Saint ascetics sincerely thanked those who offended and insulted them. Because they learnt humility by way of tolerating offences. Our Lady said that God had chosen Her for Her humility. The Saviour Himself calls everybody to learn humility from Him; not fasting, not prayer, even not loving neighbours, but humility. Only through humility the man becomes one in God, who humbled himself to spits, buffets and the death on the Cross. Needless to say that we should do our best to fulfill all the commandments as well, but I repeat once again that they do no good or do harm without humility. Understand me correctly.

Let God instruct you! Let God deliver you from cunning of visible and invisible enemies. They have become too cunning. Regards to S. God's blessings upon you.

On the Greatest Humility of the Mother of God

Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie). On Humility of the Mother of God.

(translation from Russian)

…after I have cited these witnesses from the Scripture concerning humility of some of the saints, I believe, it would be good and very useful for us to dare to speak about the greatest humility of the Queen of all the saints, i. e. about humility of the Most Pure and Blessed Virgin Mary. But first of all, I believe, it would be good to consider whether there is anybody else among rational creatures — among men and Angels — who has merited such great spiritual gifts as the Most Pure and Blessed Virgin Mary.

Truly, there is no other creature of God, on earth as well as in Heaven, who would reach such glory and such gifts, as the Most Pure and Blessed Mother of God. At the beginning, God told of Her to our forbearers Adam and Eve and revealed them that salvation would be made and the head of the serpent would be bruised through Her (see Gen. 3: 15). The Holy Spirit, by the mouth of the great prophet Isaiah, pointed at Her, that She would be the Virgin that would give birth to Immanuel (see Isaiah 7: 14); the Holy Spirit pointed at Her, that She would sit as the beautiful Queen decorated with rich gifts upon the right hand of God (see Ps. 45: 10). Elisabeth, the mother of John, the glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of our Lord, knelt to Her and blessed Her, calling Her the Mother of the Lord (see Lk. 1: 43). She is the Mother and the Most Pure Virgin, and all generations shall call Her blessed (see Lk. 1: 48), She has found favour with God (see Lk. 1: 30). It was foretold about Her that She would remain Virgin even after giving birth (see Isaiah 7: 14).