Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Humility

The abbot Antony, being at a loss in his meditation on the depth of the judgments of God, prayed, saying, “Lord, why do some die in so short a space of life, and some others live to the far side of decrepit old age: and why some in want, and others rich with various means of wealth, and how are the unrighteous rich and the righteous oppressed by poverty?” And a voice came to him saying, “Antony, turn thine eyes upon thyself: for these are the judgments of God, and the knowledge of them is not for thee.”

The abbot Mathois said, “The nearer a man approaches to God, the greater sinner he sees himself to be. For the prophet Isaiah saw God, and said that he was unclean and undone.”

The demons once set upon Abba Arsenios in his cell and afflicted him. When the persons who attended to him came, as they stood outside the cell, they could hear him crying out to God, saying, “O God, do not abandon me! I have done no good thing in your sight, but, of your kindness, give me at least the chance to make a fresh start.”

He also said, “If when you are doing your acts of worship and you do them in humble-mindedness as one who is unworthy, they are acceptable to God. But should there arise in your heart some proud thought and you consent to it, or if the recollection occurs to you of somebody who is sleeping or inattentive and you pass judgment on that someone, know that your labor is in vain.”

He also said, “He who possesses humble-mindedness lays on himself the blame due to his brother, saying, ‘It was my fault.’ For he who looks down on his brother has it that he is wise himself and never offended anybody. He who is in fear of God is concerned about the virtues, that not one of them escape him.”

The devil appeared to a brother in the disguise of an angel of light, saying to him, “I am the archangel Gabriel, and I was sent to you.” “Make sure you were not sent to somebody else,” said the brother to him, “for I am not worthy to see an angel,” and the demon immediately disappeared.

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