New Savior Monastery of Moscow
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
In today’s Sunday Gospel, we listened to a very moving story of a worthless man. He was both pitiful in appearance and in his status among the fellow countrymen, as he was a publican and bore the general judgment of people. Perhaps, in part of his worthlessness, he also bore a determination of his spirit.
Many people of different stratum, positions and ranks, whom one could prefer, surround the Lord. But the Lord pays His attention to this very worthless man, preferring him to the others at this moment. He calls him by his name and says, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”1
There is a belief that on the Last Day many people will become surprised, as they will not find themselves at a place where they expected to be, and because they will see those, who they did not expect to, close to God. Many people will wonder and become disappointed. One thing is the judgment of people, quite the opposite is the judgment of God. The Lord always prefers a timid and humble man and says, “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit.”2
There is a phrase of the Holy Fathers, “I did not fast, I did not pray, I was not vigilant, I did not prostrate myself on the ground, but I humbled myself and the Lord saved me.”3 Everything I have listed is precious before God, but in this expression of the Holy Fathers, the priority of spiritual values is set. Everything of this, prayer, fast, vigilance and asceticism, might be valuable and precious, if this is dissolved by humility. If there is no humility in any of these actions, these virtues might have a foul smell before God, because they will bring a proud opinion about oneself.
“But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit.”2 The Lord prefers a humble person to a talented, great, and clever one. First of all, He pays His attention to him.
I would like to emphasize some moments and differentiate between true spiritual humility and inferiority. These are two drastically different states. Humility always brings peace, timidity, love, and shyness, beautiful and kind shyness. While inferiority might bring jealousy, vanity, pride and hatred to the one who is more successful than you are or whom they prefer to you.
These states are dramatically different in their effect and nature. Inferiority and humbleness, humility, are different states. God does not need the inferior ones. God needs and loves the humble, because they bring peace, mercifulness, timidity, and chasteness. These are the effects of a humble heart. God loves such people and seeks them.
And not only God. Every one of us may feel the state of a person who communicates with us. It is always pleasant to deal with humble people. It feels peaceful, calm and secure with them. Our soul always seeks a humble, kind and timid friend.
Humility may not necessarily be too educated, wise, beautiful and great. Humility is a mystery of one’s heart, by which we determine its effect coming in our direction and in the direction of the world. Humility cannot be played or performed, as it will be artificial, false and disgraceful. Humility is a natural state of one’s heart, which is born in the process of spiritual life. If a person leads a correct spiritual life, his or her heart will be raised in humility. If they strive correctly, they will surely be humble and come to a correct realization of themselves and their relationship with God. “Lord, I am nothing. You are Everything.” In this case, people will naturally have a state of love and gentleness, and even modesty, very beautiful and kind modesty.
Venerable Elder Sophrony Sakharov tells the following story. When he lived on Athos, near the Agio Paul Monastery in a cave, and spent his time as a hermit in especially attentive prayer, he was a spiritual guide for many hermits of a Greek monastery. Because of his correct, attentive and reclusive spiritual life, his spiritual senses were very keen. He says, at that time, he met such Fathers on Holy Mount Athos, who walked in the Uncreated Light without suspecting this themselves.
How could such a phenomenon be? You are in an outstanding spiritual state and you do not give esteem to your extraordinariness. He says, their life went so stably, gradually and smoothly that they did not come into this state with a jerk or hurriedly, but so smoothly that this state became natural for them. They did not see their extraordinariness. It seemed to them, this was a natural state of a human and everyone should be and live like this.
A correct spiritual life presupposes smooth and gradual movement towards the Kingdom of Heaven. We do not jump or run, but we keep going stably. We do not stop and do not force the pace to stop again and catch our breath. It always happens like this. A person forces his pace first, then becomes out of his breath, and stops in order to recover his breath. This stop might be a little defeat.
Go stably and straightly. In this case, your result will be reliable. The main thing is that in this straightness and stability, everything will come naturally to you. You will not have a self-opinion, considering yourself as something spiritually high. You will think that everyone lives like this and you do not amount too much. Then, on the Last Day we might become surprised when the Lord will call us from the furthest place and say, “My friend, leave your last place and come higher, I am asking you.”
Glory to our God! Glory! Glory! Glory! Always, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen!
1 Lk. 19:5
2 Is. 66:2
3 St. John of the Ladder