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Humility and glory
This is very much an ‘essay’: an attempt to put my ideas together. If anyone thinks I’m going off-course, please tell me.

‘Glory’ is a word we are a little reticent about.  Yet it is clearly fundamental to our Christian vocation. The writer of the Hebrews speaks of God ‘bringing many sons to glory’ (Heb. 2.10). St Paul to the Corinthians talks of God’s hidden purpose of our coming to glory (1. Cor. 2.7). And indeed, Christ speaks in the High Priestly prayer in John 17 of having already given the glory to his disciples: ‘The glory that thou gavest me I have given to them’ (δέδωκα αὐτοῖς – perfect tense)’.

This why I feel uneasy with a constant breast-beating ‘I’m a sinner, I’m a pig’ attitude, which I find for example in ‘andrej­_2006’’s part of the dialogue in

Yes, we may certainly have behaved sinfully, ‘swinefully’, in our lives. And further on in our spiritual development we may be acutely aware both the sinfulness around us and of the structures of sin which remain deep inside us. But we must not define ourselves by sin, but rather by glory. Sin is by essence a stranger to the human race, an intrusion from outside. It is something we are not made for, whereas for glory we are made.

St Paul tells his Roman readers in Romans 12:3 ‘not to be conceited or think too highly of themselves, but to come to a sober estimate of themselves’. I wonder whether ‘to think too lowly of oneself’ is not an equal sin, and indeed may be rooted rather perversely in the same pride: both can be ways of setting oneself aside from humanity, making oneself someone ‘special’. Not to mention, in the latter case, as an excuse for not pulling one’s weight in the Christian and wider community. It can also be an excuse for not opening ourselves up to the painfulness of conversion and inner cleansing. Sin can be mediocre, but it can be perversely comfortable.

Someone will bring up here the argument of the importance of humility, often closely connected in the Russian mind with sense of sin and need for repentance. Dare I suggest humility is ultimately not about sin at all, but about our absolute dependency on God, a dependency not predicated on our sinfulness (‘we need God because we are sinners’), but simply because God made us to be ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1.4).

And when repentance is necessary, it is not grovelling pokayanie, ‘I’m a swine, I’m a swine’, that God wants, but truth, and the courage to look honestly at what we are, to accept the fullness, the ‘glory’ that God wants for us, to say ‘no, in fact, with Your help, I am not a swine’, and saying this to take up our beds and walk.

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Thank you for this quote. I only wonder how much it is a question of 'trying enough' and how much it is a question of 'being open enough to God', whereby the dynamic becomes: 'For the love of God compels us.... that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.' (2 Cor 5:14-15)

My guess is that practically, those two maxims - excessive hope on God's mercy - and "no longer living for oneself" - simply relate to different stages of ascension: the one of a (perhaps advanced) neophyte, and the other of having "a self-perpetuating internal warmth, where outside temptations simply burn as in fire," by the expression of St Paisios Athonite.

'Different stages of ascension' - I am happy to hear that language. For me it is essential to distinguish: in Orthodoxy we often do not, nor do we have always the tools to help people climb. I have been much helped by the RC language of St Teresa of Avila with the 'mansions'; combined with St John of the Cross's language of 'dark night of the senses', 'dark night of the soul'.

I first grasped this notion of gradual ascension when reading St Paisios, who was canonized by the Greek Church in 2015. He is rather popular among monastics in Russia - in fact, an Optina monk recommended his works to me. I read the "Spiritual Counsels," six volumes of which were published in Russian (four in English). He probably (I can only say 'probably', to my shame) draws on St John of the Ladder and other monastic ascetics; but, I find his ideas and exegesis quite relevant to modern Orthodox laity, for two reasons: first, he's done quite a bit of lay counseling, and second, his skillfulness in drawing relevant analogies and examples from the modern culture.

Thank you for this. I will try and pick up a copy next time I go to Mount Athos. A big problem I have in the Russian church is that all the preaching is aimed at the same level - pretty neophyte - and these is little attention to more mature spirituality, which may be one reason why a lot of people drop back after 10-15 years.

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