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January 5, 2021

Humility, the Most Beautiful of All the Virtues (St. Syncletike of Alexandria)

By St. Syncletike of Alexandria

Therefore it is clear that arrogance is the greatest among the evils. And from this its opposite, humility, shows itself. It is difficult to acquire humility. For if one is not far from all glory, one will not be able to value this treasure. Humility is so great that the devil seems to imitate all the virtues but does not know this one at all. Knowing its security and steadfastness, the apostle commands us to be clothed in it, and to be surrounded by it, all doing useful things. For if you fast, and if you give alms, or if you teach, if you are wise and intelligent, it will furnish you again with an impregnable fort. Let humility, the most beautiful of all virtues, reinforce and keep your virtues from dispersing. Look at the canticle of the three holy children, how not mentioning at all other virtues, they included the humble ones with the singers, not mentioning the wise or the poor. For just as it is impossible for a ship to be built without nails, just so it is impossible to be saved without humility.

Because it has grown up both good and salvific, the Lord, completing the economy [of salvation] for human beings, put it [humility] on. For it says, "Learn from me, that I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matt. 11:29). Behold the one who speaks; one must learn perfectly from him. Let humility be the beginning and end of goodness for you. He speaks of humble thought; he refers not only to external form but to the internal human being. Have you performed all the commandments? The Lord knows, but he urges you again to take up the beginning of servitude. For it says: "When you do all these things, say: 'We are unworthy servants'" (Lk. 17:10).

Therefore humility corrects by means of reproaches, by means of violence, by means of blows; in order that you might hear through the foolish and the stupid, the poor person and the beggar, the weak one and the insignificant, the one who makes no progress in work, the illogical in expression, the dishonorable in appearance, the weak in power. These things are the sinews of humility. These things our Lord heard and suffered. For he himself spoke to the Samaritan and to the one who had a demon. He took the form of a slave, he was beaten, he was tortured with blows.

Therefore it is necessary for us to imitate these acts of humility. Therefore there are some who pretend by means of external forms and humble themselves, while they hunt glory by these means; but they are recognized by their fruits, for they did not bear being insulted even superficially, but immediately they vomited their own poison like serpents.