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April 29, 2021

Great Thursday - Imitating the Lord's Humility (Archpriest Rodion Putyatin)


By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin (1807-1869)

"If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14).

Not only God, but we also love humble people; such is the quality of humility - it involuntarily attracts everyone. We love humble people, pious listeners, but we ourselves do not love to humble ourselves before others; we are afraid so as not to humiliate ourselves with humility, we are afraid that we will be considered weak, cowardly people, when we humble ourselves before others.

Therefore for the most part we merely think about humility, and, apparently, at first the apostles also merely thought about humility, for how else can we explain their dispute about primacy? Jesus Christ knew the thoughts of His disciples about humility, and often by word and deed taught them humility; finally, He deigned to solemnly show them the height of humility. This was at the supper at which the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist was established. Jesus Christ was reclining with His disciples, the supper had just begun, the disciples' feet had not yet been washed, as the custom required. And so Jesus Christ gets up from His place, takes off His outer garment, takes a towel and girdes Himself with it, then pours water into the washbin and thus washes everyone's feet in order, wiping them off with a towel. When He washed their feet and put on His garment, then He sat down again and said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord and you speak correctly, for I am surely the Lord and Teacher. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. You see, it is not humiliating for Me that I humbled Myself before you; and you will not humiliate yourself when you humble yourself before one another (see: John 13:4-5, 12-15).

And humility will not humiliate anyone, pious listeners; it, on the contrary, elevates every person. Yes, humility only seems to us humiliation and weakness, but in fact it is a manifestation of the strength of the spirit and the height of feelings. Just as a high degree of knowledge is a consciousness of one's own ignorance, so a high degree of moral perfection is a consciousness of one's imperfection. He knows a lot, a lot, who knows how to say: "I don't know anything." He has many, many perfections, who says about himself: "I have nothing." Let's look at these humble people who humiliated themselves in front of everyone, let's see who they really were.

The patriarch Abraham was humble; he spoke of himself: "I am earth and ashes." But who is this Abraham? This is the father of the faithful, who had no equal among the patriarchs. King David was humble; he spoke of himself: "I am a worm, not a man." But who is this David? This is the porphyry-bearing prophet, who had no equal among kings. The apostle Paul was humble, he wrote about himself: "I am the least of the apostles, I am not worthy to be called an apostle." But who is this Paul? This is one of the foremost apostles who labored most of all in the work of preaching. The Virgin Mary was humble, she, having heard from the Angel the gospel of the conception of the Son of God, said: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoice in God my Savior, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." But who is this humble Virgin Mary? This is the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, who is higher than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.

However, why should we give too many examples? To enumerate the humble means to enumerate men who are high in spirit and saints in life. Let's leave it all alone. Who is this Christ Jesus, Who throughout His life, until His death, ceaselessly humbled and humiliated Himself, Who did not want to break a broken reed and quench a smoking flax; Who is this meek and humble heart who washed the feet of His disciples? The highest wisdom, the most perfect holiness, the radiance of the glory of the Father and the image of His hypostasis, in a word - God in the flesh.

After this, what should we say about those people who do not want to humble themselves before others, who like to be proud of themselves? What can I say about them? These are low and insignificant people, they have no true virtues, they have neither greatness nor holiness. Yes, pious listeners, only low and insignificant people are proud. Everything heavy naturally falls down, lies on the ground, and that which is light rises up, flies through the air. Thus, great and holy people always humble themselves before others, and the low and insignificant put themselves above everyone else. Indeed, why do some people behave proudly? Having nothing, they want to make up for the lack of perfection with pride, they think with arrogance to replace the weakness of their strengths. Why does another person, having occupied an important place in society, suddenly become impregnable? He is afraid of, so that they do not examine him closely, who he is, he wants to hide his shortcomings with inaccessibility, with arrogance he thinks to make up for the scarcity of his merits.

This is how pride blinds a person; the proud do not see how they humiliate themselves, so they humiliate, what they think to exalt. When they show themselves to others, they show how insignificant they are; when they hide themselves from others, they let them know that they are weak. So, pious listeners, if you see a proud and unapproachable person, then do not try to guess much who he is; he is just a person without true merits, there is neither a good mind nor a kind heart in him. True, people with great dignity sometimes indulge in pride. But how long do they remain great with their pride?

To begin to be proud means to begin to fall; dreaming about oneself is a preparation for humiliation. Abba Anthony told about himself: “I once saw all the enemy's nets stretched out on the ground, and said with a deep sigh: alas, who will escape them? But I heard a voice that came to me: 'Humility!'" Yes, the humble easily avoid the enemy's nets, while the proud entangle themselves in their own nets. God leaves the proud to themselves, but supports the humble by His grace. And that is why, pious listeners, when you dream about yourself, then be afraid, lest you soon be put to shame.

Only with humility is a person tall and strong, and without humility he is weak and low. True, low and weak people sometimes humble themselves, but how do they humble themselves? Their humility is no better than pride. Before whom do low people humble themselves? Only before the highest. Why are they humbled? To rise more comfortably. What weaknesses are weak people admitting? The most insignificant, unimportant. Why are they recognized? To let others know how unimportant are the weaknesses to which they are exposed. Thus, among the low, humility is always low - true humility is too high for them, it is not in their spirit. The truly humble one is humbled because he is humble in soul, therefore his eyes are not lifted up, because his heart is not puffed up; his heart is like an innocent, submissive, simple-hearted child. That is why only people with perfections, great saints, are always truly humble, only such people will have enough spirit to say about themselves: "I am earth and ashes; I am a worm, not a man."

So, pious listeners, humility is not at all a sign of a weak and faint-hearted person. Here, proud people are always weak and faint-hearted, and the humble are always great and holy, a humble neck is a sign of the greatness of the spirit, and a proud brow is the imprint of a small soul. Therefore we will not be embarrassed, even if we had a chance to be the lowest position of a slave: a low service will never humiliate a tall person. However, humbling ourselves before others, let us not give subservience to them, as low and weak people do before the higher: true humility does not humiliate itself even in humiliation, and shines with holiness in the darkness.

O Lord our God, showing the measure of humility in Your extreme indulgence, grace us in serving each other and exalt us with divine humility. Amen.