The Divine Scripture cries out to us, brothers, saying,
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11; 18:14)
2 In saying these things, therefore, it shows us that all exaltation is a kind of pride. 3 The Prophet shows us that he has taken heed by saying:
O Lord, my heart is not exalted,
nor are my eyes lifted up.
I have not gone after great things
nor wonders beyond me. (Ps 131:1)
4 And why?
If I was not humble-minded,
if I have lifted up my soul,
will you not also repay my soul
as does a mother her weaned child? (Vulgate Ps 131:2)
5 Therefore, brothers, if we want to reach the summit of humility on high and speedily arrive at that heavenly exaltation to which we can ascend only through the humility of this present life, 6 we must, by our ascending actions, raise that ladder which appeared to Jacob in a dream and “showed him angels ascending and descending” (Gen 28:12).
7 Without doubt, we are to understand this descent and ascent as nothing other than this: We descend by exaltation, and by humility we ascend. 8 The raised ladder is itself then our life in this world which, once our heart has been humbled, the Lord raises up to heaven. 9 We declare the sides of this ladder to be our body and soul; into these sides the divine call has inserted various rungs of humility and discipline for the ascent.
10 The first step of humility, then, is that a monk, while always keeping “before his eyes the fear of God” (Ps 36:2), should flee forgetfulness in everything, 11 and he should be ever mindful of all that God has taught, so that he always turns over in his heart both how hell, because of sin, burns up those who despise God, and how eternal life has been prepared for those who fear God.
12 Guarding himself at all times from sins and evil ways, whether from thought, tongue, hands, feet, or from self-will and the desires of the flesh, 13 let him consider that he is always and at all times being watched by God, and that God’s gaze sees his deeds in every place, which the angels report at all times.
14 The Prophet points this out to us when he shows just how our thoughts are always present to God, saying:
You search the minds and hearts, O God. (Ps 7:10)
15 And also:
The Lord knows the thoughts of all humanity. (Ps 94:11)
16 And he also says:
You have understood my thoughts from afar. (Ps 139:3)
Human thought will confess you. (Vulgate Ps 75:11)
18 Therefore, so that he might take care concerning his own perverse thoughts, let a sensible brother always say in his heart:
Then shall I be blameless before him
if I keep myself from my own iniquity. (Ps 18:24)
19 Indeed we are forbidden to carry out our self-will when Scripture says to us:
Turn away from your own passions. (Sir 18:30)
20 And so we ask God in prayer that his will be done in us. 21 Rightly, therefore, are we taught not to do our own will when we give heed to what Holy Scripture says:
There are ways that people think right but their end plunges into the very depths of hell. (Prov 16:25)
22 At the same time, we should also quake with fear at what is said about the heedless:
They are corrupt and their own passions have made them abominable. (Ps 14:1)
23 As for the desires of the flesh, then, let us believe that God is always present since the Prophet says to the Lord:
Before you is my every desire. (Ps 38:10)
24 Therefore, we must take heed to avoid evil desire, because death is posted at the entrance of indulgence. 25 About this Scripture teaches, saying:
Do not go after your lusts. (Sir 18:30)
26 Therefore, if “the eyes of the Lord look on the good and the bad” (Prov 15:3), 27 and if the “Lord always looks down from heaven upon all humanity to see if any understand or seek God” (Ps 14:2), 28 and if the angels, appointed to watch over us, daily report both day and night to God the deeds that we do, 29 we should take heed at all times, brothers, as the Prophet says in the Psalm, lest God should see us at any time sinking down into evil and becoming useless.
30 Also, he spares us in this present moment because he is loving, and is waiting for us to be changed by this life for the better, so that he does not need to say to us in the future:
These things you have done, and I was quiet. (Ps 50:21)
31 The second step of humility is that a monk should not love self-will, and should not indulge in fulfilling his desires, 32 but should conform himself by his deeds to the voice of the Lord who says:
I have not come to do my will, but that of the one who sent me. (John 6:38)
33 Likewise Scripture says:
Self-will merits punishment,
and self-restraint wins a crown. (Passio Anastasiae 17)
34 The third step of humility is that a person, for the love of God, should place himself under a superior in all obedience, conforming himself to the Lord, of whom the Apostle says:
He became obedient unto death. (Phil 2:8)
35 The fourth step of humility is that a monk in this obedience should embrace suffering quietly and consciously when things are hard or go against him, or even when unjust things, whatever they may be, are inflicted on him. 36 Also, being steadfast, he should not grow weary or depart, as Scripture says:
The one who has persevered to the very end will be saved. (Matt 10:22)
37 And also:
Let your heart take comfort
and wait for the Lord. (Ps 27:14)
38 Showing how the faithful ought to bear all adversity for the sake of the Lord, the Apostle says in the name of those who suffer:
On account of you, we suffer death all day long; we are regarded as sheep for the slaughter. (Rom 8:36; Ps 44:22)
39 And, confident in the hope of divine reward, they follow, rejoicing and saying:
But in all these things we triumph because of him who has loved us. (Rom 8:37)
40 And also, in another place Scripture says:
You have tested us, O Lord,
you have tried us by fire,
as silver is tried by fire;
you have led us into a snare
and laid heavy burdens on our back. (Ps 66:10-11)
41 And to show that we ought to be under a superior, it goes on to say:
You have set people over our heads. (Ps 66:12)
42 However, through patience they fulfill the Lord’s teaching in hardships and in unjust treatment:
When struck on one cheek, they offer the other; when stripped of their mantle, they give up their tunic; when drafted to go one mile, they go two. (Matt 5:39-41)
43 With Paul the Apostle, they bear with false brothers, and they bear with persecution, and they bless those who curse them (2 Cor 11:26; 1 Cor 4:12).
44 The fifth step of humility is that a monk should not conceal from his abbot, but should confess humbly, all the evil thoughts coming into his heart and the evil deeds committed in secret.
45 To this, Scripture urges us, saying:
Make known your way to the Lord
and hope in him. (Ps 37:5)
46 And again it says:
Confess to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy is forever. (Ps 106:1; Ps 118:1)
47 And again the Prophet says:
I have made known to you my sin,
and my unjust deeds I have not hidden.
48 I said, ‘Against myself I shall confess
my unjust deeds to the Lord,
and you have forgiven the ungodliness
of my heart.’ (Ps 32:5)
49 The sixth step of humility is that a monk should be content with all that is worthless and least, and in everything laid upon him, he should judge himself a bad and unworthy workman, 50 saying about himself with the Prophet,
I have been brought to nothing,
and I did not know it.
I have become as a beast before you;
yet I am always with you. (Ps 73:22–23)
51 The seventh step of humility is that a monk should proclaim himself lower and more worthless than all; he should do this not only with his tongue, but he should also believe it with the inmost feeling of his heart. 52 Humbling himself, he should say with the Prophet:
I, however, am a worm
and not a human being,
the reproach of humanity
and the outcast of the people. (Ps 22:7)
53 I have been lifted up and humbled
and confounded. (Vulgate Ps 87:16)
54 And again:
For me it has been good
that you have humbled me
so that I may learn your commandments. (Ps 119:71, 73)
55 The eighth step of humility is that a monk should do nothing except what together the common rule of the monastery and the example of the older monks encourage.
56 The ninth step of humility is that a monk should restrain his tongue from speaking and keep quiet, not speaking until questioned, 57 as Scripture shows:
In much talk there is no escaping sin, (Prov 10:19)
A man full of tongue will not endure upon earth. (Ps 140:12)
59 The tenth step of humility is that a monk should not be moved easily or quickly to laughter, because it is written:
The fool lifts up his voice in laughter. (Sir 21:20)
60 The eleventh step of humility is that a monk should speak gently and without laughter, humbly and seriously, with a few, reasonable words, and his voice should not be full of noise, 61 as it is written:
The wise man is known by few words. (Sextus, Enchiridion, 145)
62 The twelfth step of humility is that a monk should always make known his humility to those who see him, not only in his heart but also in his very body, 63 that is, at the Work of God, in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road, in the field, or wherever he sits, walks or stands, with his head ever bowed and his gaze fixed on the earth. 64 Considering himself at all times guilty of his sin, he should consider himself as already brought before the fearful judgment, 65 saying to himself in his heart always what the publican said in the Gospel with his eyes fixed on the earth:
Lord, I am not worthy, I a sinner, to raise my eyes to heaven. (Luke 18:13)
66 And again with the Prophet:
I am bowed down,
and I am humbled in every way. (Pss 38:7-9; 119:107)
67 Therefore, when he has ascended all these steps of humility, the monk will soon arrive “at that love” which, “when perfect, casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). 68 Through this love, everything which he was keeping before out of dread, he will begin to keep without effort, as though naturally, and from habit. 69 He will do it no longer out of fear of hell, but for the love of Christ, and because of good habit itself and delight in virtue.
70 Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will deign to make this manifest in his workman, now cleansed from evil ways and sins.