Monday, April 20, 2009

Bright Monday: On Humility and Love


Here follows my translation of a
sermon for Bright Monday by Bishop Benjamin of Saratov and Balashov (+1955), entitled "On Humility and Love":
On the day of the Resurrection of Christ, beloved brethren, we must speak about peace and love, because during these days Christ is especially close to us. He dwells among us. In order for peace and calm to be in our souls we need humility and love above all. Without humility it is impossible to attain spiritual peace. Disagreement now reigns in our hearts, no one wants to humble himself and submit to another, and therefore there is no peace and calm, no quiet joy. Humility can be attained only when we are condescending to the actions of others and bear the sorrows of our neighbors.

In order to make others humble, we need to humble ourselves.

When a person recognizes his own foolish actions, he looks condescendingly at his neighbor; and when he humbles himself he encourages humility in others. For spite can never defeat spite, nor can animosity destroy animosity. Spite can be defeated only by humility, and animosity by love. The Lord Himself said Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you (Mt 5:44).

To see how humility can defeat spite, there is an example in Biblical history. Esau hated his brother Jacob for having taken his birthright from him, and here is how Jacob behaved when the brothers had to meet. First he sent rich gifts to his brother, and then when they met face to face he fell before him on his knees and cried out: “My brother, your image is like that of the image of God!” Esau had a brutish face. Then his heart, in which hostility for man had taken root, was humbled, and Esau fell onto his brother’s neck and kissed him with tears. In this way the humility of one person humbles the spite of another.

Even in ancient times one Elder said: “A humble answer defeats rage.”

Patriarch Sophronius of Alexandria relates the following incident. A rich and money-loving bishop hated another bishop who lived in poverty but was loved by the people. When the poor bishop needed to celebrate a service at the graves of the holy martyrs with the other bishop, he assembled his clergy and said to them: “Humility defeats enmity, and if the Lord grants me power then calm shall be established among us.”

At his meeting with the rich bishop the poor bishop and his clergy fell onto their knees and cried out: “Forgive us, holy Master, we are your servants!” At that moment the grace of God touched the cruel heart and it was melted by humility. He embraced the one he had formerly hated and asked his forgiveness. Afterwards such love, such peace reigned between them that those around them said: “Indeed, here the grace of God has acted.”

So, humbling oneself, one can make others humble. Then, we said, one needs to comfort others. The Apostle Paul said: Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). We need to lighten the burdens of others, because it becomes easier for someone when someone sympathizes with his grief.

In this way, humbling ourselves, and by that means making others humble, and sharing the grief of others, we acquire peace in our heart and love, which is the foundation of Christ’s testaments. Then the Lord will live in our hearts unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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