Sunday, March 18, 2012

Humbling Ourselves

This study guide comes from The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus.  My priest recently said in a homily that pride is the mother of all sins and there was no fiber of honesty in me that could disagree with him.  I stumbled on this while trying to prepare for my Religious School class this morning.  Teaching is often how I learn and thought you might enjoy this study guide as well as you make your way through Lent, and this pilgrimmage of life.  This isn't a lesson for 1st and 2nd graders so much, but possibly the Holy Spirit or my Guardian Angel may have led me to it?
From Amazon description for the book:  The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Church. Popular among both lay and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and many modern languages. It was written while the author (who received his surname from this book) was abbot of the monastery of Catherine on Mount Sinai. As reflected in the title, the ascetical life is portrayed as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ himself. This work had a fundamental influence in the Hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart movement.

Ascending the Heights
Study Guide
Step 22-23,
Vainglory & Pride

Vainglory seeks recognition and adulation from other human beings;
Pride refuses to acknowledge the truth of one's relationship with God. 

Pride twists our world view to a point where both other people and God come to be seen as unimportant and, irrelevant.

“That which we need to reconnect to, in order to cure Pride and Vainglory is:
  1. Community (koinonia), where gifts can be experienced as the expression and result of our interactions with one another;
  2. Humility (tapeinophrosune), understood especially as truthful, honest acknowledgement of our indebtedness to one another and above all to the grace (charis) of God.”
St. John lists several signs that we have fallen victim to vainglory
  1. Vainglory enters our lives when we grow concerned about what other people think of us.
  2. It captures our hearts when we enjoy their words of praise.
  3. It takes over our hearts when we begin to work for these words of praise which bring us such joy.
How can we conquer vainglory? St. John is very clear in his instructions.
  1. The first step is to remain silent and to accept dishonor gladly.
  2. The middle stage is to check every act of vainglory while it is still in thought.
  3. The end-insofar as one may talk of an end to an abyss-is to be able to accept humiliation before others without actually feeling it.
We have to ask ourselves the following questions:
  1. Does my behavior change when no one else is around?
  2. Do I find myself telling others about all of my spiritual efforts and blessings?
  3. Do I believe my "press clippings"?
  4. Do I find myself replaying what others have said to me or what I have said to them over and over again in my mind?
  5. Do I act and talk as if I have experientially known spiritual truths that I have only read about?
  6. Do I become discouraged and quit when no one notices what I do or I do not receive the praise and thanksgiving I think I deserve?
  7. Do I hide my sins and failings from others, even to the point of lying or shading the truth so that my true faults are not discovered by others?
  8. Do I become defensive when I am criticized?
  9. Do I feel the need always to make sure that everyone knows why I did something?
If we answer "yes" to any of these, then the spirit of vainglory lives within us.

Developing humility: Here are some daily exercises for controlling pride and developing humility.

1. Do something good or help someone— and make sure no-one else ever finds out.
    Matthew 6:3–4

2. Tell someone about something in your life you regret or are ashamed of—they can help you improve.
    James 5:16

3. Compare your achievements in serving God with those of Jesus or Paul.
    Hebrews 3:1–2; Philippians 4:9

4. Do not praise yourself or talk about the things you have done to serve God.
    Proverbs 27:2

5. Do everything to give glory to God and not yourself.
    1 Corinthians 10:31

6. If you feel like boasting, boast about God and His power.
    Jeremiah 9:23–24

7. Praise others every day and consider them better than yourself.
Explanation on the icon from the Byzantine Catholic Church of USA Website:  The icon is of the Ladder of Divine Ascent. In his spiritual classic book of the same name St. John Climacus compares the stages of spiritual growth to the steps upward to heaven on a ladder. At the top of the ladder is Christ, coming from heaven. The goal of the spiritual life is theosis (growing towards God). We are reminded that the meaning of the Fast is so that "you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Colleen. There is some good practical advice in these points. Pride really is at the root of all the other sins and I think many of us will battle it and its effects for most of our lives, but the saints are hopeful examples of the possibility and necessity of overcoming this deadly sin.