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In the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion, humil­i­ty has often been called the “moth­er of all virtues,” and pride has been named “the cause of all sin.” The wise and hon­est per­son is the one who is humble.

Pride goes before destruc­tion, and a haughty spir­it before a fall.

It is bet­ter to be of a low­ly spir­it with the poor, than to divide the spoils with the proud.

A man’s pride will bring him low, but he who is low­ly in spir­it will retain hon­or. (Proverbs 16:18, 16:19, 29:23)

Accord­ing to the Gospel, in the Song of the Vir­gin, the Lord scat­ters the proud in the imag­i­na­tion of their hearts and exalts those who are hum­ble and meek. (Cf. Luke 1:51–52) This is the exact teach­ing of Jesus.

For every­one who exalts him­self will be hum­bled, and he who hum­bles him­self will be exalt­ed. (Luke 14:11, 18:14, Proverbs 3:34)

Humil­i­ty does not mean degra­da­tion or remorse. It does not mean effect­ing some sort of demean­ing exter­nal behav­ior. It does not mean con­sid­er­ing one­self as the most vile and loath­some of crea­tures. Christ Him­self was hum­ble and He did not do this. God Him­self, accord­ing to the spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion of the Church, has per­fect humil­i­ty, and He cer­tain­ly does not act in this way.

Gen­uine humil­i­ty means to see real­i­ty as it actu­al­ly is in God. It means to know one­self and oth­ers as known by God — a pow­er, accord­ing to Saint Isaac, greater than that of rais­ing the dead! The hum­ble lay aside all van­i­ty and con­ceit in the ser­vice of the least of God’s crea­tures, and to con­sid­er no good act as beneath one’s dig­ni­ty and hon­or. Humil­i­ty is to know one­self, with­out the grace of God, as dust, sin­ful and dead.

God is hum­ble because He cares about the least: the birds in the air, the grass in the fields, the worst of sin­ners. (Cf. Matthew 6:25–30) Christ is hum­ble because He asso­ciates with the low­ly, becom­ing the slave of all in tak­ing on Him­self the sins of the world.

If I then, your Lord and Mas­ter have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have giv­en you an exam­ple, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:14–15) You know that the rulers of the pagans lord it over them, and their great men exer­cise author­i­ty over them. It shall not be so among you; but who­ev­er would be great among you must be your ser­vant, and who­ev­er would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ran­som for many. (Matthew 20:25–28)

All Chris­tians are to fol­low the exam­ple of Christ in His divine humil­i­ty. Saint Paul teaches:

Do noth­ing from self­ish­ness or con­ceit, but in humil­i­ty count oth­ers bet­ter than your­selves. Let each of you look not to his own inter­ests, but also to the inter­ests of oth­ers. Have this mind among your­selves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equal­i­ty with God a thing to be grasped, but emp­tied Him­self, tak­ing the form of a ser­vant, being born in the like­ness of men. And being found in human form He hum­bled Him­self and became obe­di­ent unto death, even death on a cross. There­fore God has high­ly exalt­ed Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heav­en and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue con­fess that Jesus is Lord, to the glo­ry of God the Father. (Philip­pi­ans 2:3–11)

The exal­ta­tion of Jesus as a man depend­ed entire­ly on His self-emp­ty­ing humil­i­ty. True great­ness, divine great­ness, is the abil­i­ty to be the least and to the least with the absolute cer­ti­tude that it is exter­nal­ly and divine­ly impor­tant, that it is an imi­ta­tion of God Himself.

True humil­i­ty for the sin­ful man is to know that indeed, accord­ing to one’s own pos­si­bil­i­ties and gifts, each one is tru­ly the first and great­est of sin­ners (Cf. I Tim­o­thy 1:15), for each one has sinned in his own way “like no oth­er man.” (Saint Andrew of Crete, (7th c), Pen­i­ten­tial Canon) The tru­ly hum­ble per­son is the one who, con­fess­ing his sins, is “faith­ful over lit­tle,” and doing so, is exalt­ed by the Lord and is “set over much.” Only such a per­son will “enter into the joy of his Mas­ter.” (Matthew 25:14–23, Luke 19:17)