The Saint and Holiness.

The great Romanian theologian Dumitru Stăniloae describes the characteristics of the saint, but these are spiritual characteristics to which we all must aspire, as baptism calls all to holiness: all to become saints.

“The saint always radiates a spirit of generosity, of forbearance, of attention and willingness to share, without any thought for himself. His warmth gives warmth to others and makes them feel they are regaining their strength, and lets them experience the joy of not being alone. The saint is like an innocent lamb, always ready to be sacrificed and to take to himself the suffering of others, but he is also the unshakeable wall against which all can lean for support. In sharing thus the lot of others, the saint sometimes shows great discretion, while at other times he expresses himself without reserve. It is hardly necessary to speak of the total absence of self-interest in his relationships.

Moreover, no one is humbler than the saint, more free from all that is artificial, further from any kind of boasting, more ‘natural’ in his behaviour, because he accepts and understands everything that is truly human, all those lowly and sometimes ridiculous aspects of our humanity, which is great only when not boasting of its own greatness. Thus, the saint immediately creates an atmosphere of friendliness, of kinship and indeed of intimacy between himself and others. In this way he humanizes his relationships and leaves on them the marks of genuineness, because he himself has become profoundly human and genuine. He speaks kindly and avoids naming the weakness of others with brutal frankness; but at the same time, he creates the conditions for a direct, candid and open relationship between himself and others. He urges them to confess their weaknesses and sins sincerely, and fortifies them in their struggle to overcome their faults…

…He is the most humble and human of men, but at the same time an unconventional and surprising figure. He gives others the feeling that they have discovered in him, and therefore in themselves because of him, the nature of true humanity.”

Dumitru Stăniloae

From ‘Prayer and Holiness’

Fairacres Publications

Humility: the door opening up the heart…

At the moment, I’m reading “Women of the Catacombs”, an account of underground Orthodox life centred on a catacomb parish in Sergiev Posad from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. In this simply written and engaging memoir, the  second-cousin and mother of the late Father Alexander Men speak of their spiritual lives, initially under the spiritual direction of their dukhovnik, the Archimandrite Serafim.

In one letter to Vera Iakovlevna Vasilevskaia – Men’s second cousin – Archimandrite Serafim describes humility with great spiritual clarity…

 “Humility is the door opening up the heart and giving it the means to a spiritual existence. Humility gives the heart graceful rest, to the mind it gives peace, to one’s thoughts – concreteness. Humility is strength, encompassing the heart, separating it from all that is earthly, giving it understanding about the existence of eternal life, which cannot enter the heart of the carnal person. Humility gives the mind its original purity. It begins to see clearly the difference between good and evil in everything. And to each spiritual situation and movement it knows their name, as the primordial Adam named the animals according to the characteristics he perceived in them. With humility, silence proposes to be imprinted on everything that is in each person, and, in this silence, the spirit of human beings, submitting to the Lord in prayer, hears his prophesies. Until the sensation of humility resides in one’s heart, there cannot be pure prayer…”

“Women of the Catacombs” – edited and translated by Wallace L. Daniel, Northern Illinois University Press, 2021.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark