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