Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

self_knowledge

16 Entries

'Know thyself': this is true humility, the humility that teaches us to be inwardly humble and makes our heart contrite. Such humility you must cultivate and guard. For if you do not yet know yourself you cannot know what humility is, and have not yet embarked truly on the task of cultivating and guarding. To know oneself is the goal of the practice of the virtues. Nikitas Stithatos in The Philokalia, Vol. 4



...it is impossible for us to become reconciled and united with God, if we do not first return to ourselves, as far as it lies in our power, or if we do not enter within ourselves, tearing ourselves - what a wonder it is! - from the whirl of the world with its multitudinous vain cares and striving constantly to keep attention on the kingdom of heaven which is within us. Nicephorus the Solitary (Profitable Discourse on Sobriety Chapter 13)

As we consider our own selves and come to know our misfortune and wretchedness, we shall have reason enough to be humble. We are born naked and with a cry. We live in calamity, misfortune, and sins. We die with fear, disease, and sighing. We are buried in the earth and return to the earth. There it is not evident where the rich man lies, where the poor, where the noble and where the lowly, where the master and where the servant, where the wise and where the foolish. There they are all made equal, for they all return to the earth. Why, then, should earth and corruption be conceited? St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven

But when the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of a person, He shows him all his inner poverty and weakness, and the corruption of his heart and soul, and his separation from God; and with all his virtues and righteousness. He shows him his sins, his sloth and indifference regarding the salvation and good of people his self-seeking in his apparently most disinterested virtues, his coarse selfishness even where he does not suspect it. To be brief, the Holy Spirit shows him everything as it really is. Then a person begins to have true humility, begins to lose hope in his own powers and virtues, regards himself as the worst of men. And when a person humbles himself before Jesus Christ Who alone is Holy in the glory of God the Father, he begins to repent truly, and resolves never again to sin but to live more carefully. And if he really has some virtues, then he sees clearly that he practiced and practices them only with the help of God, and therefore he begins to put his trust only in God. St. Innocent of Irkutsk, Indication of the Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven

Enter into yourself, live within yourself, in the quiet of your interior self, with a temperate and pure soul, with a calm and humble spirit. Venerable St. Ephrem the Syrian

For a man to know God, and to know himself and his proper rank - a knowledge now possessed even by Christians who are thought to be quite unlearned - is a knowledge superior to natural science and astronomy and to all philosophy concerning such matters. Moreover, for our intellect to know its own infirmity, and to seek healing for it, is incomparably greater than to know and search out the magnitude of the stars, the principles of nature, the generation of terrestrial things and the circuits of celestial bodies, their solstices and risings, stations and retrogressions, separation and conjunctions and, in short, all the multiform relationships which arise from the many different motions of the heavens. For the intellect that recognizes its own infirmity has discovered where to enter in order to find salvation and how to approach the light of knowledge and receive the true wisdom that does not pass away with the present world. St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, Vol. 4

For a man to know God, and to know himself and his proper rank - a knowledge now possessed even by Christians who are thought to be quite unlearned - is a knowledge superior to natural science and astronomy and to all philosophy...Moreover, for our intellect to know its own infirmity, and to seek healing for it, is incomparably greater than to know and search out the magnitude of the stars, the principles of nature, the generation of terrestrial things and the circuits of the celestial bodies...For the intellect that recognizes its own infirmity has discovered where to enter in order to find salvation and how to approach the light of knowledge and receive the true wisdom that does not pass away with this present world. St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 29, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 358):

He who has become aware of his sins has controlled his tongue, but a talkative person has not yet come to know himself as he should. St. John Climacus, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step 11: On Talkativeness and Silence

It is enough to know yourself. Glinsk elder Schema-hieromonk Andronicus Lukasha (1889-1974) (From the book Glinsk Mosaic: Pilgrims’ Recollections of the Glinsk Hermitage, 1942-1961, Pilgrim Publishers, Moscow, 1997.)

Let everyone find out then where he is: how many milestones he has passed on the road. We ought not only to examine ourselves every day but also over a period of time, every month, and every week. `The first week I was a prey to such and such a fault - how do I stand now?' Similarly over a period of time: `Last year I was overcome so many times by such and such a fault, how about now?' And likewise we ought to examine for ourselves each of our faults - whether we have made a little progress or are in the same condition, or have become worse. For so long as we have not uprooted our evil tendencies, may God give us the strength not to give them free reign but to hold them in check. For it is a very grave thing to let loose our passions and not to check them. St. Dorotheos of Gaza, Discourses and Sayings

Mankind considers it extremely important to know earthly and heavenly things,. But it is far greater to have knowledge of ourselves. The man who is conscious of his personal failings is much more worthy of praise than is he who searches and understands the paths of the stars, but does not know the path to salvation. Blessed Augustine

One who is capable of seeing himself is better than one who has been made worthy to see angels. Venerable St. Isaac of Syria

Real self-knowledge is the clear vision of one’s deficiencies and weaknesses to such a degree that everything is filled to overflowing with them. St. Theophan the Recluse

Very few men can accurately recognize all their own faults; indeed, only those can do this whose intellect is never torn away from the remembrance of God. St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 27)

We can never see the state of our soul in all its nakedness or vividly realize its danger without the special grace and help of God, because the interior of our soul is always hidden from us by our self-love, prejudices, passions, worldly cares, delusions. And if it sometimes seems to us that we see the state of our soul ourselves, yet we see it only superficially and no more than our own reason and conscience can show us. St. Innocent of Kamchatka, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven

"Our greatest protection is self-knowledge, and to avoid the delusion that we are seeing ourselves when we are in reality looking at something else. This is what happens to those who do not scrutinize themselves. What they see is strength, beauty, reputation, political power, abundant wealth, pomp, self-importance, bodily stature, a certain grace of form or the life, and they think that this is what they are. Such persons make very poor guardians of themselves: because of their absorption in something else, they overlook what is their own and leave it unguarded. How can a person protect what he does not know? The most secure protection for our treasure is to know ourselves: each one must know himself as he is, and distinguish himself from all that is not he, that he may not unconsciously be protecting something else instead of himself." St. Gregory of Nyssa.





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