Finding Peace within Ourselves – What the Holy Fathers Say

No man has understanding if he is not humble, and he who lacks humility is devoid of understanding.  No man is humble if he is not peaceful, and he who is not peaceful is not humble. And no man is peaceful without rejoicing. In all the paths upon which men journey in this world they will find no peace, until they draw nigh to hope in God.  The heart finds no peace from toil and from stumbling-blocks, until hope enters it, makes it peaceful, and pours joy into it. That worshipful and all-holy mouth spoke of this when it said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,  and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11: 28). Draw nigh, He says, and hope in Me, and find rest from labour and fear.

Saint Isaac the Syrian

“What do you feel?”  Father Seraphim asked me.

“An immeasurable well-being,”  I said.

“How exactly do you feel well? In what way?”

I answered:

“I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it.”

“This,” said Father Seraphim, ” is the peace of which the Lord said to His disciples:  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14: 27). If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (c.f.: John 15: 19). But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (c.f.: John 16: 33). And to those people whom this world hates but who are chosen by the Lord, the Lord gives that peace which you now feel within you, the peace which, in the words of the Apostle, passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The Apostle describes it in this way, because it is impossible to express in words the spiritual well-being which it produces in those into whose hearts the Lord God has infused it. Christ the Saviour calls it a peace which comes from His own generosity and is not of this world, for no temporary earthly prosperity can give it to the human heart; it is granted from on high by the Lord God Himself, and that is why it is called the peace of God.”

Saint Serafim of Sarov
 (from ‘Conversations with Motovilov’)

Humility is the only state of the spirit through which which all other spiritual gifts are given to people. It is the door to our hearts that makes it capable of spiritual sensations. Humility gives unperturbed calm to our hearts and peace to our minds; it makes our thoughts free from daydreaming. Humility is the force that girds the heart, uplifts it from every worldly thing, and gives it an understanding of how a life eternal might be experienced that is beyond reach for a man of the flesh. Humility returns to the mind its original purity. It lets it see the difference between goodness and badness in all things, and gives it the ability to give a name to every movement of the spirit. Humility puts a seal of silence in men on all things of the flesh, and in this silence the spirit of these men that stands before God in prayer takes heed of His message. No pure spiritual prayer is ever possible without one’s heart feeling humble.

Saint Arseniya (Sebryakova)

An inner peace face to face our circumstances and the people does not mean that we should see all circumstances and all the people as good, but rather that our place among them is one that makes it possible for us to make a difference.

Moving on from our exploration of the the Russian roots of the world ‘humility’, to thinking about its roots in Latin Latin and other related languages, might lead us to more interesting insights. In Latin, the ‘humility’ comes from the word ‘humus’, or fruitful earth. If we understand the earth as a parable, we see that it lies there in silence, open, defenceless, vulnerable before the face of the sky; it also receives what we call fertilizer, that is, manure—everything that we throw into it; it is hurt by the deep cuts of the ploughs; it accepts everything; it opens up and it yields fruit. According to some writers, humility is a condition of the human soul, which is willing to accept all that may befall it, and to yield fruit.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

As God is the universe that transgresses all understanding, it is necessary that the heart that wishes to accept him within itself be peaceful and free from all confusion; as peace is its rightful place, as David the Messiah sings. (Psalms 75: 3).

Saint Nycodimos of the Holy Mountain

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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