St John Climacus on Humility

COME unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30


St John ‘Climacus’ of Sinai (ca 7th century)

St John ‘Climacus’ of Sinai (ca 7th century)


St John ‘Climacus’, a monk of Sinai in about the 7th century, respectfully asked a number of Elders for their definitions of a lowly heart.

ONE man would call it a continuous forgetfulness of our achievements.

Another, to reckon oneself the least of all things, and the most sinful of all.

Another, the heart-sight’s recognition of its own weakness and powerlessness.

Another, to forestall one’s neighbour when provoked, and to be first to dissipate angry feelings.

Yet another, a recognition of God’s grace and fellow-feeling for us.

Another, the feeling found in a contrite soul, and the denial of one’s own will.

But having thoroughly listened to all this, having tested these things in myself circumspectly and soberly, for my part I found I was unable to discover the blessed sense of this thing through what I had heard.

So it was that last of all, gathering up what these knowledgeable and blessed men had said (like a dog does with the crumbs falling from the table), I said by way of a definition of it:

HUMILITY is an inexpressible grace of the soul, expressible only for those who have experience of it.

It is indescribable riches, something whose supply and expression belong to God.

“Learn” he said, not from an angel, not from man, not from a book, but “from me”, that is, from my dwelling in you, and my illumination, and energy.

“For I am meek, and lowly in heart”, both in thought and in purpose, “and you will find rest” from the strife of battle, and respite “for your souls” from [churning] thoughts.

St John Climacus, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” Step 25. My amateur translation, from PG 88.988C-990A.


PUT off, O my soul, the intolerable burdens of evil things, and step forward weeping, and crying out: O pure Virgin, make me worthy to bear the light yoke of thy Son and God.

Matins, on Wednesdays of the Third Tone.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s