St Basil the Great – On Humility


In his beautiful homily On Humility, St Basil the Great exposes with his artful oratory man’s disobedience, and reveals the folly of human glory. This is of course to show that God’s glory is the only true glory – the glory which man should still possess had he not chosen his own path towards false glory.

St Basil draws a direct line between pride and death, telling us that arrogance is poison to the soul. Absalom and Goliath, along with many other Old Testament characters and stories, are used to illustrate this point. Even those things which appear to be good at face value, such as wisdom and prudence, are criticised by St Basil, who tells us that men often misappropriate these gifts of God, allowing them to lead to vainglory – an artificial, imagined glory.

In this homily, St Basil places a microscope over the vanity that infests our lives concluding at one point: “and so in a thousand ways, we may learn how frail is the quality of human wisdom, how petty and lowly, rather than sublime and great.” For St Basil, the cause of our pride is our disobedience to God. Man suffers because he can never be satiated with the temporal satisfaction of his own abilities and thoughts.

In his ignorance, man does not remember that only God will give him the comfort he seeks. He builds a false paradise for himself where he reigns and where he trusts he can build happiness. He would do better to humble himself, repenting before God with tears of contrition, in order to find true paradise.

The following quote captures St Basil’s message: “Recognize yourself for what you are; another Adam cast forth from Paradise (Gen. 3: 24), another Saul abandoned by the Holy Spirit (I Kings 16:14), another Israel cut off from its holy root. Thou standest, by faith; ‘be not high-minded, but fear’ (Rom. 11:20).”


Source: Lychnos October/November 2017