In a world where self promotion seems to be a pre-requisite for survival, we often forget that the pre-requisite for spiritual life is the virtue of humility. As one elder said, ‘As the ground on which we walk has no fear of falling, so too the humble man has no fear of falling…’ because humility is the foundation of all virtues. Just as it is impossibe to describe the taste of honey to someone who has never tried it, so too, it is impossible to describe with words the virtue of humility. For this reason we allow the Desert Fathers speak to us, with real life examples, about this virtue.
Abba Cronius was born about 285 AD. Although he lived in a monastery at first, he left it to live with St. Anthony the Great in the Red Sea Desert of Egypt where he acted as St. Anthony’s interpreter. Later, he moved to Nitria (near present-day Alexandria) where he was ordained priest. He had many disciples and died around 386 AD.
Abba Cronius said that Abba Joseph of Pelusia told him the following story, “When I was living in Sinai, there was a brother who was good, ascetic and handsome. He came to church for the Synaxis (the liturgical office said by monks in common, usually on Saturday or Sunday) dressed in an old robe with patches all over. Once when I saw him coming to the Synaxis, I said to him, ‘Brother, do you not see the brothers, looking like angels for the Synaxis in church? How can you always come here in that garb?’ He said to me, ‘Forgive me, abba, but I have nothing else.’ So I took him in to my cell and gave him a tunic and whatever else he needed. After that he wore them like the other brethren and was like an angel to look at.
Now once it was necessary for the Fathers to send ten brethren to the emperor about something or other and he was chosen as one of the group to go. When he heard this, he made a prostration before his Father saying, ‘In the Lord’s name, excuse me, for I am the slave of a great man down there and if he recognizes me, he will deprive me of my habit and force me to serve him again.’ The brothers were convinced and left him behind. But later, they learned from someone who had known him well when he was in the world that he had been head of the administration and that he had spoken as he did as a ruse, so that no one should know this or bother him about it. So great, amongst the Fathers, was their concern to flee from glory and the attention of this world!”
“The Desert Christian,” by Sr. Benedicta Ward