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On Humility; and on Deceit
St. Antony, Abbot and Egyptian Father of the Church
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PG 40, cols. 966, 976, Sermones XX, S. Antonii Abbatis. Serm. 5 and 20, col. 966..)
I.  Humility

Brethren, the Prophet says: But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words (Is. lxii. 2)? And in the Gospel the Lord says the same: Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart; and you shall find rest to your souls (Mt. xi. 29). He therefore who has gained humility, has already become a dwelling place of the Most High God; and has attained to sublimity of soul, to the love of innocence, to peace and to charity. Come then, dispose your heart towards humility, and do not walk in the company of devils in pride of heart. For God and His angels and saints turn away from the proud in heart. Whosoever therefore walks in the pride of his own heart, is an associate of demons.

Because of pride of heart the heavens were bowed down, the foundations of the earth were shaken, the deeps of the sea were troubled and angels were cast down from glory, and became demons because of their pride of heart. Because of this the Almighty was angered, and caused fire to come forth from the abyss, and waves to rise up as a sea of fire (Num. xvi). Because of pride of heart He made hell, and its torments. Because of pride of heart bonds were made and scourges, with which the devil is tormented because of the pride of his heart. Because of pride of heart the abyss of hell was made, and the worms that do not die or sleep (Mk. ix. 45). Because of pride of heart the fiery chariots were made, the torment of burning flames, the coals of living fire. Because of pride of heart all things are troubled and thrown into disorder, and men war against each other, and from this came tyranny.

All this has happened through pride of heart. The pride of heart of men is unclean before God: but hearts that are humble and contrite the Lord will not despise. The Mercy of God, my beloved brothers and sons, coming to us from on high, became humble to His last breath. And because ofthis we glory with the psalmist, saying: See my abjection and my labour: and forgive me all my sins (Ps. xxiv. 18).

II. Deceit

Let us lift up our hands and hearts to the Most High God Who is in heaven, and let us strive to keep far from that first sin of all, namely, the deceit that was in Cain; of which it was written: Deliver me, O God, from the unjust and deceitful man (Ps. xlii). The deceitful man deceives only his own soul; for his deceit returns upon his own head; as was written in the Psalm: His sorrow shall be turned on his own head: and his iniquity shall come down upon his crown (vii. 17). Be not familiar with an evil man, nor the companion of an unjust man, nor have anything whatsoever to do with him; but shun him as you would a garment that reeks of the corruption of the dead.

For the tongue of a deceitful man provokes strife among peoples, and the shedding of blood. He who enters into a friendship with a deceitful woman, enters into the same with a most wicked devil. He who enters into friendship with a deceitful man, joins company with spillers of blood, and becomes guilty of his own death. Far, far better to dwell in solitude, than in the company ofa treacherous man. Make no friendship with a treacherous man; and go not into any house with him; for if you once enter, he will drag you down to his own foulness. You are safer in the company of wild beasts, than in the company of a deceitful man.

And should such a man approach you pleasantly, and speak mildly with you; nevertheless, should you once trouble his heart, of a sudden the hidden guile bursts forth and he will destroy you when you least expect it. Because of this let God be with you, as He was with our Fathers, with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, that He may deliver you from him whose strength is in his loins (Job xl. 11); that is, the devil, who at all times looks with malice on men who serve God, and strives to catch them with his hook, that he may devour them.

But we have One Who makes intercession for us (Heb. vii. 25), Jesus Christ our Lord, Who has given us power to tread down his strength (Lk. x. 19). The eye that is not filled with seeing, and the ear that is not filled with hearing (Eccles. i. 8; a reference to St Paul), tells us that love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. xiii. 10). The fulfilment of such things as these: That you be all of one heart in Christ Jesus; helping one another, loving one another as brothers, having compassion on one another, so that tile Lord may prepare our hearts to fulfil His commandments, until the day of the manifestation of the fulness of His Glory in Jesus Christ, unto all generations that are without corruption: the brethren whom I love, through Christ Jesus; to Whom be Glory and Honour, now and for ever, throughout all ages and ages. Amen.