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Moral Exhortation to Humility
St. Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PG 53, col. 311, in fine. Hom. 33 in Genesis, xiii, peroration.)
ABRAHAM TO LOT: Let there be no quarrel, I beseech thee, between me and thee; for we are brethren; if thou wilt go to the left hand, I will take the right: if thou choose the right hand, I will pass to the left (Gen. xiii. 8).

You now know how evil it is to take the first places, and to pay no attention to what is right and becoming? You have seen how good it is to be mild and reasonable, to yield the first place, and to take the lowest. And sec how in the course of our instruction we have come to understand, that he who chooses the first place for himself derives no profit from it; but that he who chooses the lowest place, becomes daily more regarded and respected by all, and esteemed in all things.

And not to prolong our instruction on this point, this I would exhort you, that you become imitators of the blessed Patriarch, Abraham, and that you should never be desirous of the first places, but rather be mindful of the counsel of the blessed Paul, who bids us yield to one another in honour (Rom. xii. 10), and that, rising above ourselves, we should be eager for the lowest place; as Christ in today’s Gospel has said; concluding: And he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

What then can compare with this, that yielding first place to others, we come to enjoy a higher place; that esteeming others above ourselves, we come to the highest honour. I exhort you therefore: let us be eager, let us strive to imitate the humility of the Patriarch, to follow in his footsteps who, even before the law, gave such an example of holy wisdom to us who live under the Dispensation of grace. For it was true humility of spirit this illustrious man showed to one who was not only inferior to him in virtue, but also in age and all other respects. Consider how this venerable man yields to the other, who was the younger, the uncle to the son of his brother; he who had received such graces from God, to one who had nothing to show in his favour, and how that which he as a young man should say to his elder and to his uncle, this the patriarch says to the young man.

Let us therefore show honour and respect, not alone to those that are older than us, but also to our equals. For it is no humility to do what you ought to do, or are compelled to do: that is not humility, but duty. It is true humility to give way to those who are seen to be less than us. And if we are truly wise, we shall consider no one as less than ourselves, but all men as our superiors.

And this I say to you, not because of what we are, immersed in so many sins, but even should anyone be conscious to himself of innumerable virtuous actions, he shall have no profit of his so many good works unless he looks upon himself as the lowest of men. For this is humility; when someone who has reason to be honoured, remains obscure and unknown, and holds himself modestly. For then he is uplifted to true honour, according to the promise of our Lord, Who said: Everyone that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Let us therefore, I beseech you, let us all be earnest in striving through humility to come to the summit of true glory, that we may receive from the Lord the reward of the just, and be worthy of the same ineffable blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be there glory and honour, now and forever, throughout all ages. Amen.