St. Dorotheos of Gaza the Rebellion of Adam and Renuciation

Extracted from Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings, Chapter One

trans. Eric P. Wheeler, Cistercian Publications, ©1977

[Christ] shows us that pretentions to superiority cast us down and that it is impossible to obtain mercy except by the contrary, that is to say, by humility. Self-elevation begets contempt and disobedience begets perdition, whereas humility begets obedience and the saving of souls. And I call that real humility which is not humble in word and outward appearance but is deeply [planted in the very heart; for this is what he meant when he said that I am meek an humble of heart.

Let anyone desiring to find true humility and rest for his soul learn lowliness of mind and see that in it is all joy and all glory and all stillness, and in pretentions to superiority, just the contrary. From where do all those afflictions of the mind come to us? Is it not through our arrogance, our thinking too much of ourselves? Is it not through extolling ourselves and our evil self-preference? Is it not the bitterness of ourselves that will master us? But how did this come about? Was man not created in all comfort, in all joy, in perfect peace and in all glory? Was he not in paradise? He was sent away. Why? God said you shall not do this and he did do it! Do you not see the pride in that, the obstinacy, and subordination? And so God said, the man is mad; he does not know how to be happy, unless he experiences evil days he will go away and completely perish. Unless he knows what tribulation is he will never know what rest is. He then gave him what he deserved and expelled him from paradise. The he delivered him to his own self-will and to his own desires, that he may grind down his own bones and learn that he cannot go straight on his one, but only by the command of God; so that learning the poverty of disobedience my teach him the stillness that comes from obedience. As the prophet says Your rebellion shall teach you. Nevertheless, the goodness of God, as I have said many times, did not despise what he had formed, but again urged him to obey, again exhorted him. Come to me he said, all you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you – as much as to say, See how you have to work! See the misery you have brought on yourself! See how you are tried by evil and your own unruliness! However, come change your ways, acknowledge your own powerlessness so that you can come to your rest and your own true glory. Live through lowliness of mind instead of going to your death through pretentious pride. Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you shall find rest for your souls

See brethren, what arrogance does? See what lowliness is able to do! What need was there for all these contortions? If from the beginning man had humbled himself and listed to God and obeyed his command, there would have been no fall. Again, after Adam had done wrong, God gave him a chance to repent and be forgiven and yet he kept on being stiffed-necked and unrepentant. For God came to him and said, Adam, where are you? instead of saying, From what glory are you come to this? Are you not ashamed? Why did you sin? Why did you go astray? ― as if urging him sharply to say Forgive me! But there was no sign of humility. There was no change of heart but rather the contrary. He replied, The wife that you gave me, as if to say, this disaster you placed on my head. So it is, my brethren, when a man has not the guts to accuse himself, he does not have scruple to accuse God Himself. Then God came to Eve and said to her, Why did you not keep the command I gave you? as if saying If you would only say ‘Forgive me,’ to humble your soul and be forgiven. And again, not a word! No forgive me. She only answered The Serpent deceived me! as if to say, if the serpent did wrong, what concern is that to me? What are you doing, you wretches? Kneel in repentance, acknowledge your fault, take pity on your nakedness. But neither the one nor the other stooped to self-accusation, no trace of humility was found in either of them.

...Where as the products of humility are self-accusation, distrust of our own sentiments, hatred of our own will. By these one is made worthy of being redeemed, of having his human nature restored to its proper state, through the cleansing operation of Christ's holy precepts. Without humility it is impossible to obedy te Commandments or at any time to go toward anything good. As Abba Mark says: without a contrite heart it is impossible to be free from wickedness or to acquire virtue. Therefore, by compunction of heart you get a grip on the Commandments, are free from evil, gain virtue and, what is more, peace of mind returns to you. The holy men of old thorothly understood this and throuh all their trainin and uidance in humility were zealous in uniting themseleves to God. Thereby becoming friends of God, they were able, after Holy Baptism, not only to out sins arising from evil passions, but to conquer the passions themselves and to acquire complete control of their passions. Such were Saint Anthony of the Desert, Saint Pachomius, and the rest of the God-bearing Fathers.

...They knew that by keeping the Commandments the soul is purified and the mind enlihtened, and they perceived that it starts functioning as nature intended...Beining in this world they knew very well that is was not possible, without trouble, to make progress in virtue, and worked out for themselves an unusual kind of life, a strange way of passing their time, I mean the solitary life. They began to flee the world and to live in the desert, in watching and fasting and sleeping on bare earth and other forms of mortification. Having left their homeland and their relations, riches, and possessions, they simply crucified themselves to this world.