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Humility and the Desert Fathers

Recently I have been reading the writings of the Desert Fathers on humility. The gift of humility is defined as being grounded, the honouring of another; holding a modest estimate of one’s own importance; living with an awareness of my fragility.

Humility was considered an essential virtue by the Desert Fathers and Mothers, a group of third and fourth century Christian Ascetics who sought God in the Desert. These men and women built their lives around prayer. By the Grace of God, they strove to overcome their failings. They chose to withdraw and live apart, devoting their lives to God. There is much to be learnt from the sayings of these men and women.

A desert view from a cave. Negev, Israel

Humility was given enormous stress in their sayings. It was considered the foundation of all virtues and the way to become grounded and open before God.

Abbess Theodora said: “It is not through fasting or vigils or hard work that we can be saved, but only
through real humility.” Another Father said, “It is better to fail with humility than to succeed with pride.” In
placing an emphasis upon humility, the Desert Fathers were simply living as true followers of Christ.

Humility is also a way of living for twenty-first century Christians. In Christ we have a supreme example
of humility and a sure source of help and grace to live as he lived.

Colin Renouf (Spiritual Director)
on behalf of the Christchurch
Diocesan Spiritual Directors Group
Whakakoingo o te Ngakau:
The Yearning Heart