Thursday – Fourth Week of Great Lent – Ladder Readings



29. If we ardently desire to please the Heavenly King, we should be eager to taste the glory that is above. He who has tasted that will despise all earthly glory. For I should be surprised if anyone could despise the latter unless he had tasted the former.

30. Often after being stripped by vainglory, we turn and strip it more cleverly. I have seen some who began spiritual activity out of vainglory, and although they made a bad start, yet the end proved praiseworthy, because they changed their intention.

31. He who is proud of his natural advantages, I mean cleverness, ability to learn, skill in reading, a clear pronunciation, quick understanding, and all such gifts received by us without labour, will never obtain the supernatural blessings, because he who is unfaithful in a little is also unfaithful and vainglorious in much.

32. For the sake of extreme dispassion, rich gifts, miracle-working, and prophetic powers, many exhaust their bodies in vain. They do not know, poor wretches, that it is not toil so much as humility that is the mother of such perfections.

33. He who asks God for gifts in return for his labours has laid unsure foundations. He who regards himself as a debtor will unexpectedly and suddenly receive riches.

34. Do not believe the winnower when he suggests that you should display your virtues for the benefit of the hearers. For what shall a man be profited if he shall bring profit to the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Nothing so edifies our neighbour as sincere and humble speech and manners; for this serves as a spur to others never to be puffed-up. And what can be more beneficial than this?

35. One who had the gift of sight told me what he had seen. “Once,” he said, “when I was sitting in assembly, the demon of vainglory and the demon of pride came and sat beside me, one on either side. The one poked me in the side with the finger of vainglory and urged me to relate some vision or labour which I had done in the desert. But as soon as I had shaken him off, saying: Let them be turned back and put to shame who plot evil against me, then the demon on my left at once said in my ear: Well done, well done, you have become great by conquering my shameless mother. Turning to him, I made apt use of the rest of the verse and said: Let them be turned back and put to shame who said to me: Well done, well done.” And to my question: How is vainglory the mother of pride? he replied: “Praises exalt and puff one up; and when the soul is exalted, then pride seizes it, lifts it up to heaven and casts it down to the abyss.”

36. There is a glory that comes from the Lord, for He says: Those who glorify Me, I will glorify. And there is a glory that dogs us through diabolic intrigue, for it is said: Woe, when all men shall speak well of you. You may be sure that it is the first kind of glory when you regard it as harmful and avoid it in every possible way, and hide your manner of life wherever you go. But the other you will know when you do something, however trifling, hoping that you will be observed by men.

37. Abominable vainglory suggests that we should pretend to have some virtue that we do not possess, spurring us on by the text: Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.

38. The Lord often brings the vainglorious to a state of humility through the dishonour that befalls them.

39. The beginning of the conquest of vainglory is the custody of the mouth and love of being dishonoured; the middle stage is a beating back of all known acts of vainglory; and the end (if there is an end to an abyss) consists in trying to behave in the presence of others so that we are humbled without feeling it.

40. Do not hide your sins with the idea of removing a cause of stumbling from your neighbour; although perhaps it will not be advisable to use this remedy in every case, but it will depend on the nature of one’s sins.

41. When we invite glory, or when it comes to us from others uninvited, or when out of vainglory we decide upon a certain course of action, we should remember our mourning and should think of the holy fear with which we stood before God in solitary prayer; and in this way we shall certainly put shameless vainglory out of countenance – if we are really concerned to attain true prayer. If this is insufficient, then let us briefly recollect our death. And if this is also ineffective, at least let us fear the shame that follows honour. For he who exalts himself will be humbled not only there, but certainly here as well.

42. When our praisers, or rather our seducers, begin to praise us, let us briefly call to mind the multitude of our sins, and we shall find ourselves unworthy of what is said or done in our honour.

43. No doubt there are certain prayers of some vainglorious people that deserve to be heard by God; but the Lord has a habit of anticipating their prayers and petitions so that their conceit should not be increased because their prayers have succeeded.

44. Simpler people are not much infected with the poison of vainglory, because vainglory is a loss of simplicity and an insincere way of life.

45. It often happens that when a worm becomes fully grown it gets wings and rises up on high. So too when vainglory increases it gives birth to pride, the origin and consummation of all evils.

46. He who is without this sickness is near to salvation, but he who is not free from it is far from the glory of the Saints.

This is the twenty-second step. He who is not caught by vainglory will never fall into that mad pride which is so hateful to God.


Step 23
On Mad Pride, and, in the Same Step, on Unclean Blasphemous Thoughts.

1. Pride is denial of God, an invention of the devil, the despising of men, the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of sterility, flight from divine assistance, the precursor of madness, the herald of falls, a foothold for satanic possession, source of anger, door of hypocrisy, the support of demons, the guardian of sins, the patron of unsympathy, the rejection of compassion, a bitter inquisitor, an inhuman judge, an opponent of God, a root of blasphemy.

2. The beginning of pride is the consummation of vainglory; the middle is the humiliation of our neighbour, the shameless parade of our labours, complacency in the heart, hatred of exposure; and the end is denial of God’s help, the extolling of one’s own exertions, fiendish character.

3. Let all of us who wish to avoid this pit listen: this passion often finds food in gratitude, for at first it does not shamelessly advise us to deny God. I have seen people who thank God with their mouth but mentally magnify themselves. And this is confirmed by that Pharisee who said ironically: God, I thank Thee.

4. Where a fall has overtaken us, there pride has already pitched its tent; because a fall is an indication of pride.

5. A venerable man said to me: “Suppose that there are twelve shameful passions. If we deliberately love one of them (I mean, pride), it will fill the place of the remaining eleven.”

6. A haughty monk contradicts violently, but a humble one cannot even look one in the face.

7. The cypress does not bend to live on earth; nor does a lofty-hearted monk do so to acquire obedience.

8. A proud person grasps at authority, because otherwise he cannot, or rather, does not want to be utterly lost.

9. God resists the proud. Who then can have mercy on them? Every proud-hearted man is unclean before God. Who then can cleanse such a person?

10. The proud are corrected by falling into sin. It is a devil which spurs them on. But apostasy is madness. In the first two cases people have often been healed by men, but the last is humanly incurable.

11. He who refuses reproof shows his passion (pride), but he who accepts it is free of this fetter.

12. An angel fell from heaven without any other passion except pride, and so we may ask whether it is possible to ascend to heaven by humility alone without any other of the virtues.

13. Pride is loss of wealth and sweat. They cried but there was none to save, no doubt because they cried with pride. They cried to the Lord and He heard them not, no doubt because they were not trying to cut out the faults against which they prayed.

14. A most learned old man spiritually admonished a proud brother, but he in his blindness said: “Excuse me, Father, I am not proud.” The wise old man said to him: “What clearer proof of this passion could you have given us, son, than to say, ‘I am not proud?'”

15. Such people can make good use of submission, a more rigorous and humiliating life, and the reading of the supernatural feats of the Fathers. Perhaps even then, there will be little hope of salvation for those suffering from this malady.

16. It is shameful to be proud of the adornments of others, but utter madness to fancy one deserves God’s gifts. Be exalted only by such merits as you had before your birth. But what you got after your birth, as also birth itself, God gave you. Only those virtues which you have obtained without the coöperation of the mind belong to you, because your mind was given you by God. Only such victories as you have won without the coöperation of the body have been accomplished by your efforts, because the body is not yours but a work of God.

17. Do not be self-confident until you hear the final sentence passed upon yourself, bearing in mind the guest who got as far as joining in the marriage feast and then was bound hand and foot and cast out into the outer darkness.

18. Do not lift up your neck, creature of earth! For many, though holy and spiritual, were cast from heaven.


19. When the demon of pride gets a foothold in his servants, he appears to them either in sleep or in a waking vision, as though in the form of a holy angel or some martyr, and gives them a revelation of mysteries, or a free bestowal of spiritual gifts, so that these unfortunates may be deceived and completely lose their wits.

20. Even if we endure a thousand deaths for Christ, even so we shall not repay all that is due. For the blood of God, and the blood of his servants are quite different, and I am thinking here of the dignity and not of the actual physical substance.

21. We should constantly be examining and comparing ourselves with the holy Fathers and the lights who lived before us, and we should then find that we have not yet entered upon the path of the ascetic life, and have not kept our vow in holy fashion, and in disposition are still living in the world.

22. A monk, properly speaking, is he whose soul’s eye does not look haughtily, and whose bodily feeling is unmoved.

23. A monk is he who calls his enemies to combat like wild beasts, and provokes them as they flee from him.

24. A monk experiences unceasing rapture of mind and sorrow of life.

25. A monk is one who is conditioned by virtues as others are by pleasures.

26. A monk possesses unfailing light in the eye of the heart.

27. A monk has an abyss of humility into which he has plunged and suffocated every evil spirit.

28. Forgetfulness of our sins is the result of conceit, for the remembrance of them leads to humility.

29. Pride is utter penury of soul, under the illusion of wealth, imagining light in its darkness. The foul passion not only blocks our advance, but even hurls us down from the heights.

30. The proud man is a pomegranate, rotten inside, while outwardly radiant with beauty.

31. A proud monk has no need of a devil; he has become a devil and enemy to himself.

32. Darkness is foreign to light; and a proud person is foreign to every virtue.

33. In the hearts of the proud, blasphemous words will find birth, but in the souls of the humble, heavenly contemplations.

34. A thief abominates the sun, as a proud man scorns the meek.

35. I do not know how it is, but the proud for the most part remain ignorant of their real selves, and they imagine that they are victorious over their passions, and they only realize their poverty when they depart from this life.

36. The man enmeshed in pride will need the help of God, for the salvation of men cannot avail him.

37. I once caught this mad imposter as it was rising in my heart bearing on its shoulders its mother, vainglory. Roping them with the noose of obedience and thrashing them with the whip of humility, I demanded how they got access to me. At last, when flogged, they said: We have neither beginning nor birth, for we are the originators of all the passions. Contrition of heart that is born of obedience is our real enemy; we cannot bear to be subject to anyone; that is why we fell from heaven, though we had authority there.

In brief, we are the parents of all that opposes humility; for everything which furthers humility, opposes us. Our power extends to all short of heaven, so where will you run from our presence? We often accompany patience under dishonour, and obedience, and freedom from anger, and lack of resentment, and service of one’s neighbour. Our offspring are the sins of spiritual people: anger, calumny, spite, irritability, shouting, blasphemy, hypocrisy, hatred, envy, disputing, self-will, disobedience. There is only one thing in which we have no power to meddle; and we shall tell you this, for we cannot bear your blows: If you keep up a sincere condemnation of yourself before the Lord you can count us as weak as a cobweb. For pride’s saddle-horse, as you see, is vainglory on which I am mounted. But holy humility and self-accusation laugh at both the horse and its rider, happily singing the song of victory: Let us sing to the Lord, for gloriously has He been glorified: horse and rider He has thrown into the sea and into the abyss of humility.

This is the twenty-third step. He who mounts it (if any can mount it) will be strong.