St. Silouan on Humility

The Staretz [St. Silouan] used to say that there was no end to the pretensions of pride. In his notes I found [this is written by Elder Sophrony] the following fable:

A certain huntsman liked stalking the woods and fields for game. One day after he had been climbing up a steep hill for hours tracking his prey, exhausted, he sat down on a large boulder to rest. Seeing a flight of birds soaring from one summit to another, he began to think, “Why didn’t God give wings to man, so that I could fly?” Just then a humble hermit walked by, divined the huntsman’s thoughts and said to him,

“There you are, sitting and complaining to yourself that God has not given you wings; but if you had wings, you would still be discontented and say, ‘My wings are feeble and I can’t fly to heaven with them to see what it’s like there.’ And were you then given wings strong enough to lift you to heaven, you would still be dissatisfied and say, ‘I don’t understand what goes on in heaven.’ And were you to be given understanding of this, you would again be discontented and say, ‘Why am I not an angel?’ Were you to be turned into a cherubim you would say, ‘Why doesn’t God let me rule over heaven?’ And if it were given you to rule over heaven you would still be dissatisfied and, like another we all know, insolently seek more. There I tell you, humble yourself at all times, and be content with the gifts you are given, and then you will be living with God.

The huntsman saw that the hermit spoke the truth and thanked God for sending him a monk to give him understanding and set him on the path of humility.

From Saint Silouan the Athonite

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


5 responses to “St. Silouan on Humility”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Picture: From Nesterov’s Vision of the Young Bartholomew [later St. Sergius of Radonezh]

  2. Petra Avatar

    i love the picture!

  3. Allen Long Avatar
    Allen Long

    My observation is that discontentment is the most sure sign of the absence of humility. This leads me to consider grumbling and lack of thanksgiving are the sure signs of discontentment. Lord have mercy!

  4. trog Avatar

    Thank you: a profound parble and a compelling image. May God bless you.

  5. Pastor Jeff Tomlinson Avatar
    Pastor Jeff Tomlinson

    Thank you for the illustration. A quotation attributed to Socrates…”He who is not contented with what he has, will not be contented with what he doesn’t have.”

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