Humility and the Big Bang


The following is an excerpt from Archimandrite Zacharias’ The Hidden Man of the Heart. As we draw closer to Pascha, my own heart is drawn towards that moment – the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is impossible to exhaust the subject of Pascha for within it is contained the whole of God’s plan for mankind. Here, Fr. Zacharias, working largely from the writings of the Elder Sophrony (his spiritual father) directs our attention finally to the Pascha of the heart.

Fr. Stephen


In his book On Prayer, Fr. Sophrony also points out that when we gather all our being and install our mind in the deep heart, the entrances of the soul are protected against the temptations of the evil one, and only then do we stop falling into sin. This is also the moment when we become truly humble. The saints have given us many definitions of humility, but personally, I like that of St. Maximus the Confessor. According to him, humility is to know that we have our being ‘on loan’ from God, an acknowledgement that fills our heart with gratitude. Saint Maximus also emphasizes the significance of gratitude, saying that gratitude is equal to humility.

There exist different degrees of humility. According to Fr. Sophrony, however, man acquires true spiritual humility and finds his heart when he comes to realize that he is unworthy of such a God as Christ. Humility then enables him to receive and accept the revealed truth that Christ has given us. And in accepting it, he is given grace, and this grace functions as a tour-guide in our heart, allowing us to see all its uncleanness and filthiness, and giving us the courage to say, ‘Yes, Lord, I am a filthy rag, I am dust and earth. I am a worm and no man (cf. Ps. 22:6). I am the chief of all sinners’, to borrow from the words of the prayer of the Prophets and the Apostles. True humility involves sincerely standing before the truth revealed in Christ and confessing the uncleanness and filthiness which we bear hidden within us without realizing it. The grace of God then sheds light within our darkened soul, and in His light we see our own light. ‘In Thy light shall we see light’, as we sing in the Doxology (Ps. 36:9). Only when God illumines us by His grace are we able to see the true light of our own existence.

For Fr. Sophrony there is no greater miracle in the world than the moment when the Uncreated unites with the created. He pursued this very miracle all his life both for himself and for the people who came to seek his help. He never sought to be a wonder-worker, and attached no significance to the miracles that occurred through his prayers. But when the greatest miracle in existence took place, that is, the union of the created with the Uncreated, our Elder would rejoice, even if the person were dying physically.

This miracle is analogous to the Big Bang of the astronomers, and to the words in Genesis: ‘Let there be light and there was light.’ When it takes place in the heart of man, it reveals the ‘true man’.We recall the words of St. Gregory Palamas in his Letter to the Nun Xenia, based on St. Peter and the Psalms: ‘When the day will dawn and the morning star rises in your heart, the true man will go out for his true work.’ St. Gregory Palamas describes in beautiful poetic and theological language this spiritual event that occurs when the rays of uncreated Light penetrate our being, and the ‘deep heart’ opens, and man begins his ‘ontological work.’

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





6 responses to “Humility and the Big Bang”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Photo: Pilgrims receiving communion at the tomb of Christ. Met. Kallistos Ware is standing at the entrance. The service started after midnight (hence the darkness).

  2. katia Avatar

    “…Repentance lifts a man up. Mourning knocks at heaven’s gate. Holy humility opens it. This I say, and I worship a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity.

    In the entire universe there is a unique place that saw the sun just once. And there is a unique thought that has given rise to humility. There was a unique day on which the whole world rejoiced. And there is a unique virtue the demons cannot imitate.”

    Humility (step 25).

    “Ladder of Divine Ascent”
    of Saint John ClimacusOn

  3. katia Avatar

    An excerpt from Psalm 68

    “… O God, in the multitude of Thy mercy hearken unto me, in the truth of Thy salvation. Save me from the mire, that I be not stuck therein; let me be delivered from them that hate me and from the deeps of the waters. Let not the tempest of water overwhelm me, nor let the deep swallow me up, nor let the pit shut its mouth upon me. Hearken unto me, O Lord, for Thy mercy is good; according to the multitude of Thy compassions, look upon me. Turn not Thy countenance away from Thy servant, for I am afflicted; quickly hearken unto me. Attend unto my soul and deliver it; because of mine enemies, rescue me.”

  4. […] Humility Posted on April 1, 2009 by Mark Epstein Man acquires true spiritual humility and finds his heart when he comes to realize that he is unworthy of such a God as Christ. Fr. Zacharias […]

  5. katia Avatar

    “…. After this it is our task to examine ourselves and discover in which light we are in life: that of Christ or of someone else? Whatever light it is, if it is not of Christ, then for our eternal salvation it is as good as darkness, and even sometimes worse than darkness. For a man caught in the darkness at least either stops or goes slowly groping his way, taking care, if he can, to step into the light. But under a false light a person is calm, goes along without stopping, allowing himself every kind of movement, changing paths and directions; and, inasmuch as he is led by a false light, like a swimmer at sea, he is exposed to inevitable dangers or goes somewhere from which there is no return. Is this not the same as happens with many intelligent people who, placing their hope in worldly wisdom, scorn the light of Christ? Where do they go, and where do they lead those who follow them? They go and lead others to such an abyss of impiety and vice that one glance into it fills with trembling the heart that has not lost its human feeling.

    Beware, my brothers, of this false light, which in our times has especially begun to blind the eyes of many. Remember firmly that Christ alone is our true light, which enlightens every man coming into the world and going out of the world. If you meet a teacher, first try to learn of what light he is. If the light is not of Christ, then no matter who he is, block your ears and heart. For just as in the sensible world there is one sun and no other light besides it, so too in the spiritual world there is one true and life-giving light: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
    St. Innocent (Borisov), Archbishop of Kherson – incendiary

  6. katia Avatar

    Fr Stephen i made a mistake i meant to post this in ‘Riding on a donkey’ post – sorry

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  1. Greetings, Father Stephen, Thank you so much for this reflection and all of the tremendous amount of work you have…

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