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Author Topic: patristic definition of pride  (Read 888 times) Average Rating: 0
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samkim
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« on: December 26, 2008, 04:47:42 PM »

Hello all! Christ is born!

I was wondering if anyone had any information on the Fathers' definitions of pride (primary and secondary sources are welcome). My Philosophy major friend (who btw is a Calvinist and conservative Presbyterian) is writing an essay titled "On Pride: What is This Thing that We Always Talk About?" and wanted an Orthodox perspective.

It would be interesting to see primary sources from the monastic Fathers as well.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: December 26, 2008, 04:48:26 PM by samkim » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2008, 09:30:54 PM »

Glorify Him
Greetings samkim,

Here are a couple passages from the Philokalia that may help:
Quote
"The passion of pride arises from two kinds of ignorance, and when these two kinds of ignorance unite together they form a single confused stated of mind.  For a man is proud only if he is ignorant both of divine help and of human weakness.  Therefore pride is a lack of knowledge both in the divine and in the human spheres.  For the denial of two true premises results in a single false affirmation." - St Maximos the Confessor (Philokalia vol. 2 page 226)

"The mark of pride is to deny that God is the author of virtue and nature;  the mark of self-esteem is to make divisions in nature and so to treat some things as worthless.  Conceit is their natural offspring, being an evil state composed of a voluntary denial of God and ignorance of the equal dignity that things possess by nature.

Conceit is a mixture of pride and self-esteem.  In its contempt for God it blasphemously maligns providence while in its alienation from nature it treats everything belonging to nature in an unnatural way, and thus corrupts its beauty by misuse." - St Maximos the Confessor (Philokalia vol. 2 page 262)

I highly recommend this source (all 4 volumes) since there's an index of subjects in each one.  Look up pride and you'll find many pages deal with the subject in each volume, which represents over 1000 years of spiritual writings.  There are many more in-depth explanations that show the relationship of pride/arrogance to self-love, along with the progression of all the passions arising from self-love, where pride is spoken of as the the "consummation" and "crown" of all the passions.  Also, throughout all 4 volumes there is a focus on the fall of Satan being the first and greatest demonstration of pride.

Thanks
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2008, 09:44:59 PM »

Here is another excerpt from the Philokalia which might be helpful, this one by St. John Cassian:

"Our eighth struggle is against the demon of pride, a most sinister demon, fiercer than all that have been discussed up till now. He attacks the perfect above all and seeks to destroy those who have mounted almost to the heights of holiness. Just as a deadly plague destroys not just one member of the body, but the whole of it, so pride corrupts the whole soul, not just part of it. Each of the other passions that trouble the soul attacks and tries to overcome the single virtue which is opposed to it, and so darkens and troubles the soul only partially. But the passion of pride darkens the soul completely and leads to its utter downfall.

In order to understand more fully what is meant by this, we should look at the problem in the following way. Gluttony tries to destroy self-control; unchastity, moderation; avarice, voluntary poverty; anger, gentleness; and the other forms of vice, their corresponding virtues. But when the vice of pride has become master of our wretched soul, it acts like some harsh tyrants who has gained control of a great city, and destroys it completely, razing it to its foundations. The angel who fell from heaven because of his pride bears witness to this. He had been created by God and adorned with every virtue and all wisdom, but he did not want to ascribe this to the grace of the Lord. He ascribed it to his own nature and as a sresult regarded himself as equal to God. The prophet rebukes this claim when he says: 'You have said in your heart: "I will sit on a high mountain; I will place my throne upon the clouds and I will be like the Most High." Yet you are a man, and not God' (cf Is. 14:13-14).

And again, another prophet says, 'Why do you baost of your wickedness, O mighty man?' and he continues in this same vein (Ps. 52:1). Since we are aware of this we should feel fear and guard our hearts with extreme care from the deadly spirit of pride. When we have attained some degree of holiness we should always repeat to ourselves the words of the Apostles: 'Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me' (1 Cor. 15:10), as well as what was said by the Lord: 'Without Me you can do nothing' (John 15:5). We should also bear in mind what the prophet said: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it' (Ps. 127:1), and finally: 'It does not depend on man's will or effort, but on God's mercy' (Rom. 9:16).

Even if someone is sedulous, serious and resolute, he cannot, so long as he is bound to flesh and blood, approach perfection except through the mercy and grace of Christ. James himself says that 'every good gift is from above' (James 1:17), while the Apostles Paul asks: 'What do you have which you did not receive? Now if you received it, why do you boast, as if you had not received it?' (1 Cor. 4:7) What right, then, has man to be proud as though he could achieve perfection through his own efforts?

The thief who received teh kingdom of heaven, though not as the reward of virtue, is a true witness to the fact that salvation is ours through the grace and mercy of God. All of our holy fathers knew this and all with one accord teach that perfection in holiness can be achieved only through humility. Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions. It is by means of these that we attain perfect love, through the grace and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory through all the ages. Amen."

--Edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, The Philokalia: The Complete Text, Volume 1, (Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 92-93
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samkim
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2008, 02:14:22 AM »

What exactly is the difference between "self-esteem" and "pride" in Cassian and the other fathers who make the distinction?
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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2008, 02:53:41 PM »

That's a good question, though I'm not sure how to answer it. I've read back over the relevant passages by St. John Cassian in the Philokalia, and I'm still not sure. Evagrios the Solitary also makes the distinction between self-esteem and pride ("self-esteem give rise in turn to pride..."), but it is not clear to me what exactly the difference is.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2008, 02:54:41 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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