The following teaching is taken from the personal memoirs of one of Greece’s most celebrated and erudite holy elders, Fr Philotheos Zervakos. In the following account, Elder Philotheos recalls to memory his visit to Aegina to find his spiritual father, the blessed St Netarios of Pentapolis. Upon his arrival to the monastery he observes an elderly man working, not recognising that it was St Nectarios himself, but mistaking him for a worker or villager, he ordered him to summon the holy Bishop to attend to him. When it was revealed that the man he ordered about, was the holy Bishop, Fr Philotheos is remorseful for he had done and in the manner he had done it, beseeched the Saint’s forgiveness and sought his advice on how one can defeat and overcome pride which is so hateful to God:
“I saw that the man whom I thought to be a worker, a villager, or a peasant, and to whom I had spoken harshly and ordered around, was the Bishop himself! Neither had I even considered that this was the afternoon rest hour (siesta), when everyone slept? I should have never told him to do anything, but instead, waited patiently for the time of Vespers. No, I the disciple had shown my extreme pride while my teacher and spiritual father had shown his extreme and complete humility! I was struck speechless and knelt down, tearfully begging him to forgive me for my pride and bad manners. He being guileless, meek and humble of heart, of course, forgave me. We sat down and he began to guide me, as he always has, along the way of the Lord.
‘Father’, I asked, ‘How can I be delivered from this God-hated pride?’ And with love and humility (the two great virtues which God bestowed upon him), he responded”:
“My dear spiritual child in the Lord, our Holy Fathers have told us, that each sin, whether great and deadly, or small and pardonable, is defeated by the opposite corresponding virtue. That is, envy is defeated by love; pride by humility; avarice by poverty; greed and hard-heartedness by charity and compassion; negligence by diligence; gluttony and servitude to the stomach by fasting and restraint; idle talk by silence; criticism and slander by self-reproach and prayer; lewdness, fornication, adultery and other sins of the flesh by remembrance of death, the Last Judgement to come, and the recompense of Hell.
In general, every evil is defeated by every virtue. As Prophet David says, ‘Turn away from evil and do good’. If you wish to be delivered also from sin of pride, the mother and cause of all sin and evil, you will be delivered through humility.
Because we are not able to do anything on our own (as the Lord says, ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’), let us ask the All-good and lovingly philanthropic God with compunction and humility, with sighs and tears, to deliver us from demonic pride. Let us sigh like the Publican, cry like the adulteress, repent like the Prodigal Son, saying, ‘O All-good compassionate and lovingly philanthropic Father, we have sinned before Thee; accept our repentance and make us as one of Your paid servants’. Let us pray and beseech the Lord as the divine Chrysostom did in his daily prayers: ‘O Lord, grant us humility, a humble way of thought an obedience; O Lord grant us patience, long-suffering and meekness; O Lord, implant in our hearts the root of good, Thy fear; O Lord, grant us to love Thee with all our soul and heart and to keep Thy divine commandments’.
Likewise, so that we may be delivered from satanic and all-destructive pride, let us look to the example of our Heavenly Teacher, and to the lesson He gave to His disciples, to us and to all Christians of every generation and age: ‘Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest unto your souls’, and ‘When you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do’.”