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On Pride
The frailty and the power of man

Apostle James thus addressed people who were too self-assured in their human plans:

“Go to now, ye that say: today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is you life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say: if the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil” (James, IV:13-16).

It seems to be an absolutely unarguable truth, proven by the everyday experience of every man, that life on earth is “a vapor that appeareth for a little time.” Can one carefully build one’s life on this “vapor”? Vapor does not last long, just as earthly life does not. However, human calculations are usually made in just such a manner. With firm conviction in his durability and strength, man builds his life, struggles, plans, - without seeing his own impermanence in the world, his dependence on unforeseen circumstances, and behind them - always and in everything - on God. God is the master of all visible and invisible essence, of the present and the future (which for us already represents the invisible world). We, people, are so often boastful in our plans and intentions! And, instead of saying as the apostle suggests: “if the Lord wills and we shall live, we shall do this or that,” we immediately say, categorically and with self-assurance, that we will definitely do this, will build or perform that, will certainly overcome such-and-such a person… “All such rejoicing is evil”; for by it we remove the Lord God from the world; and since the Lord God is the true Master of everything, we deprive ourselves of His help and blessing. Yes, too often people express the unfounded idea that their life, success and fortune depend on their own selves; and many people in the world even boast of it. But such beliefs are continuously demolished before the eyes of the entire world: “unexpected” illnesses attack people; natural disasters, earthquakes, physical and psychological warfare that brings suffering to all of humanity; quick destruction of seemingly well-established families and entire societies, of proud ruling parties and mighty nations; “premature” (as people say) deaths come upon mankind without any regard to people’s age, and the stream of humanity flows over the edge of this world - into eternity. Generation after generation disappears and the history of past ages remains like a dream, or sometimes a nightmare, for mankind; old and young people depart for an unknown destination, depart unexpectedly for those around them, amid their plans and projects… The logic of human reasoning crumbles all the time. And there are no calculations by means of which one can foresee the future hour and day of each person. Everyone’s life is preserved exclusively within the Providence of the Creator, and the limits of each life are determined only by Him.

But man thoughtlessly continues to repeat his old error, which had been noticed and so well expressed almost 20 centuries ago: “Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year…”, etc. How earthly logic does not change! The constancy of physical phenomena such as the exchange of day and night, the flow and ebb of tides, the heat of fire and the coldness of ice, - encourage man’s superficial thinking to conclude that his “tomorrow” and “after-tomorrow” are to be deduced from his “today” with the indubitability and logic of physical laws… This unfounded idea and false belief in the constancy and durability of earthly values and phenomena should be replaced with genuine faith in that people always and in everything are dependent above all on the holy and great will of the Lord. “If the Lord wills, and we shall live, we shall do this or that” - such is the infallible formula that governs our future, not only of each individual but of humanity in general. If we squeeze but a little out of our consciousness the unnatural view of life that arises from our self-opinion and self-assurance, - we will directly see the veritable impossibility and irrationality of building our future only on such sand, or, better to say, such vapor as our human will and our physical life constitutes. “For what is our life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away…”

But here is something truly amazing: despite all his frailty and mortality, man is at the same time a wondrous power. Not physical, nor material, but a spiritual power: a huge, spiritually constructive, or a huge, spiritually destructive power. Man conquers mountains and oceans, takes charge of the bowels of the earth, asserts his power in the air, builds quickly and destroys just as quickly. Being physically weaker, shorter-lived and less perfect in many ways than animals and even plants, he nevertheless is master over them… In view of his insignificance, whence comes this power of man over the world? In view of the tenuousness of his life, whence comes this power of man over the forces of nature? There is but one answer - from the spirit, - from his invisible spiritual essence, from the precious seal of the Supreme Reason upon him. This essence and the seal of supernatural power is usually denied or its provenance deduced from matter; however, the very energy and power of this denial in materialists comes not from their matter, but from their spirit, - be it however blind and ailing, but the spirit which carries upon itself the seal of the higher world.

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Man – the crown of creation

We are invited into the company of the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the Thrones, Dominions, Angels and Archangels – to take the place of the haughty spirits who have fallen away from God. They became filled with pride and said to God: “How will You fill up the vacuum of our departure, a vacuum that is intolerable for You, the all-wise God, Who cannot tolerate any shortcoming or disharmony in His world?” And then the Lord, shaming the devil in reply, created man from dust, and so filled up with earthly beings the gap created by the falling away of the arrogant spirits; and this endless disgrace is an endless punishment for the prideful ones; it is for this reason that they use all the powers of hell to destroy human beings. Moreover, as a greater manifestation of His love for man and a greater shaming of the devil, the Lord Himself put on the flesh of man, in order to seize him from the devil’s grasp.

From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt – “My Life in Christ”

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