Mandeville, LA – But that he should be persevering, let each constantly beseech the help of God with all humility of mind; for it is not of him that willeth, we are told, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy’’ , since the mercy of God is greater and better than man’s life’’however good life may be; for none merit mercy, save those who confess themselves to be wretched before God, and feel themselves unworthy of salvation in themselves, unless the sole mercy of God should snatch them from such dangers. And though they are conscious in themselves of good works, yet fearing the judgements of God and lamenting that they have committed many injustices, they humbly trust in the gentleness of God alone; and their perfect fear is more pleasing, the more it practises humility; for God’s good pleasure is upon them that fear Him and on those who hope upon His mercy’’ .
So none will be saved by his own right hand (according to the Lord’s word to Job, in which to some extent He derided his defence by some proofs of power, saying, And then I shall confess that thy right hand can save thee’) except him who humbly uses his capacities, which are themselves gifts, with fear and trembling in the will of God, often praying, Cast me not away from Thy face’’, and Reject me not from Thy commandments’’ , since, as someone says, the greatness of certain men’s good character has often been the cause of their damnation, those I mean who, the more distinguished they are in good qualities, have fallen from the station of humility. Therefore it is written, The more distinguished you are, come down, arise and sleep with the uncircumcised’’ ; as if the proud spirit were told in other words: since by your holiness you have lifted yourself up in pride, now come down from it and be reckoned amongst sinners, since what is done with pride counts as nothing before Me. Narrow, [you see,] is the gate’’ , and trodden by few is the highway of perfection, which avoids the vices on the left hand, and on the right the evils of vanity and pride.
Therefore must we pass by the royal road to the city of the living God, through affliction of the flesh and contrition of the heart, through bodily toil and spiritual humility, through our practice, the substance of our lawful duty, not the meed of merit, and, what is greater than these, through Christ’s grace, faith, hope, and charity. Observe the many dangers; learn the cause of war, the greatness of the glory; do not ignore the enemy’s strength, and freewill in between; understand that the gate is open to our foes from the north; thus Jerusalem too is open from the north, for that reason the enemy watches on that side dwelling in the north, for that reason it is written, From the north are evils kindled over all the earth’’. If you remove the foe, you remove the battle also; if you remove the battle, you remove the crown as well—if these stand, where they are it is needful that there be goodness, watchfulness, zeal, patience, fidelity, wisdom, steadfastness, prudence, and if not; destruction must ensue—and, to conclude, if you remove the freedom, you remove the worth.
See what adversities surround us, and what as it were tumultuous eddies wash us round, my dearest disciple, not to speak of those which lurk within and daily fight against us in ourselves. Thus in the midst of so great dangers to will and to run, though it be your duty, is not in your power; for human goodness is not strong enough to reach the goal it wishes between so many opposing forces, unless the mercy of God also provide the will—that the pilgrim’s desires should be fulfilled and have free course, and by his avoiding the slips and stumbles and opposing chances of good fortune, that his course should be completed without stumbling. Wherefore humility of mind is the cause of merit, for without help it cannot be assisted; the proud man does not merit it; he is left alone and hardened; he is unthankful, unprayerful, irreligious. The idle servant is beaten in life, his service is despised; despaired of, he is even considered to be most worthy of disdain by men. What then are we to say to this, wretched as we are, who before we deserve release from evils beguile ourselves with goods, and before the removal of vices hope to have perfection? We desire to know all; we tire of doing all we know, hoping that words can count instead of deeds. Perhaps here below they may; for above they clearly cannot in God’s sight, since there it is not he who has spoken, but he who has acted’’ , that shall be saved. – Saint Colambanus, Letter IV