Elder Paisios considered himself lower than all of creation, worse than the animals. In one of his letters, he writes, “We compare ourselves to the animals – actually, that’s an insult to the poor animals. We’re worse than they are. One day I was trying to think of something to compare myself to, and I finally settled on a dung beetle. But, after I really thought about it, I realized I wasn’t begin fair to the poor thing. A dung beetle’s purpose is to cut up manure, piece by piece, to make little lumps out of it and make it disappear. But I – a rational human being and creation in the image and likeness of God – I collect manure in the form of my sins and carry it to God’s temple. And the worst part is that I’d never let anyone call me a dung beetle, or even a donkey – and everyone knows the hard, patient work donkeys do for people, and in the end everyone forgets about them.
He lived the mystery of humility deeply, and his mind gave birth to humble thoughts and ideas…. He protected himself with humility. He knew that, while “arrogance brings destruction and great disorder,” humility is a divine magnet that attracts all the gifts and blessings of God. And so he loved humility from the bottom of his heart, and he liked to use the word with everyday expressions: he would speak of a “humble little stool” or say that “he humbled the lamp” [by turning it off], or, if a tree needed pruning, he’d say, “that tree needs to be humbled.”
If he made mistakes in judgment, he had the humility to admit them, and if he was critical of others he had the humility to ask forgiveness. He knew his limitations and didn’t think that he knew the answer to everything. When he was asked about ecclesiastical, canonical, or scholarly matter, or any matter requiring specialized knowledge, he would send his questioner to the appropriate people for advice.
He avoided honors, distinction, offices, and publicity like a bee fleeing from smoke. His true, deep humility was obvious from the spontaneous and unprompted comments he would sometimes make…. So he wouldn’t forget who he was, he wrote in pencil on the wall of his cell at Holy Cross the following verse from the Psalter: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill.”.. He rejoiced in seeing others advance in position, becoming priests, spiritual fathers, abbots, bishops, and so on… There wasn’t a trace of jealousy or envy… “Let me turn into compost, so younger monks can take root, grow, and bear fruit.”
hat tip: Sunday Bulletin of Holy Theophany Orthodox Church