Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States


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In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

Modesty is the first virtue in spiritual life. It is the vanguard that protects virtues and talents. Every virtue that is not accompanied by modesty is likely to be snatched by the devil of vain glory and destroyed by conceit, boastfulness and self-admiration.

Therefore if God has granted you any talent, pray to God to give you modesty with it or take it away from you, lest you should fall into pride because of it and perish.

Modesty is the basis upon which all virtues are built. It is not a separate virtue that stands alone, but it is interwoven in all virtues like the thread that culminates into a garment.

God gives His gifts to those who are modest because He knows that those gifts will not be harmful to them. The Holy Bible states that God reveals His secrets to modest people who become more humble inasmuch as God gives them glory. Therefore God summons us to be modest, and modesty and meekness were among the prominent characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ that made Him beloved by all people. The Holy Gospel described Him by saying that He was "meek and humble in Spirit."

The saints have perfected modesty in a curious manner. They were not modest only before God and people but they were modest even before devils, and they defeated devils with this modesty.

When the devils used to fight violently against the great saint, Abba Anthony, he used to answer them humbly saying, "You, who are mighty, what do you, want of me, the weak person, while I am incapable of fighting against the weakest one among you?"

He used to pray to God saying, "Save me, O God form those who think that I am something of value, while I am dust and ashes." When the devils used to hear this prayer that was full of modesty, they disappeared like smoke.

Once the devil appeared to the ascetic monk, St. Macarius the Great, and said to him, "Woe to us from you, O Macarius, what things do you do that we do not perform? You fast and we do not eat, you keep awake at night and we do not sleep, you live in wildernesses and barren places and we do the same, but you defeat us with one thing." St. Macarius asked him, "And what is that thing?" The devil answered, "With your modesty you defeat us."

Another time St. Abba Anthony saw the traps that were laid down by the devils so he threw himself on the ground before God and cried out saying, "O Lord who can be saved from these traps?" Then he heard a voice saying, "Modest people shall be saved from them."

If modesty has such power as to defeat devils, what is modesty then?

Modesty is to be aware of your weakness and to know your fallings and sins and to treat yourself according to this assumption.

Modesty is not that you should feel that you are great and try to appear to be small, or to hide your greatness, since the mere feeling that you are great implies a kind of pride and your feeling that you hide your greatness includes a feeling of greatness that is obvious to you.

Real modesty is modesty before yourself first of all, a genuine feeling that is not counterfeit in your inner soul that you are weak and sinful; even in the height of your strength you feel that this strength does not originate from yourself but that it is a heavenly gift from God to you. As for you your nature is something different.

My brother, you should know what you are as this knowledge leads you to modesty. You are form the dust of the earth, nay, but the dust is older than you; it was found before you existed; God created it first then He created you from dust.

You may remember the following lines of poetry: "O dusts of the earth my grandfather and the grandfather of all people. You are my origin, you are older than Adam. You are my fate in the sepulcher when I lie in a sepulcher."

My brother, if you contemplate the matter with modesty you will find that this dust has not angered God as you have done through your sins. Therefore I tell you about an important fact that is: "God alone is modest."

God is great and He condescends to talk to us who are small. He is Holy and He condescends to deal with us who are sinners. As for us modesty on our part is not to be considered as condescension but it is merely perception of ourselves.

If you are aware of this fact then you should treat yourself in a way that is consistent with this knowledge and do not claim dignity or glory from other people. If you are tempted in connection with this matter you may answer yourself saying, "I do not deserve anything because of my sins and if God through the abundance of His mercy has concealed my sins from people yet I know about my sins very well and I do not forget them lest I should become proud in vain."

Be careful not to forget your sins lest you should become arrogant and have false imaginations about yourself. Try to remember what was said by one of the saints, "If we forget our sins, God will remember them for us and if we remember our sins God will forget them for us."

Confess your sins before yourself, before God, and if you can let this be before people as well; and if you cannot do that at least do not praise yourself before other people and do not accept their praise for you and if you hear that praise with your ears let your heart and mind refuse it.

Do not attempt to obtain dignity for yourself before God or people and remember what St. Isaac said, "He who runs after dignity will find that dignity runs away from him and he who escapes from it on purpose will find that it runs after him."

Let not your modesty be for show or only by word but let it be genuine modesty from the depth of the heart and with inner faith. Let it be modesty in spirit.

If you live in modesty you will always live a life of gratitude. You will thank God for everything and under all circumstances, being conscious that God always gives you more than you deserve.

As for the person who is not modest, on many occasions he murmurs and complains feeling that he has not attained what he deserves, that he deserves much and that he is oppressed by people and by God.

A modest person lives with peace with all people. He does not get angry with anybody and he does not cause anybody to be angry. He does not get angry with anybody because he always blames himself and does not anger anybody because he demands the blessing and prayer of everybody.

Let us all be modest so that we may deserve the work of God in us, God the Infinite Who has condescended and taken care of us.

To God be the glory for endless ages...Amen.

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark

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