On Conquering Discrimination

Elder Ephraim of Arizona

During the glorious years when monasticism was at its acme, the fathers of the skete decided to test Abba Moses the Ethiopian, in order to ascertain the degree of humility, meekness, and dispassion he had attained. Abba Moses was a priest. One day, upon entering the altar in order to put on his vestments in preparation for the Divine Liturgy, the fathers said to him, “What are you doing in here, you dark skinned, black man? You are unworthy to set foot in here! Get out!” Abba Moses remained silent and left from the altar. A few days later, they tested him a second time. The first time he kept silent and strangled the internal unrest. During the second assault he not only felt free, but he also blamed himself saying, “Indeed! My body is dark. I have dark skin, and a dark soul. I am unworthy of being a priest. I am unworthy of entering the altar. The fathers are right.” The fathers were waiting for him a short distance up the road, and they asked him, “Abba, weren’t you upset when we spoke to you in that way?” “Yes, my fathers. The first time I felt quite disturbed, but I suppressed the distress and rebellion. The second time there was no upheaval. With God’s help, I felt peace, and I blamed myself. I realized that things are indeed exactly as you described.” The fathers concluded that the first state is referred to as restraint while the second one is meekness. If we find ourselves in a situation similar to the above, and we witness a rebellion taking place within our soul and heart, we must understand that we have egotism. In which case, we must beseech God through prayer to grant us strength to confront and strangle the upheaval of pride, with Christ Himself as our model: “Learn from Me that I am meek and lowly in heart” (Mt. 11:29) . When we witness a prideful uprising, the forcefulness of the ego, and the constant barrage of illogical thoughts, we must implement self- reproach and begin to blame ourselves. (The Art of Salvation, [kindle version])