You are to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” You are not learning from me how to refashion the fabric of the world, nor to create all things visible and invisible, nor to work miracles and raise the dead. Rather, you are simply learning of me: “that I am meek and lowly in heart.” If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. If you are trying to construct some mighty edifice in height, you will begin with the lowest foundation. This is humility. However great the mass of the building you may wish to design or erect, the taller the building is to be, the deeper you will dig the foundation. The building in the course of its erection rises up high, but he who digs its foundation must first go down very low. So then, you see even a building is low before it is high and the tower is raised only after humiliation.
“Out of the heart,” he said, “come evil thoughts.” Therefore the soul or principle of action is not in the brain according to Plato but in the heart according to Christ. On this point, those who believe that thoughts are introduced by the devil and do not originate from our own will are to be repudiated. The devil can aid and abet evil thoughts but he cannot originate them, even though, ever lying in wait, he kindles a small spark of our thoughts with his tinder. We must not hold the opinion that the devil can also probe the depths of our heart. However, he can judge from our demeanor and gestures what we are thinking about. For example, if he sees us gazing often at a beautiful woman, he surmises that our heart has been wounded with the dart of love.
The Logos restores human nature to itself. First, He became man and kept His will dispassionate and free from rebellion against nature, so that it did not waver in the slightest from its own natural movement even with regard to those who crucified Him; on the contrary, it chose death for their sake instead of life, thereby demonstrating the voluntary character of His passion, rooted as it is in His love for humankind. Second, having nailed to the Cross the record of our sins, He abolished the enmity which led nature to wage an implacable war against itself … making peace and reconciling us through Himself to the Father and to one another: our will is no longer opposed to the principle of nature, but we adhere to it without deviating in either will or nature.
St. Maximos the Confessor
…I will prove… that men have existed before they were born… Jacob, who while yet hidden in the secret chamber of his mother’s womb supplanted his brother… Jeremiah likewise existed before his birth to whom the message comes: ‘Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you; and before you came forth from the belly, I sanctified you, and appointed you for a prophet among the nations’ (Jer. 1:5). What testimony can we have stronger than the case of this great prophet, who was sanctified before he was born, and known before he was shaped? What, again, shall I say of John, of whom his holy mother testifies that, while he yet lay in her womb, he perceived in spirit the presence of his Lord, and leaped for joy, as we remember it to be written, his mother saying: ‘For lo, as soon as the voice of the salutation entered my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy’ (Lk. 1:44).