The holy woman further said: “While a person is in a monastery, obedience is preferred to ascetic practice. The former teaches humility, the latter teaches pride.”
Amma Synkletike is again speaking to us today. The two virtues prized above all others by the desert monastics are humility and obedience. I believe they prized humility above all else but for them, the two are inescapably linked.
When we give up our will to another, it is the ultimate humility. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility in His obedience to become incarnate.
Ascetic practices are something we do of our own wills. We choose whether or not to study our Bibles, pray the Psalms, read good spiritual writings, have a prayer list or whatever, the point is we choose. We choose whether or not to be faithful. Hence a possible source or pride because we are oh so devout.
Yielding our will to another removes our choices. It is truly humbling. Now, I will be the first to admit this in one of those things that can be taken to unhealthy and even destructive extremes. We can all think of too many examples but let’s not go there.
Instead, think of the people we already have to whom we can listen and learn. Bishops, priests, pastors, ministers, spiritual directors, good friends, chance-met strangers. These are all people who can inform our faith and in listening to them, grow closer to God.