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"Knowledge Puffs Up": Origen on the Worst of Sins



"What sin then is greater than all the others? ... Haughtiness, pride, arrogance are the sin of the devil... The material of pride is wealth, rank and worldly glory. Very often priesthood and the Levitical rank is a cause of pride in someone who forgets he has an ecclesiastical position. How many who have been raised to the priesthood have forgotten humility! As if the purpose of their ordination was to stop being humble. How much more should they not have pursued humility precisely because they had been raised to high office, as scripture says: 'The greater you are the more you must humble yourself' (Sir 3: 18). "Think of the Gospel: with what severity the pride and arrogance of the Pharisee is condemned! 'The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week.' But the tax collector," humbly and meekly "standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes and said: 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' And the tax collector went down to his house justified' (Lk 18: 11-14); not justified in an absolute sense, but justified in comparison with the Pharisee... For it is one thing to be justified, and another thing to be justified by another... Just as the tax collector was justified by comparison with that Pharisee, so were Sodom and Samaria justified by comparison with a sinful Jerusalem."

"As often as we read the description of the destruction of the Sodomites, let us not say: 'Oh, the poor Sodomites, whose progeny the earth no longer bears; how unfortunate and much to be mourned who suffered such sad and fearsome things!' We should rather apply this word to our own hearts, examine our inmost being and thoughts, and then we will see that what we are mourning is contained within us, and that the Sodomitic and Egyptian and Assyrian and all the other sins which scripture excoriatingly lists are found in ourselves… For it must simply be said that nothing leads one up to arrogance more than wealth and overabundance and the eating of many good things, and also position and power. There is also sin to be seen at a higher level, because I frequently am nourishing pride if I understand the divine word, if I am wiser than the rest. 'Knowledge puffs up' is not from me but the Apostle..."

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