Until a man becomes humble, he does not receive the wages of his service. Remuneration is not given for service, but for humbleness. He that wrongs in the latter, looses the former.
He who has taken upon him the service of excellence is inferior to him that has taken upon him the excellence of service. Excellence is the mother of afflictions; from afflictions humbleness is born. The gift is given for humbleness. Consequently remuneration does not belong to excellence, nor to pains for its sake, but to humbleness which is born from it. Now if humbleness fails, the other ones are vain. The service of excellence is the observance of the commandments of our Lord. The excellence of service is steadiness of mind, which is established by humbleness and watchfulness. Where the power necessary for the performance of the former ones fails, the latter is received instead of them. So Christ does not seek the service of the commandments, but the steadiness of the soul, for the sake of which He also has laid commandments upon rational beings. The body works with the right and with the left part, equally. But the mind, as is becoming, is either justified or condemned.
Some serve life by left-hand things, through wisdom from God; and some acquire sin under the appearance of acquiring divine things. Shortcomings in sundry things in which those who are watchful are entangled, are permitted by God in order to guard their righteousness, that their trespasses and failures may become to them a cause of humbleness.
Humbleness protects many men for their service, not only withholding them from haughtiness, but by the recollection of their trespasses they become humble and receive higher wages.
Without blows a gift cannot be kept. A gift without temptations is found to cause the destruction of those who have received it.
If thou hast served well before God, and He has given thee a gift for thy steadfastness regarding Him, in order to spur thee on the more and to give thee joy in thy service, then let Him give thee knowledge so as to know how it is necessary to humble thyself; otherwise He would appoint a prosecutor or take it again from thee, lest there should be a chance for its being lost. It is not given to every one to guard riches without damage.
The soul that takes upon itself the trouble of excellence and lives in the veracious fear of God cannot be without daily afflictions. Virtues and afflictions are interwoven.
Excellence is the Mother of Afflictions;
from Afflictions Humbleness is Born.
(From the Mystic Treatises by Saint Isaac of Nineveh)