Courtesy of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Expect to see more of him in this space over the next few weeks/months. This is his introduction to the steps of pride, his exposition on St. Benedict’s ladder of humility:
[O]ne does not fall to the depths of evil all at once, anymore than one leaps to the heights of virtue in a single bound, but only by climbing step by step. So too the way down is followed step by step…
There is a way down, then, as well as a way up. There is a way to good and a way to evil. Avoid the evil way and choose the good. If you cannot do it by yourself, pray with the prophet and say, “Keep me from the way of sin” (Psalm 119:29). How? “Show me the mercy of your law” (Psalm 119:29). That is, that law which you have given to those who go astray on the way, those who desert the truth, of whom I am one, for I have truly fallen from the truth.
But surely if a man falls he will rise again? Yes. It is in that hope that I have chosen the path of truth by which I shall ascend in humility back whence I fell through being proud. I shall ascend, I say, singing “Lord, it is good for me that you have humbled me. The law of your mouth is better for me than a thousand pieces of gold or silver” (Psalm 119:72).
David seems to offer you the choice of two ways. There is only one, as you know; but there is a distinction to be made. We can use different names for the way of sin, by which those who are going down travel, and the way of truth, by which those who are going up journey. It is the same way which goes up to the throne and down from it, the same way to the city and back. One door lets people both into and out of a house. The angels appeared to Jacob going up and down by the same ladder.
What is the relevance of this? That if you desire to return to the truth you do not need to search for the road. You know it. You came down that way. Retrace your footsteps. Go up by the same steps by which you came down in your pride…Identify the step of pride you have reached and you will not need to strive to find the way of humility.
On Humility and Pride IX