Isaac the Syrian: The Burning of the Heart unto the Whole Creation Friday, Apr 11 2014 

OsiosIsaakSyros07What is repentance? To desist from former sins and to suffer on account of them.

And what is the sum of purity? A heart full of mercy unto the whole created nature.

And what is perfection? Depth of humility, namely giving up all visible and invisible things….

Another time the same father was asked: What is repentance? He answered: A broken heart.

And what is humility? He replied: Embracing a voluntary mortification regarding all things.

And what is a merciful heart? He replied:

The burning of the heart unto the whole creation, man, fowls and beasts, demons and whatever exists so that by the recollection and the sight of them the eyes shed tears on account of the force of mercy which moves the heart by great compassion.

Then the heart becomes weak, and it is not able to bear hearing or examining injury or any insignificant suffering of anything in the creation.

And therefore even in behalf of the irrational beings and the enemies of truth and even in behalf of those who do harm to it, at all times he offers prayers with tears that they may be guarded and strengthened; even in behalf of the kinds of reptiles, on account of his great compassion which is poured out in his heart without measure, after the example of God.

[...] The sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who from love of His creatures, has delivered His Son to death on the cross. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son for it.

Not that He was not able to save us in another way, but in this way it was possible to show us His abundant love abundantly, namely by bringing us near to Him by the death of His son.

If He had anything more clear to Him, He would have given it us, in order that by it our race might be His.

And out of His great love He did not even choose to urge our freedom by compulsion, though He was able to do so. But His aim was, that we should come near to Him by the love of our mind.

And our Lord obeyed His Father out of love unto us, taking upon Him scorn and suffering joyfully, as Scripture says: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Therefore our Lord said in the night in which He was betrayed: “This is my body which is given for the salvation of the world unto life. And this is my blood which is shed for all for the remission of sins. In behalf of them I offer myself.”

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 74, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck).

Isaac the Syrian: Trials and Temptations Wednesday, Apr 2 2014 

OsiosIsaakSyros07Hardships for the sake of the good are loved as the good itself.

Nobody can acquire real renunciation save him that is determined in his mind to bear troubles with pleasure.

Nobody can bear trouble save him that believes that there is something more excellent than bodily consolation which he shall acquire in reward for trouble.

Everyone that has devoted himself to renunciation, will first perceive the love of trouble stir within himself; thereupon the thought of renouncing all worldly things will take shape in him.

Everyone who comes near unto trouble will at first be confirmed in faith; then he will come near unto trouble.

He that renounces worldly things without renouncing the senses, sight and hearing, he prepares twofold trouble for himself and he will find tribulation in a twofold measure.

Or rather: while he refrains from the use of things, he delights in them through the senses; and by the affections which they cause he experiences the same from them that he had to endure in reality before; because the recollection of their customs is not effaced from the mind.

If then imaginary representations existing in the mind alone can torture man, apart from the things corresponding to them in reality, what shall we say when the real things are close at hand?

[...] The hard temptations into which God brings the soul are in accordance with the greatness of His gifts.

If there is a weak soul which is not able to bear a very hard temptation and God deals meekly with it, then know with certainty that, as it is not capable of bearing a hard temptation, so it is not worthy of a large gift.

As great temptations have been withdrawn from it, so large gifts are also withdrawn from it. God never gives a large gift and small temptations.So temptations are to be classed in accordance with gifts.

Thus from the hardships to which you have been subjected you may understand the measure of the greatness which your soul has reached. In accordance with affection is consolation.

What then? Temptation, then gifts ; or gifts and afterwards temptation? Temptation does not come if the soul has not received secretly greatness above its previous rank, as well as the spirit of adoption as sons.

We have a proof of it in the temptation of our Lord and of the Apostles; for they were not allowed to be tempted before they had received the Comforter. Those who partake of good have also to bear temptations.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 39, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck (slightly adapted).

Isaac the Syrian: Passionate Prayer and Mourning of the Heart Saturday, Mar 8 2014 

OsiosIsaakSyros07Protect the sinner without doing him wrong. But strengthen his courage for life; then the mercy of the Lord will bear you.

Support with your word the weak and the distressed in spirit whenever you can; then the hand that bears the universe will support you.

Participate with those who are suffering in heart, in passionate prayer and mourning of the heart; then before your demand a fountain of grace will be opened.

Be strenuous in prayer at all time before God, with a heart full of chaste deliberations mingled with passion; then He will preserve your mind from impure thoughts, so that the way of God be not disordered in you.

Occupy your gaze with constant intercourse with intelligent recitation of the scriptures, lest, on account of idleness, the sight of foreign things defile your look.

Do not tempt your mind, for the sake of examination, by consideration of impure seductive thoughts, thinking that you  shall not he vanquished; even wise men have been perturbed in this place and deviated.

Do not take fire in your bosom….

Without severe bodily trouble, it is hard for the untrained youth to be bound under the yoke of saintliness.

The sign of the beginning of darkness of mind manifests itself in the soul by dejection, in the first place with regard to service and prayer. For it is not possible that the way in your soul towards error should be opened if you had not fallen in this point first.

Then, being bereft of God’s help — which otherwise affords a way unto Him — you will easily fall into the hands of the foes. And further, being without care for the matters of excellence, you will be carried towards the contrary things in every manner. Departing, from any side, is the beginning of approaching to the opposite one.

Let the service of excellence be firm in your soul; meditate on it and so on. Show your weakness before God at all times, lest strangers come to examine your strength while you are separated from your helper.

The service of the cross is a double one. And this is in accordance with its twofold nature which is divided into two parts: patience in face of bodily troubles, which is accomplished through the instrumentality of the anger of the soul; this is called practice; and the subtle intellectual service, in intercourse with God, constant prayer and so on, which is performed with the desiring part and called theory.

The one purifies the affectable part by the strength of zeal; the other clears the intellectual part by the influence of the love of the soul, which is the natural appetite.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence, 1, 2, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 9-10 (slightly modified).

Isaac the Syrian: The Ladder Unto the Kingdom is Hidden Within You and Within Your Soul Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

OsiosIsaakSyros07January 28th is the feast of St Isaac the Syrian.

Gratefulness on the part of the recipient spurs on the giver to bestow gifts larger than before….

The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses his pain is near to health.

Many are the pains of the hard heart; and when the sick one resists the physician, his torments will be augmented.

There is no sin which cannot be pardoned except that one which lacks repentance, and there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement.

For the portion of the fool is small in his eyes.

Think constantly of those who are superior to you in excellence, so you may see yourself at all times as being less than they are.

And be aware at all times of the heavy troubles of those whose vexations are difficult and serious, so that you may become grateful for your own small ones and be able to bear them with joy.

When you are in a state of subjection and are languid and dejected, and thou art hound and fettered before your foe in mournful wretchedness and laborious service of sin, then recall to mind the previous times of firmness….

Then, by these and similar recollections, your soul will be aroused as from the depth and be clad with the flame of zeal; and it will rise from its immersion as if from the dead, and stretch itself and return to its former state, in hot strife against Satan and sin….

Be a persecutor of yourself; then your foe will be driven away from you. Be on peaceful terms with your soul; then heaven and earth will be on peaceful terms with you.

Be zealous to enter the treasury within you; then you will see that which is in heaven. For the former and the latter are one, and, entering, you will see both.

The ladder unto the Kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul.

Dive into yourself, freed from sin; there you wilt find steps along which you can ascend.

What the things of the world-to-be are, the scriptures do not explain. How we may acquire the faculty to perceive their delight even now, without change of nature or local transition, they teach us plainly.

Though they call these things by beloved names of glorious things which are delightful and esteemed by us, in order to spur us on, still by saying that “the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard” (1 Cor.2:9) and so on, they show us that the things-to-be are not equal to any of the present things, by their being incomprehensible.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence, 1, 2, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 7-8 (slightly modified)

Isaac the Syrian: God’s Affection for the Repentant Sinner Sunday, Dec 15 2013 

OsiosIsaakSyros07Those, in whom the light of faith truly shines, never reach such unashamedness as to ask God: “Give us this,” or — “Remove from us this.”

Because their spiritual eyes — with which they were blessed by that genuine Father, Who with His great love, countlessly transcends any fatherly love — continually view the Father’s Providence, they are not concerned in the slightest about themselves.

God can do more than anyone else, and can assist us by a far greater measure than we could ever ask for, or even imagine.

[...] Not having distinctly experienced God’s patronage, the heart is in no condition to commune with Christ.

A person cannot acquire a reliance on God if, prior to this, he hasn’t fulfilled His will according to one’s own strength.

Because hope in God and fortitude is born from witness of the conscience (in God): and only with genuine witness of our mind (in God) can we have trust in Him.

God demands not only the fulfillment of the commandments but also — more importantly — reformation of the soul, which is the reason why the commandments were given.

The body participates equally in good as well as bad deeds, and reason, by its behavior, becomes either righteous or sinful, judging by its disposition.

Life in this temporary world is akin to writing letters on a tablet. Everyone, when he wants to, can add or delete words on it or rearrange the letters.

But the future life is akin to a manuscript, written on a clean sheet, on which it is forbidden to add or delete and stamped with the king’s seal. That’s why while we are in this inconstant world, let us be attentive to ourselves.

And while we have authority over the earthly manuscript, on which we write with our own hand, let us endeavor to make good additions from a righteous life, and delete on it all the failings of our past actions.

This is because while we are in this world, God does not affix His stamp — neither to the virtuous nor to the evil — up to the hour of our leaving this life.

When in remembering his sins a person punishes himself, God looks upon him with affection. God is pleased that for turning away from His path, the individual has conferred punishment upon himself — this serves as a sign of genuine repentance.

And the harder the sinner compels himself, the greater the increase in God’s affection for him.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Selections from the Homilies @ Orthodox Photos.

Isaac the Syrian: Glory to Jesus Christ Who Brings Us the Sweetness of Health by Stringent Medicines! Saturday, Feb 16 2013 

OsiosIsaakSyros07God allows His saints to be tried by every sorrow, then to experience anew and prove His aid, and to understand how great a providence He has for them, for in their perils He is found to be their Redeemer.

[...] If a man is not first tried by the experience of evils, he has no taste for the good. Hence when in evils he meets with that which is good, he will be unable in knowledge and freedom to make use of it as being his very own.

How sweet is knowledge that is gained from actual experience and diligent training, and what power it gives to the man who through much experience has found it within himself, the same is known by those who have been assured of and have seen the help it affords them.

Then they learn the weakness of their nature and the help of Divine power, when God first withholds His power from them while they are amid temptations.

Thus He makes them conscious of their nature’s impotence, the arduousness of temptations, and the cunning of the enemy.

Thus he gives them to understand against whom they must wrestle, what kind of nature they are clothed with, how they are protected by divine power, how far they have advanced on the way, to what height God’s power has raised them up, and how powerless they are before the face of every passion when the divine power is withdrawn from them.

Through all these things they acquire humility, cleave closely to God, look for His help with expectation, and persevere in prayer.

[...] The diligent are tried, that they might add to their riches, the lax are tried, that they might guard themselves from what is harmful; the sleepy are tried, that they might be armed with wakefulness, those afar off are tried, that they might draw nearer to God; those who are God’s own are tried, that with boldness they might enter into His house.

The son who is not trained will receive no profit from the riches of his father’s house. For this reason, then, God first tries and afflicts, and thereafter reveals His gift. Glory to our Master Jesus Christ Who brings us the sweetness of health by stringent medicines!

There is no man who will not feel oppressed at the time of training, nor any who will not find the time bitter wherein he is given the medicine of trails to drink. Without temptations a man cannot acquire a strong constitution, yet to endure with patience is not within our power.

For how should the clay vessel endure the vehemence of the waters, if the divine fire had not hardened it?

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Homily 61; longer text @ Kandylaki.

Isaac the Syrian: What Wisdom Is God’s! And How Filled With Life! Tuesday, Dec 11 2012 

OsiosIsaakSyros07If zeal had been appropriate for putting humanity right, why did God the Word clothe Himself in the body in order to bring the world back to His Father using gentleness and humility?

And why was He stretched out on the Cross for the sake of sinners, handing over His sacred body to suffering on behalf of the world?

I myself say that God did all this for no other reason, except to make known to the world the love that He has, His aim being that we, as a result of our greater love arising from an awareness of this, might be captivated by His love when He provided the occasion of this manifestation of the kingdom of heaven’s mighty power – which consists in love – by means of the death of His Son.

[...] [The Incarnation and the death on the Cross happened] not to redeem us from sins, or for any other reason, but solely in order that the world might become aware of the love which God has for His creation.

Had all this astounding affair taken place solely for the purpose of forgiveness of sin, it would have been sufficient to redeem us by some other means.

What objection would there have been if He had done what He did by means of an ordinary death?

But He did not make His death at all an ordinary one – in order that you might realize the nature of this mystery.

Rather, He tasted death in the cruel suffering of the Cross.

What need was there for the outrage done to Him and the spitting?

Just death would have been sufficient for our redemption – and in particular His death, without any of these other things which took place.

What wisdom is God’s! And how filled with life!

Now you can understand and realize why the coming of our Lord took place with all the events that followed it, even to the extent of His telling the purpose quite clearly out of His own holy mouth:

“To such an extent did God love the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” – referring to the Incarnation and the renewal He brought about.

[...] When the entire extent of creation had abandoned and forgotten God and had perfected themselves in every kind of wickedness…He came down to their abode and lived among them in their body just as one of them, and with a love exalted beyond knowledge or description by any created being,

He begged them to turn back to Himself, showing them concerning the glorious establishment of the world to come, having intended before all worlds to introduce felicity such as this for creation.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630 – c. 700): Quoted in Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: The Incarnation of the Word and the deification of man according to St Isaac of Nineveh.

Isaac the Syrian: By the Death of His Only-Begotten Son He Made Us Near to Himself Thursday, Nov 22 2012 

OsiosIsaakSyros07God the Lord surrendered His own Son to death on the Cross for the fervent love of creation…

This was not, however, because He could not redeem us in another way, but so that His surpassing love, manifested hereby, might be a teacher unto us.

And by the death of His Only-begotten Son He made us near to Himself.

Yea, if He had had anything more precious, He would have given it to us, so that by it our race might be His own.

Because of His great love for us it was not His pleasure to do violence to our freedom, although He is able to do so, but He chose that we should draw near to Him by the love of our understanding.

For the sake of His love for us and obedience to His Father, Christ joyfully took upon Himself insult and sorrow…

In like manner, when the saints become perfect, they all attain to this perfection, and by the superabundant outpouring of their love and compassion upon all men they resemble God.

[...] Creation could not look upon Him unless He took part of it to Himself and thus conversed with it, and neither could it hear the words of His mouth face to face.

The sons of Israel were not even able to hear His voice when He spoke with them from the cloud…

The sons of Israel made ready and prepared themselves, keeping themselves chaste for three days according to the command of Moses, that they might be made worthy of hearing the voice of God, and of the vision of His revelation.

And when the time was come, they could not receive the vision of His light and the fierceness of the voice of His thunder.

But now, when He poured out His grace upon the world through His own coming, He has descended not in an earthquake, not in a fire, not in a terrible and mighty sound, but “as the rain upon a fleece, and rain-drops that fall upon the earth” softly, and He was seen conversing with us after another fashion.

This came to pass when, as though in a treasury, He concealed His majesty with the veil of His flesh, and among us spoke with us in that body which His own bidding wrought for Him out of the womb of the Virgin.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Quoted in Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: The Incarnation of the Word and the deification of man according to St Isaac of Nineveh.

Isaac the Syrian: The Scourge of Love Friday, Nov 2 2012 

OsiosIsaakSyros07In the future age…one will not receive from another the revelation of God’s glory unto the gladness and joy of his soul.

But to each by himself the Master will give according to the measure of his excellence and his worthiness, and he will not receive the gift from his comrade as he does here.

[...] For one is the Giver there, Who gives without mediation to those who receive; and those who win joy, procure it from Him.

For they do not perceive Him through diverse intellections, but by direct revelation of Him, without departing from Him through thoughts.

There the order of those who teach and those who learn ceases, and on One alone hangs the ardent love of all.

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love.

Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?

I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment.

For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.

It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God.

Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all.

The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend.

But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

Someone was asked, “When will a man know that he has received the remission of his sins?”

He answered, “When in his soul he becomes conscious that he has completely hated them with his whole heart, and when he governs himself in his external actions in a manner opposed to his former way of life.”

Such a man, as having already hated his sin, is confident that he has received remission of his sins by reason of the good witness of his conscience which he has acquired, after the saying of the Apostle, “A conscience uncondemned is a witness of itself” (Cf. Rom. 2:15).

And may we also gain remission of our sins by the grace and love for man of the unoriginate Father with His only‑begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Homily 28, from The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Mass. 1984) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers