Feed on
Posts

Archive for the 'trials' Category

 

The thread that connects the thoughts of St. Isaac the Syrian's second homily is thankfulness to God. How we receive the gifts of God has great significance. One need only think of the story of the ten lepers in the Gospel. Only one returns to give thanks to the Giver for the healing he received. Lack of thanksgiving is akin to dishonesty, St. Isaac states. It shows that one does not grasp the true worth of what one has received and so not worthy themselves of receiving something greater. With the eyes of faith, one must grasp the generosity of the healer, even if the cure is painful. To fail to acknowledge such goodness or generosity or to resist the gift only increase the torment of the affliction. If we receive what the Lord gives us with true gratitude - whether painful or consoling - He will not fail to pour greater graces upon us for our salvation. Lacking such an understanding of things, God's gifts seem small in one's eyes - thus making one a "fool".

In our times of trial and failure we are to remind ourselves of times when we were filled with zeal for the Lord so as to stir our souls in to flame once more and awaken them from their slumber. Likewise we are to remember the falls of the mighty in the spiritual life, so as to encourage us when we have fallen that we might arise with confidence in the Lord.

Why spend so much energy pursuing the things of this world that turn to ash when the Kingdom of God is within you? Be a persecutor of yourself and do not pamper the body. Drive the enemy before you. Be peaceful and do everything you can to maintain your peace. Avoid everything that may distract or agitate and so hinder communion with God. Be diligent in seeking the treasure of the Kingdom that lies within you.

00:0000:00

Read Full Post »

St. Isaac begins by encouraging us to become drunk with faith in God; to be so immersed in our relationship with Him that we are constantly under the influence of His grace.  Only in this way will the malady of the senses and the passions that arise out of them be healed.  It is this understanding of Christian Asceticism that must be regained.  Instead of seeking distraction and entertainment in our lives, we must seek solitude and silence; to purify the heart in order to be drawn into the Mystery and Wonder of God. 

When God's grace is abundant within us we easily scorn the fear of death and are willing to endure the greatest tribulations.  In fact, Isaac tells us, such trials are necessary for the perfecting of faith and lead us to rely more and more upon the providence of God.  Without this trust, a person is continually waylaid by his fears of the world around him and the unknown.  

Fear of God, the offspring of faith, and obedience to the commandments is the only means to avoiding distractions.  As human beings we are constantly in a state of receptivity through our senses and unless we turn away from the senses we will gradually be driven away from our delight in God.  A conscious choice must be made to simplify our lives in order to provide them with the solitude that is need for prayer and study.  Without such intent we will be driven back to the inveterate habits of licentiousness.
00:0000:00

Read Full Post »

Living in the desert, having access to a holy elder, and being surrounded by those of great virtue is not a guarantee that one will grow in humility and patience.  The true battle ground is within the heart and the fierce struggle that must take place is with one's own dispositions.  The Christian must undergo a decisive change in the way they look at reality and the struggles of life.  The pursuit of holiness and virtue must become the center of consciousness - the frame of reference; as well as an unceasing reliance upon the grace of God through prayer.  The wisdom that must guide us in our reaction to the slights and insults of others must be the wisdom of the cross; the ego must as it were be crucified in love for God and neighbor.  Our natural disposition so often is to defend and strike back rather than to receive with love the hatred of others in such a way that it can be transformed by the love of God. 

00:0000:00

Read Full Post »

Continuing our discussion of Conference Nine, we picked up with Abba Isaac's exposition of the final petitions of the Our Father: "And subject us not to the trial . . . but deliver us from evil."  Trial is an inevitable part of the human condition and the spiritual life, but we seek in such trials the protection of God and the grace of perseverance and long-suffering so as not to succumb to the evil of the loss of our faith or to act in a way contrary to God's will.  We ask not to be tried beyond our capacity.

When praying, care must be given not to seek those things that our transitory in nature and nothing base or temporal. To do so is to offer great injury to God's largesse and grandeur with the paltriness of our prayer.
Abba Isaac then moves on to discuss the more sublime character of "wordless prayer" that transcends understanding and to which few are called.  It is a infusion of divine light through which God can in a brief moment fill the mind and heart.  The precondition of this prayer is the breaking and humbling of the heart which is expressed through compunction and the overflow of tears that purify the heart.
A rather lengthy discussion ensued about the potential enigma of philokalic spirituality to the Western mind - the setting aside of imagination and the focus on taking every thought captive so as to eventually be brought to unceasing prayer.  
00:0000:00

Read Full Post »

The group considered the final paragraphs of Conference Six; reflecting in particular on the effects of diligence and negligence on the spiritual life.  Cassian’s elder reminds him and us that we should call no person blessed until after his or her death.  Virtue acquired by the grace of God and asceticism must be preserved with the same concern and effort with which it was obtained.  Spiritual carelessness is like a leaky roof through which there are tiny leaks of passion that penetrate the soul.  Left unattended they weaken the structure of the virtues and afterward they pour in a heavy shower of sinfulness.

As we began the introductory material of Conference Seven on Demons we considered the modern tendency to psychologize spiritual afflictions, labeling them as such, and how this weakens the soul.  It often leads one to excuse oneself (ex causa); that is, free themselves from the charge of the spiritual warfare that is necessary and from the desire and the intensity of mind that would lead them otherwise to reach out for God and His help.  Cassian reminds us that the demons’ knowledge of the secrets of the mind is not infallible; it is instead a clever deduction from our observable behaviors.

00:0000:00

Read Full Post »

We continue to make our way through Cassian's analysis of the spiritual life and its trials.  As we approach the end of the Sixth Conference, Cassian makes it clear that there is no unchanging state in the spiritual life.  We are either seeking God and growing in virtue (driven by desire) or we are being drawn deeper into the life of sin.  Love of God, desire for the Beloved, must draw us on through the life of grace.  With an intensity of mind, we must pursue what lies ahead and not let ourselves be molded and shaped by the things of the world.  We must be held by God and shaped in accord with His wisdom and will.

00:0000:00

Read Full Post »

The group continued its discussion of the sixth conference following the elder’s teaching on the necessity of trials in the spiritual life as a means of purification from sin.  One must seek to trust in the wisdom of God as he finds himself afflicted for the sake of correction or to burn away the dross.  At times one will undergo trials for the sake of the glory of God, to manifest the power of his grace through his endurance.  In the most challenging section of the conference, the elder tells Cassian and Germanus that there are those so hardened in their sin that they are beyond the remedy of chastisement and who must be abandoned to the darkness of the sin and the full consequence of the loss of communion with God.  Having failed to respond to God’s remedy, they must be abandoned to the desolation of their choosing with the hope that its emptiness will stir them at last to conversion or simply be a warning to others.

00:0000:00

Read Full Post »