The group began Conference Ten, the high point of Cassian teaching on imageless and unceasing prayer. Cassian sets the stage by seeking to put the notion of imageless prayer in highest possible relief through giving an account of the monk Serapion's fall into the anthropromorphite heresy. Serapion's mind becomes cluttered with the erroneous and deadly image of a God with human contours; unable to let go of the confines of what the imagination and intellect can construct to be drawn by faith into the intimacy and mystery of the Triune God. It is through the pathos of this story that Cassian brings his readers to see the beauty of pure prayer and the unbroken communion with God it promises. When such prayer is attained, everything a person does is God. And this, which is the end of all perfection, is equivalent to transforming one's whole life into a single and continuous prayer.
Along with Cassian and Germanus, we came to the end of the first conference on prayer with Abba Issac, where discussion focussed on the different origins of tears (consciousness of one's own sins, fear of Gehenna, the sins of others, and the hardships of this life in the face of a deep longing for heaven). Tears are to be fostered as a part of compunction, but never forced once one has reached deeper level of prayer, so as not to focus on things of lesser importance.
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.
The group continued to discuss Abba Isaac's breathtaking exposition of the "Our Father"; considering the third, fourth and fifth petitions. The beauty of his words are only equaled by their challenge. We are called to desire above all to live the "angelic" life (to be wrapped in our desire to fulfill God's will in every aspect of our lives), to seek to nourish ourselves upon His Word (discerning the gift that we receive daily and receiving it with reverence and awe), and to cry out for God's forgiveness (understanding that the mercy we receive depends on the mercy we offer to others).