March 30, 2017
In this beautiful section of Homily Five, St. Isaac speaks of how ever-present and close God is to us through his angels and in his actions on our behalf. Why would we be anxious about anything, he asks? We have a God set on our salvation, who does not abandon us in our sin but makes use of every opportunity to raise us up. We must not let anything steal the peace that comes to us from this knowledge. Rather, we must mortify ourselves and never let any opportunity pass us by to serve another or give alms; for in doing so we comfort "His image" - we console Christ Himself in the suffering poor.
God makes use of everything in His Providence to raise us out of sin - He administers sicknesses in body for health of our soul and allows temptations and trials to come to raise us out of negligence and idleness. He orders all things for our profit and in this we are to learn that God alone is our deliverer. We are to use our life in this world for repentance so that we can come to share in our eternal inheritance.
Afflictions spur us on and lead to remembrance of God. It is this remembrance of God that creates a connectivity with Him and draws down His mercy. "Remember God that He too might always remember you."
Isaac reminds us to seek help before it is needed. That is, "before the war begins, seek after your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your physician; and before grevious things come upon you, pray, and in the time of your tribulations you will find Him . . . " Faith must be fostered throughout the course of our lives and our relationship with the Lord allowed to deepen. It is in this that confidence in the spiritual life comes. Fear and destructiion comes from neglect.
March 23, 2017
St. Isaac once again teaches us that we must fully and wisely engage in the spiritual battle - fighting on the right battlefield and making use of the right remedies to heal wounds. He warns us never to treat any sin as slight; for ignoring any sin will eventually make it our master.
Above all we must not be overly confident in our own strength but rather trust in divine providence and the manifestation of that providence in God's angels. They are always there interceding for us, revealing our enemies and fortifying us in the struggle. They show us how close God is to us.
March 16, 2017
In the final paragraph of Homily Four, St. Isaac exhorts us to die to all things and the doings of the world that give rise to the passions. He acknowledges that there is a a kind of madness to this as seen from a worldly perspective and that reality gets turned on its head. But it is only when we trust to the Lord by embracing this path fully that we will experience the sweetness of spiritual inebriation. Though difficult, he encourages us not to lose hope for the mere movement of toward God and the mere expression of desire for holiness brings with it a flood of grace and mercy.
Homily Five begins by reminding us that we have received all that we need through the revelation of nature and the scriptures to guide and direct us in the spiritual life; especially the reality of our own mortality. Death gives rise to the question of the meaning of our lives and what path we are going to pursue. We cannot, however, approach these realities and think that we can stand still or refrain from offering any response. "Whoever does not voluntarily withdraw himself from the passions is involuntarily drawn away by sin." There is no static position for us as human beings. We must withdraw from the causes of the passions and set ourselves toward the good; realizing that God honors not wealth but rather poverty of spirit, not pride but humility.
In the spiritual battle, we must engage "manfully", that is, with courage. We must not doubt God is our Helper in the good work otherwise we will be scared of our own shadow. If we hope in Him, however, we will experience Him as one who manages our "household", that is, our heart and sends His angels to strengthen and encourage us.
Never hold any sin to be slight. To love God is to hate evil and our sin, no matter how grave or small in our eyes. And having made any strides in the spiritual life, it must be seen as mere fidelity and obedience to what is commanded of us. Pride must have no place within us.
Sin must be fought and healed with the right remedies. Lack of chastity cannot be healed by giving great alms and fasting does not overcome avarice. In place of the loss of sanctity God requires sanctification. Lack of chastity must be restored to purity.
March 9, 2017
Isaac puts forward a vision of renunciation rarely conceived of by the Christian - involving the setting aside of all things internal and external that draw us away from God or leave us with a false view of the self. Everything pales in comparison to seeking within the soul the mystery of blessedness which is of the future age.
March 2, 2017
Last night we considered the proper measure of discretion needed in ascetical pursuits; dedicating your soul to the work of prayer; pursuing the life of solitude with those who share your desire; the importance of reading in stirring the heart to contemplation; the necessity of almsgiving and the willingness to live with scarcity. We discussed implications of Isaac's for those who live in the world and pursue purity of heart.