June 29, 2017
Last night the group discussed homily 10 of St. Isaac. The fundamental theme was the importance of repentance and also the avoidance of presumption in the spiritual life. Repentance must be followed by a firm resolution to change one's life. One must become a hater of sin.
We also suffer under the consequences of our own sins and the sins of others. There's a radical solidarity that we share in our sin and so also radical solidarity that we must share in our efforts to make reparation.
By virtue of our baptism, we have been consecrated to God in our lives. We belong to him and our lives must be modeled on his love of virtue. Our share in the life of the most Holy Trinity is the pearl of great price for which we must be willing to sacrifice all to obtain.
A lengthy discussion ensued regarding the application of Saint Isaac's teaching to our lives and our love for the Church. We must never underestimate the power of prayer, the conversion of life, and their impact on the life of the church and the world.
June 15, 2017
Tonight's discussion was on Homily 9 and focused on the distinction between voluntary and involuntary sin, the effects of laxity and heedlessness in the spiritual life, the need to remain stalwart in spiritual warfare, courageously entering into the battle and understanding that it may leave us wounded and permanently scarred. We should fear only the devastation that comes from trampling on our own conscience, willingly reaching out our hand to the devil and so taking the path of perdition.
The unfortunate focus in our culture and the culture of Church today is on pursuing individual freedom, fulfillment and satisfaction in this world over and above the pursuit of holiness of life and purity of heart. Our time in this world is short and we must lives as those who understand the urgency of conversion.
June 8, 2017
The foundation of all that is good, St Isaac the Syrian tells us in Homily 8, is the knowledge of one's own weakness, realizing the need for God's help. It is the Mother of humility and the birthplace of deep and abiding prayer.
From such prayer comes all good things to be found for the spiritual life. It is the refuge of help, light in darkness, a staff of the infirm, medicine in sickness and a sharpened arrow against spiritual enemies.
The more one prays the more one comes to treasure the gift and to cease pondering vanities. One learns to crave God and to seek Him out constantly.
In His compassion God allows us to be humbled - to correct and to heal. Temptations and afflictions become profitable because they purify the soul of pride and also teach the soul to fight and remain in the arena with fortitude and courage.
Thus, in all things we are to be grateful and we must acknowledge that the trials we experience are the fruit of negligence and laxity. Trials come to awaken us to the urgency of the moment, to jolt us out of our complacency and to teach us that every moment is freighted with destiny. We are temples of God the Most High and we must not take such a reality lightly or hold the grace we receive as cheap.
June 1, 2017
We began last evening's discussion with the brief but powerful conclusion to St. Isaac's Sixth Homily. Worldly wisdom can become a stumbling block to our souls and a snare before us. We can approach the spiritual life in a willful manner, placing great trust in ourselves and our own judgement. Rather we are to have fortitude in our pursuit of God and set out with an earnestness - walking by the knowledge that comes through faith. Each person is unique and while we embrace a rule of life we must allow the Spirit to guide us in the way that leads to our sanctification.
The focus of Homily Seven is on the difference between True and False Hope. Hope is not a passive virtue in the sense that it finds expression in our willingness to toil and labor in the pursuit of holiness and that confidence arises out of a pure conscience that does not desist in standing before God. "Think not to grasp the winds in your fist, that is, faith without works." Our confidence must be built upon the real relationship we have with God not upon the illusion of empty trust and lack of commitment.
At times God allows us to be chastised to awaken us from such illusions - to be "seared with the hot iron many times" so that we may be instructed. For mercy's sake, God allows us to experience tribulation.