April 26, 2018
St Isaac led us through a wonderful study of the methods the devil uses to war against those who seek to live for God and walk by the narrow way.
The devil will wait patiently for some who begin the spiritual life zealously; not because he fears them but rather because he holds them in contempt. He waits until their zeal cools and they grow lax and overconfident. He allows them to dig their own pit of perdition for their souls through wandering thoughts.
With the courageous and strong, the devil seeks to drive a wedge between them and their guardian angel. Craftily the devil convinces them that their victories come through their own strength and force. The devil imitates the guardian angel and convinces them to follow dreams as if true in order to lead them astray.
Finally the devil will actively present the warrior with fantasies masking the truth and thus deluding their mind. He leads them to ponder shameful thoughts. He will even present them with actual physical temptations once thought to be overcome.
April 19, 2018
Beginning with Homily 38 and moving into Homily 39, St. Isaac treats of the struggle with sin and temptation and the methods of the devil. The starting point is not to fear temptation. Such fear reveals an avoidance of hardship and lack of zeal for the Lord. We are not promised happiness or peace in this world but affliction. Thus we are to enter the spiritual battle with strong resolve - a willingness to sacrifice all for love of God and virtue. The devil will urge us to ease our labors but we are to be unrelenting in the fight.
The devil begins by observing our weapons and watching for a weak and infirm will. He will the let loose with full force upon us in order to shake our resolve and to overcome us with fear. God often allows us to feel the full brunt of these temptations if only to reveal our doubt and coldness. We must confront the devil with fearlessness and ardor. Anything less makes us tempters and mockers of God. He did not create us simply to enter and leave this world but made us for eternity. This is the lens through which we must view our lives.
April 12, 2018
In tonight’s conclusion of Homily 37, St. Isaac set before us the end that the hesychast seeks and meditates upon - the life of the Kingdom and the vision of God. The hesychast who lives a life of exacting purity and chastity prays without ceasing and eventually becomes the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prays within him always - whether asleep or awake or occupied with work. He is taken captive by the love of God in such a way that prolonged prayer is no longer necessary. Fidelity to the commandments is the foundation for this experience and the setting aside of sin and the passions.
In this perfection the monk has no illusions about the source of his prayer or virtues. All is grace. Life becomes Liturgy- a sacrifice of praise and the abiding attitude one of gratitude. Nothing is feared - not suffering or death - because the hesychast is one with He who is Life.
April 5, 2018
We continued our discussion of Homily 37 and began with St. Isaac’s distinction between revelations and visions. Visions are concrete appearances of the incorporeal world such as angels and saints and are consolation for those who have embraced the anchoritic life in particular. Stripped of all worldly attachments God strengthens and encourages such individuals for the ascetic life. Revelations however come to the perfect and pure of heart and give insights into eschatological future states. The intellect (Nous) is engaged and participated in the Kingdom. It is an inward mystical experience.
The fathers, including Isaac, make these distinctions because of the dangers of prelest or delusion. Purity of heart is essential. A man must be free from outside modes of knowledge and embrace a kind of primordial simplicity and guilelessness.
It is in this profound childlike and humble state that God can raise one up to experience his love and life. Such purity comes through spiritual mourning and compunction. Humbled by the truth He raises us up. This is not raw emotionalism but rather a life wholly directed toward God and desiring Him. Such weeping purifies memory and imagination so that nothing holds a person back from God.