May 30, 2019
We continued tonight with homily 57 and read it to its completion. Saint Isaac gives us perhaps the most profound explication of humility among the fathers. Without humility all virtue is in vain. The Lord’s concern is with the soul’s amendment not with a self-willed “traffic in sin under the guise of divine pursuits.” Failings are not a problem for Isaac. If anything they produce humility in the soul; we come to see with a greater clarity our poverty and our need for God’s mercy and grace.
Isaac tells us to seek humility even in the gifts that we receive from God. If they don’t help to produce humility within us, Isaac tells us, we should ask God to remove them from us.
We must get used to the fact that afflictions are a part of our life as Christians and they give birth to humility. We must not think of our life and growth in virtue outside of them, otherwise we open the door for pride.
We can come to the point that we love pride. When this happens we esteem our own knowledge and intellect and we fall into a kind of derangement of mind. It is then that repentance becomes an impossibility and the worst of evils manifest themselves. Such a radical turning away from God leads men into insanity. Thus we must beg for humility as the mother of all virtues. And in this humility we must never try to outsmart the demons but rather let the light of Christ overcome the darkness within us.
May 23, 2019
Tonight we began homily 57. Isaac starts by telling us “Blessed is he who lives a vigilant life in this world”! Vigilance is one of the central teachings of the fathers and it behooves us to ask ourselves what it looks like in modern times. What does it mean to be vigilant in age so filled with distraction, noise and temptation? Once again Isaac tells us that there is no Sabbath for us in this world, no day of rest when it comes to seeking the Lord and living a life of virtue. We cannot be under the illusion that we can outwit the demons who never rest. We must live in hope and and hope alone. He who is virtuous must place his trust in God not himself. The one deep in sin though can hope that God in His mercy will come to his aid and lift him up in his poverty. He need only turn toward God with a repentant heart.
Isaac quickly moves the discussion toward the absolute importance of humility. He tells us “the man who has a foretaste and in truth receives the recompense of good things is superior to him who possesses the work of virtue.” Virtue is the mother of mourning and mourning leads to humility. We must never attribute virtue to ourselves but only to God. It is He who lifts us up like a child to gaze upon us face-to-face. But we must allow Him to lift us. We must acknowledge that He raises us out of our sin.
May 16, 2019
Tonight we completed the homily 56. It was both challenging and beautiful. Every word of Isaac strikes to the heart and each example raises us up in our understanding not only of his teaching but of what it is to be a human being. Isaac began tonight, once again, by speaking to us of the profound resistance we have as human beings to embracing the strength God has given us in will and intellect to grow in virtue. We convince ourselves of our weakness and so all that is good seems impossible. Isaac shows us that even the pagan philosophers were capable through their will and intellect of pursuing the truth heroically and even being willing to die for that truth.
This should strike the Christian to the heart, knowing that we have received the fullness of the truth in Christ along with every grace and blessing to live a godly life. We must in every way let the love of Christ compel us and embrace every discipline that will foster virtue and purity of heart and so draw us closer to him.
May 9, 2019
Tonight we continued reading homily 56. Isaac begins to guide us through a reflection on the nature of affliction and how it leads to the perfection of virtue and love. This is something that is often very difficult even for Christians to embrace. The cross always remains a stumbling block for those of the world and, in so far as it is a stumbling block for us, we are not fully alive in Christ. We cannot live in an unholy alliance with the world. Christ alone must be our joy and all idols must be set aside, most especially our own ego. Isaac uses the example of the natural virtue of philosophers. Even through discipline of their intellect and will they could achieve a high level of heroism and virtue. As Christians we must understand that we cannot rationalize our sin as being due to weakness of will or tell ourselves that we are not capable of living the life of the gospel. Naturally God has created us for Himself and now he has given us the grace to share in a godly life. He has called us to deification.
May 2, 2019
Tonight we concluded homily 55. Isaac discusses the nature divine fear, which is not fear of God but rather fear of losing what is most precious - our virtue. Such fear makes us vigilant and prayerful.
At the beginning of Homily 56 Isaac addresses how God makes use of involuntary afflictions to heal us and strengthen us. Like a surgeon, the Divine Physician delicately and with great mercy operates corresponding to the severity of the illness.