March 30, 2021
Such beauty! Not only were tonight‘s passages from the Evergetinos memorable - one is compelled to memorize them due to their profundity. They speak to us of the sweetness and the joy that comes to us through repentance and that God desires to give to us. At every turn we are encouraged to be confident and not to be duped by the temptations of the Evil One to ruminate on past sins or to doubt for a moment the God desire to forgive.
We are to be fearless in the face of our own sins and the thoughts from which they arise. To acknowledge them openly is to make them powerless and without weight. To bring them before God and the light of His love is to bring ourselves healing and hope. Immediately, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God desires to robe us with innocence and restore to us the promise of adoption which the Holy Spirit bestows upon us. God desires to make us partakers of eternal life. In fact, repentance is to be seen as a rebirth from holy mother church who will supply us with nourishment and bring us to a mature faith. With tenderness we are embraced by God who draws us to the maternal breast. As Father he does not desire to punish but rather understands our weakness and likewise seeks to carries us and support us until we are capable of understanding the Evil One’s ways and fighting against them fully.
If we know sorrow because of our sin it should always be paired with the joy; the joy that comes from turning toward God and being restored to that relationship. Despair is the great enemy and we should not wait a moment to return to God.
Text of chat during the group:
00:48:42 Eric Williams: We’re shy about sharing all our thoughts with a wide elder or confessor, but we broadcast them loudly and proudly on social media.
00:49:37 Mary Schott: Lol, true that.
01:05:11 Eric Williams: Just go up to the pulpit and stare ominously in silence. After an uncomfortable period, announce, “Thus ends the lesson” and step down. ;)
01:23:02 D Fraley: Thank you Father.
April 19, 2019
We continued this evening with homily 54. Isaac confronts us with a simple question somewhat indirectly – how deep is our faith and confidence in God‘s providence and the power of his grace? Do we remain engaged in the spiritual battle with hope in Him and trust that we are surrounded by the Angels and the Saints? Do we remain joyful in tribulations knowing that God makes all things work for the good of those who love him?
In this world we will experience tribulation and hardship. We must prepare ourselves through prayer and our ascetical life to endure to the end. Such endurance in the face of hardship and temptation often will require that we wait decades to experience the fruit and the joy of the kingdom. Isaac tells us that when we embrace tribulation and affliction we participate in the redemptive love of Christ and begin to experience His own secret treasures.
Isaac concludes by giving us a beautiful example of an elderly monk encouraging a novice to hold fast. He reveals to him how he began to taste the very sweetness of the kingdom and the unceasing worship of angelic beings. “Behold, the labor of many years, and what limitless rest it bore!”
January 3, 2019
Tonight we began a new homily, Homily 52, where St. Isaac expounds upon the various degrees of knowledge and in particular the distinction between earthly knowledge and faith. He leads us down a path that is often difficult for people in their sin to understand - that knowledge and faith are opposed. Now this may seem rather extreme. But what St Isaac is trying to teach us is that earthly knowledge is always going to be confined by the very real limits of our intellect and understanding. It often arises out of and gives birth to anxiety; for earthly knowledge must always seek to control the realities that we face as human beings, to try to manipulate nature. Yet at the same time we know very well that we can never free ourselves from what frightens us the most; death, sickness and tragedy. We feel driven to work toward greater efficiency and authority over creation, but can never reach that end. Faith alone open our minds to the experience of God and His eternal love and compassion. It opens us up to the possibility of that which is not confined by the limits of this world. At the same time we are filled with the confidence in the providential love behind this that we are freed from fear and anxiety.
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.
December 14, 2017
Tonight we completed Homily 27 and began Homily 28. Both have as their main concern, “Theoria”, or contemplation. St Isaac continues to stress the place and importance of Angels in our spiritual lives. They perceive the truths and mysteries of God and creation, including our spiritual state. Their main purpose is to teach and guide us in accord with the light of truth and God’s providence.
As human beings we know certain limitations in our reception of truth and capacity for Theoria. There is an inconstancy and unevenness in our response to God and so our confidence must also be tempered always in this world by fear of judgment. We must never cease to strive for vigilance.
Demons however only draw close to destroy us and not to profit us. While they share the keen vision of Angels they lack light and know only darkness. They can’t but lead us along the path of destruction. Less powerful than Angels, for this reason they still can influence us and deceive us through presenting a phantom of the truth.
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.