April 11, 2019
Tonight we continued our discussion of homily 54. Isaac begins to explain to us the importance of tears in the spiritual life as a reflection of true repentance and as a fruit of repentance. Through rumination on our sin and through meditation upon the reality of the brevity of our life we come to mourn what has been lost through sin and begin to find that our only hope is in what Christ can offer. It is the vision of this that fills the soul with joy.
Isaac then shows us that the solitary life and the vocation of the solitary reveals that we cannot neglect the interior life. We are not mere secular humanists, but our strength is in the Lord and our capacity to love comes only through his grace.
Finally Isaac calls us to hold fast and to have courage in the spiritual battle, for God is our guardian and protector. Without his grace all things would be ravaged by the evils and consequences of sin. We must not let affliction strip us of hope but hold fast to our faith in what the cross shows us; that in self-emptying love we experience now our destiny and dignity in Christ. Even if we were to lose all sense of security in this world, our hope is invincible if we are immersed in the love of the Lord.
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.
December 7, 2018
We continued with our discussion of homily 51 and once again Isaac through a kind of holy genius guides us deep within the truths of the gospel - In particular how we are to understand the nature of divine love and mercy and the hope that it brings to our soul and how it transforms the way that we look at others. He begins by warning us that asceticism absent a life of love and mercy is to be pitied. If we make ourselves castigators and chastisers we promise ourselves only a miserable life.
If we are weak in the spiritual life we must set ourselves with a strong resolve to at least strive within our limits. If we are not peacemakers we must at least not be troublemakers. If we are angry with others in our hearts we must hold our tongues and remain silent. If we judge others or allow them to be consumed by the anger of others, then we are accomplices and bear their guilt upon our shoulders.
In all of this, Isaac teaches us that humility is the key virtue that produces peace within the heart and leads us to the joy of the kingdom. Humility is truthful living, a willingness to see the poverty of our sin, to acknowledge the futility of our life without Christ.
We closed the evening by simply touching upon one of the most powerful teachings and reflections of St. Isaac. He tells us that divine hope uplifts the heart but fear of Gehenna crushes it. What does the love of God, he asks, tell us about hell? Do we desire the salvation of all as God himself desires it; or do we project our desire for retribution and worldly justice upon God?
November 8, 2018
Tonight we began reading homily 51. To say it was challenging is an understatement. Saint Isaac presents us with the gospel in its purity and challenges us to abandon our comfortable and limited perception of the truth; in particular our understanding of mercy and justice. Isaac, in stark terms, tells us that rash zeal and fanaticism have no place in the spiritual life and in our relationships with others. We are not allowed to give way to our desire to judge others according to our own sensibilities. We are to put on the mind of Christ and our love for others is to be cruciform.
Very often we take a morbid delight in assuming the position of power within relationships, enjoying correcting others when in reality we only add to their suffering. Furthermore, our rebuke of others only has the effect of undermining our own spiritual lives. Isaac bluntly tells us that to judge another is like a father slowly strangling his own beloved son.
We can only understand Issac’s teachings from the perspective of the life of Grace and Theosis. We must be conformed to and transformed by Divine Love in every way.
In the weeks and months to follow, St Isaac will draw us deeper into the mystery of God’s mercy and the beauty of the human person made in His image.