November 24, 2020
Isaac certainly presents us with solid food. We’ve come to the end of homily 74. Isaac begins to describe for us the image of a heart that is truly dead to the world and how it perceives the mode of life of the new man. In other words, a life free from the ego and from the drive of the passions takes on the New Adam and begins to share in the fullness of the life of resurrection. One begin to contemplate the revelation of the Divine. In this sense of the desert Fathers become for us a mirror; in it we see whether or not we have died to the things of this world and our attachments to the world and perceive the true beauty of the life that is held before us. If we stop for a moment and think about spending the day in silence, we see that our heart and our thoughts flit about as moths around a light. We are easily distracted.
In homily 75, Isaac lays out before us a practice of prayer that may be unfamiliar to most - keeping vigil in prayer during the night. Isaac begins by offering us a prayer to be said at the beginning of such a time. We are to call out to God to shelter us from our common enemy, to free us from the distractions of our passions in order that we might enter into the sacred Liturgy with strength and clarity. Filled with grace, one sheds tears that purify the mind and the heart and allow us to love with tranquility and with the true freedom of chastity. One begins the liturgy without turmoil and filled with joy.
Issac speaks of the freedom that exists even within the prescribed practices. One might stand praying the psalms and yet the Spirit might lift the individual into a deep silence where time passes swiftly. It is then that one must give way to the guidance of the Spirit to be led in accord with the will of God and drawn swiftly to His Heart as He desires.
March 21, 2019
Tonight we continued following Isaac’s explication of the nature of faith in Homilies 52 and 53; how it brings us to a knowledge of God that transcends the senses and all worldly knowledge that comes through the intellect. He writes, “all the saints who have been found worthy to attain to this spiritual discipline, which is awestruck wonder of God, pass their lives by the power of faith in the delight of that discipline which is above nature.” The Comforter shows us the power that dwells within us at every moment and consumes with fire every part of the soul. Thus we are led into all truth - to comprehend God as He is in Himself. Faith then illuminates all things and leads the soul to stretch forth her thoughts and long for that which the eyes of the body see not.
We come to experience the certainty of faith that is not merely a confession of dogmatic beliefs but rather the union established with Christ through baptism and through obedience to His commandments. When we learn to be constantly alert and foster within true contrition, we come to walk the path trodden by the saints and to taste the peace of the kingdom.
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.
August 10, 2017
We continued our discussion of Homily 15 where St. Isaac teaches of the need to avoid negligence and laxity in the spiritual life. Those who seek purity of heart and avoid clinging to the things of the world begin to experience the light and life of the Holy Trinity. Those who experience such divine vision and bear that light within drive away demons.
However, the human heart can be ruined and wrecked by contact with those who feign purity, who are given over to perversions and whose actions desecrate all that is good and beautiful. One cannot live with one foot in the Kingdom and another within the world.
Our lives must be those of constant Repentance - a turning away from and hatred of all that keeps us from sharing in that fullness of life. The more we taste the sweetness of the the Holy Spirit the greater our desire for the kingdom should become.
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.
May 25, 2017
St. Isaac began his teaching with a few warnings last evening. The constancy of a soul and its purity is tested by the subtleties of vainglory. The moment one begins to trust in the strength of his virtue and to think it is invincible, he begins to speak freely of licentious subjects. He will then be inundated by unchaste thoughts and his mind will be defiled. The greater the vainglory the greater the subjugation to the passion.
Purity must be guard by bodily toil, reading of the scriptures, and care for the virtues until cleansing tears rise from the depths of the heart creating a fervent longing for God. Yet if tears are lost through negligence or sloth one cannot presume that this precious gift will be regained.
Affliction alone solidifies and purifies the virtues in the heart and once the heart is purified the Holy Spirit becomes the teacher and guide. Fervor and the desire it expresses guides one to God with an ever greater swiftness.
The pursuit of God must not be made in an over calculated fashion, where fear of perils hinders movement. Free reign must be given to desire and not held back by a false prudence masking a lack of courage.
April 14, 2016
As we come to the end of Conference 21, Abba Theonas raises the bar for us in terms of how we understand our lives as Christian men and women. He presents us with a magnificent comparison between focusing on our lives in a legalistic fashion (fulfilling certain precepts and obligations) and seeing our lives as being caught up in the grace of God and transcending the limitations of the law in every way.
Sin is to have no dominion over us for the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Every disposition to sin is to be something absolutely foreign to us since all our concentration and all our longing is constantly fixed upon the divine love and to such a degree that we do not take delight in base things and do not even make use of those things that would normally be conceded to us by our own judgment and that of the world's. The grace of the Savior is to inflame us with a holy love of incorruption which burns up all the thorns of evil desires such that the dying ember of vice does not diminish our integrity in any way.
This is something that must be experienced to be understood fully. The purity of heart and the all consuming love for God and the love virtue is rarely tasted in our day. May God fill us with the desire for it!
February 7, 2013
Importance of Holy Spirit in teaching Nous how to heal the soul; Holy Desire necessary for pursuing purity of Nous, Striving for perfection; Asceticism and Modern Culture; How to communicate the value of asceticism.