March 12, 2020
Tonight we concluded homily 71 and began homily 72. Once again Isaac serves us solid food. He presents us with an image of humility and faith perhaps unlike anything that we have ever considered before and calls us not to allow it to become a dead letter but rather something that raises us up to the fullness of life and love. Can we let go of our worldly knowledge, our natural knowledge that comes through the senses and is shaped by the intellect and rather allow ourselves to comprehend what God reveals through and in faith? For it means allowing ourselves to become fools in the eyes of the world, to become like children, like infants, unable to communicate clearly but able to receive the love and protection that the Father offers us.
In this we are called to be like Christ himself, who in all things says “Thy will be done.” Can we entrust ourselves so radically to the providence of God that we lose all fear and anxiety and become aware of Him and Him alone – trusting that we are in His care and allow, as Isaac says, “Grace to hold us in the palm of her hand”?
Unless we live in this radical humility and faith we will have no inkling of the essence of God. But we will know instead is the distorted image of our own minds and imagination. Are we willing to receive the paltry alms that such a limited faith offers? Do we truly desire and ling for the Heavenly Bridegroom? Do we desire God as He is in Himself?
July 25, 2019
We’ve come to a very special homily of Saint Isaac – homily 62. Here he begins to guide us along the path of the spiritual life and battle. He opens our eyes to what the struggle holds out to us - to live in the love of God and to know the consolation He alone offers. The natural man, as it were, experiences only fear; in particular fear of death. The one who develops some knowledge of his own passions and begins to struggle with them experiences growth and health but continues to sit in fear of judgment. But the one who has wholly given his life over to God not only loses that attraction to the passions but also loses all fear. He begins to taste the love of God and His sweetness. This is what draws him forward. There is nothing greater than joy in the Lord and nothing more to be desired the knowledge of him.
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.
March 15, 2019
We continued our consideration of homily 52 where St Isaac describes for us the various degrees of knowledge. Tonight he discussed the second degree of knowledge. The person begins to turn away from the merely sensual and by the love of the soul begins to turn toward God through the ascetical life, i.e., the practices of fasting, prayer, mercy, reading of the Scriptures, and the battle with the passions. The Holy Spirit perfects this work and this action and so lays the foundation for greater purity of heart and opens up a path to the reception of faith.
The third third degree of knowledge that St. Isaac describes refines what has been acquired through the action of the spirit and the ascetical life: the soul stretches towards God and through the gift of faith comes to experience and taste the hidden mysteries of the kingdom and the depths of the unfathomable sea of God’s love.
February 14, 2019
Tonight we continued our reading of homily 52. Saint Isaac begins to speak to us about the various degrees of knowledge and starts in particular with the knowledge that cleaves to the love of the body. Such a knowledge comes only through the senses and Saint Isaac calls it “common knowledge”; a knowledge that is naked of concern for God and sees the self as the sole source of providence. It is driven by a person’s concern and care for the things of this world and for their own safety and security. Every innovation and invention has its roots in anxiety and fear of losing what one possesses. Beyond this it leads to judgment of others as standing in opposition to what one desires. Everyone becomes a threat of one kind or another and one becomes driven to seek positions of emotional power in relationships and control. Faith, however, fosters humility and the true knowledge of our poverty as human beings and our need for God‘s grace and mercy. We are but dust and we must hold on to He who is the Lord of life and the governor of history. In God alone do we find peace.
February 7, 2019
We continued our discussion tonight of homily 52 where St. Isaac again tells us that knowledge is perfected by faith and acquires the power to ascend on high, to perceive that which is higher than every perception and to see the radiance of God that is incomprehensible to the mind and knowledge of created things. It gives us a foretaste of things to come and reveals the future perfection.
The works of virtue lead us to faith. But even they are only steps by which the soul ascends to the more lofty height of faith. The way of life proper to faith is more exalted than all things in this world - even that of virtue.
Lengthy discussion ensued about the struggles in this world to pursue genuine faith – how we often settle for something far less than what God offers. We seek security in the world more than intimacy with God. Unceasing prayer and the means to such prayer are often neglected or unknown. Often we seek to shape our spiritual life according to our own judgment rather than according to the mind of God.
January 24, 2019
Tonight we continued reading homily number 52. St Isaac begins to unpack for us the difference between worldly knowledge and the knowledge that comes through faith. Faith always transcends the world and lifts us up above the limits of nature. In many ways faith shakes knowledge to its foundations. With the eyes of faith we see that nothing is impossible and that even if we were stripped of everything in this world we still possess all. Those who cling to worldly knowledge are always filled with the kind of anxiety, seeking ways to protect themselves from reality or to protect what they possess. They seek to use every way and means to assure themselves of what it is that they see.
But faith is never vanquished by anything. What can human knowledge offer in the face of open conflict or war, in particular war against invisible beings? Faith offers us unspeakable wealth - the very riches of the kingdom itself. To turn away from faith is to fall into destitution, to freely return to a place of slavery. So often we cast aside the pearl of great price, sharing in the Sonship of Christ for the limited things of this world.
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.
August 16, 2018
We picked up this evening with homily 47 where Saint Isaac continues to discuss the distinction between natural knowledge and spiritual knowledge. Natural knowledge provides us with the ability to distinguish between good and evil. When we foster this knowledge and embrace it, repentance is born in the heart and we turn more more fully away from our sin toward God. It is then that we can receive the gift of faith through which we obtain spiritual knowledge. Such faith gives rise to the vision of the divine. We see more fully our identity in Christ and the life He has made possible for us. What is laborious and toilsome then becomes light and easy because we are no longer driven by fear or sorrow alone but by love.
In Homily 48, St. Isaac begins to take us through various aspects of the spiritual life starting with the necessity of humility in all things. It reaches its perfection when we see our weakness and poverty fully.
Along with humility we must foster a spirit of gratitude; avoiding the murmuring disposition that arises when we lose sight of God’s mercy and love. When suffering or when faced with evil we must not lose sight of the fact that God is the Lord of Love and the Governor of History. All things are in His hands despite the evil that so often manifests itself within the world and even the Church.
August 13, 2018
Tonight we concluded Homily 46. St. Isaac again expresses the centrality of the holy Eucharist in giving us the strength to live and love as Christ desires. It is through the love that we receive at his hand that we are transformed. In Christ, the sinful, the sick and the hopeless find the desire for holiness, healing and trust in the promise of the Kingdom.
In Homily 47 St Isaac begins to discuss the distinction between natural and spiritual knowledge. We have all been gifted with the capacity to discern between good and evil. This natural knowledge, pursued and fostered, prepares us to receive the gift of faith and so the knowledge of God. If neglected however we will find ourselves impoverished, less than what we are to be as human beings; more like animals than those who have been made sons and daughters of God. We must live in a constant state of repentance, allowing it to draw us back to God and to the full measure of our humanity. Only then can we be raised up to share in the fullness of the life of God and experience the hope of eternity.