August 11, 2016
After a brief hiatus, the group came to the end of Conference 23. Once again we found ourselves grappling, along with Cassian and Germanus, with the fact that despite the holiness and perfection that one may reach, our weakness and sin draws us away from living in a constant state of communion with God. Created to live in a constant state of receptivity our sin leads to a flighty wandering of the mind and a turning away from God in a multitude of ways - even during the time of prayer.
The greater the perfection and holiness of the individual, the greater the experience of his own sinfulness and the deeper the compunction over the weakness of his constitution. Along with this comes a greater sense of his solidarity with others in that sin - the adulterous heart that turns away from God due to mere distractedness and laziness of mind is not in the end any less grave than what we often consider serious sins. Humility must be one's constant companion and mercy the constant attitude with which one approaches others.
The transgressions we commit daily and our infidelity to God requires not only humility but the medicine He gives through Holy Communion. This alone is the remedy for our sickness and its importance is understood only through action and experience. Let us daily call out to Him for mercy and consume the medicine of immortality.
February 12, 2015
Continuing our discussion of Conference Nine, we picked up with Abba Isaac's exposition of the final petitions of the Our Father: "And subject us not to the trial . . . but deliver us from evil." Trial is an inevitable part of the human condition and the spiritual life, but we seek in such trials the protection of God and the grace of perseverance and long-suffering so as not to succumb to the evil of the loss of our faith or to act in a way contrary to God's will. We ask not to be tried beyond our capacity.
When praying, care must be given not to seek those things that our transitory in nature and nothing base or temporal. To do so is to offer great injury to God's largesse and grandeur with the paltriness of our prayer.
Abba Isaac then moves on to discuss the more sublime character of "wordless prayer" that transcends understanding and to which few are called. It is a infusion of divine light through which God can in a brief moment fill the mind and heart. The precondition of this prayer is the breaking and humbling of the heart which is expressed through compunction and the overflow of tears that purify the heart.
A rather lengthy discussion ensued about the potential enigma of philokalic spirituality to the Western mind - the setting aside of imagination and the focus on taking every thought captive so as to eventually be brought to unceasing prayer.