May 23, 2019
Tonight we began homily 57. Isaac starts by telling us “Blessed is he who lives a vigilant life in this world”! Vigilance is one of the central teachings of the fathers and it behooves us to ask ourselves what it looks like in modern times. What does it mean to be vigilant in age so filled with distraction, noise and temptation? Once again Isaac tells us that there is no Sabbath for us in this world, no day of rest when it comes to seeking the Lord and living a life of virtue. We cannot be under the illusion that we can outwit the demons who never rest. We must live in hope and and hope alone. He who is virtuous must place his trust in God not himself. The one deep in sin though can hope that God in His mercy will come to his aid and lift him up in his poverty. He need only turn toward God with a repentant heart.
Isaac quickly moves the discussion toward the absolute importance of humility. He tells us “the man who has a foretaste and in truth receives the recompense of good things is superior to him who possesses the work of virtue.” Virtue is the mother of mourning and mourning leads to humility. We must never attribute virtue to ourselves but only to God. It is He who lifts us up like a child to gaze upon us face-to-face. But we must allow Him to lift us. We must acknowledge that He raises us out of our sin.
April 5, 2018
We continued our discussion of Homily 37 and began with St. Isaac’s distinction between revelations and visions. Visions are concrete appearances of the incorporeal world such as angels and saints and are consolation for those who have embraced the anchoritic life in particular. Stripped of all worldly attachments God strengthens and encourages such individuals for the ascetic life. Revelations however come to the perfect and pure of heart and give insights into eschatological future states. The intellect (Nous) is engaged and participated in the Kingdom. It is an inward mystical experience.
The fathers, including Isaac, make these distinctions because of the dangers of prelest or delusion. Purity of heart is essential. A man must be free from outside modes of knowledge and embrace a kind of primordial simplicity and guilelessness.
It is in this profound childlike and humble state that God can raise one up to experience his love and life. Such purity comes through spiritual mourning and compunction. Humbled by the truth He raises us up. This is not raw emotionalism but rather a life wholly directed toward God and desiring Him. Such weeping purifies memory and imagination so that nothing holds a person back from God.
June 27, 2013
JOYFUL SORROW: TEARS OF REPENTANCE THAT LEAD US INTO THE EMBRACE OF LOVE
In this step John discusses the source of tears and what they do for the soul. Not only are they a gift of God which purifies our hearts and drains away our passions, but true tears produce joy within the heart. Mourning gives way to the consolation of being forgiven by and reconciled with God.
At the heart of our mourning, then, is love for God. We weep because we long for God and the love that He alone can provide. According to John, this makes it one of the most important and essential of virtues.