March 16, 2017
In the final paragraph of Homily Four, St. Isaac exhorts us to die to all things and the doings of the world that give rise to the passions. He acknowledges that there is a a kind of madness to this as seen from a worldly perspective and that reality gets turned on its head. But it is only when we trust to the Lord by embracing this path fully that we will experience the sweetness of spiritual inebriation. Though difficult, he encourages us not to lose hope for the mere movement of toward God and the mere expression of desire for holiness brings with it a flood of grace and mercy.
Homily Five begins by reminding us that we have received all that we need through the revelation of nature and the scriptures to guide and direct us in the spiritual life; especially the reality of our own mortality. Death gives rise to the question of the meaning of our lives and what path we are going to pursue. We cannot, however, approach these realities and think that we can stand still or refrain from offering any response. "Whoever does not voluntarily withdraw himself from the passions is involuntarily drawn away by sin." There is no static position for us as human beings. We must withdraw from the causes of the passions and set ourselves toward the good; realizing that God honors not wealth but rather poverty of spirit, not pride but humility.
In the spiritual battle, we must engage "manfully", that is, with courage. We must not doubt God is our Helper in the good work otherwise we will be scared of our own shadow. If we hope in Him, however, we will experience Him as one who manages our "household", that is, our heart and sends His angels to strengthen and encourage us.
Never hold any sin to be slight. To love God is to hate evil and our sin, no matter how grave or small in our eyes. And having made any strides in the spiritual life, it must be seen as mere fidelity and obedience to what is commanded of us. Pride must have no place within us.
Sin must be fought and healed with the right remedies. Lack of chastity cannot be healed by giving great alms and fasting does not overcome avarice. In place of the loss of sanctity God requires sanctification. Lack of chastity must be restored to purity.
March 9, 2017
Isaac puts forward a vision of renunciation rarely conceived of by the Christian - involving the setting aside of all things internal and external that draw us away from God or leave us with a false view of the self. Everything pales in comparison to seeking within the soul the mystery of blessedness which is of the future age.
February 23, 2017
In this section of the 4th Homily Isaac warns: "Do not take it upon yourself to teach others while still in ill health; rather consider yourself ignorant and always a novice - preferring humility, holiness and purity to all things. Guard against becoming mere vendors of words and arm yourself with the weapons of tears, fasting and the study of scripture and the Fathers.
January 7, 2016
Living in the desert, having access to a holy elder, and being surrounded by those of great virtue is not a guarantee that one will grow in humility and patience. The true battle ground is within the heart and the fierce struggle that must take place is with one's own dispositions. The Christian must undergo a decisive change in the way they look at reality and the struggles of life. The pursuit of holiness and virtue must become the center of consciousness - the frame of reference; as well as an unceasing reliance upon the grace of God through prayer. The wisdom that must guide us in our reaction to the slights and insults of others must be the wisdom of the cross; the ego must as it were be crucified in love for God and neighbor. Our natural disposition so often is to defend and strike back rather than to receive with love the hatred of others in such a way that it can be transformed by the love of God.
December 12, 2013
Stillness may be equated to peace of soul; the absence of spiritual warfare and the presence of calm. We beginners in the spiritual life cannot imagine what it would be like to be totally unaffected by the disquietude of the world; it is beyond our ability to comprehend never being tempted to speak in haste and never experiencing the movements of anger in our hearts. The beginner must be content with experiencing moments of this peace. He must strive to win this peace, by overcoming all the passions which seek to overthrow it.
It is only when we begin to center our thoughts on the spiritual world within by pushing far from us the noise of the external world that we notice how little peace is found there. The first notice of this peacelessness is often enough to drive many back to the diversions of the world. For some, the existential pain of their passionate soul is too great to bear and they choose to run away rather than stay and face it. For those who choose to stay, the experience of the true state of their souls is a necessary lesson. We first learn the presence of our soul by its pain rather than its peace. As we continue in our spiritual lives, it is this pain which will always direct us back to the concerns of the soul when we begin to stray.
As we set a priority on peace, we will begin to notice more and more the things in our lives that rob us of peace. We will begin to find the noise of this world to be a hindrance rather than a help. We will notice how much of our time is spent following distractions. We will begin to change our lifestyle on the basis of what produces peace in our souls. We will inevitably be led to a love of quiet and solitude.
However, an important thing to note is that this is a gradual process. St. John is very quick to point out the dangers of embracing too much "stillness" before we are spiritually ready: "The man who is foul-tempered and conceited, hypocritical and a nurse of grievances, ought never to enter the life of solitude, for fear that he should gain nothing but the loss of his sanity."
Above all, then, we must remember that the path to internal peace is not an easy one. Therefore, we must set ourselves for a long struggle. We will not achieve the state of constant peace in a day. Perhaps it is enough for us today not to have allowed anger to enter our soul; perhaps it is enough for us to have refrained from that idle word which stirs up passion; perhaps it is enough for us to have refrained from viewing those things which would have aroused our sexual passions. Each day we add virtue to virtue. Each day we embrace the struggle. Each day we repent of our failures. Each day we continue the struggle. In this way, although we may never be completely successful, we will never stop trying. And God who grants the prize, will consider our struggles to be victory and will grant us His peace for eternity.
January 17, 2013
How to Read the Fathers, What is Nepsis: Being present to where we are; Aliveness to God; the Mind as a sentry; Mindfulness; Attentiveness and Prayer must be combined; All the sense must be guarded as well as thoughts from demonic intrusions and temptations; the Relentlessness of the Demons; Necessity of Interrogating thoughts and questioning their origin; The never ending work of nepsis; Hatred for sin and swiftness in casting out sinful thoughts.