We found ourselves quite suddenly at the denouement of Cassian's Conferences - Abba Isaac's beautiful description of how to engage in unceasing prayer and the formula to be used. However, this seemed less like a spiritual discourse and more like a privileged view of the heart and experience of the old man seasoned in the practice of prayer. The very reading of it was a prayer - which Abba Isaac acknowledges that Germanus and Cassian were only able to receive because the ground of their hearts had been prepared through long years of discipline and fidelity to the spiritual life. The shape of the prayer is the uninterrupted and repeated saying of Psalm 70:1, "O God, incline unto my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me." Abba Isaac reveals how it adjusts itself to every condition and affliction and protects every virtue. Yet, it does far more than that: Abba Isaac states that "straitened by the poverty of this verse (having forgone any thought but that of God), the soul will very easily attain to that gospel beatitude which holds the first place among the other beatitudes. For it says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Through it one professes oneself to be the Lord's beggar.
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