I prostrate myself, Lord, at the footstool of your feet and at your holy right hand which has fashioned and made me a human being capable of becoming aware of you. But I have sinned and done wrong, both in myself and before you, for I have abandoned holy converse with you and have given my days over to converse with the passions. I beg of you, Lord, do not set against me the sins of my youth, the ignorance of my old age, and the frailty of my nature…Rather, turn my heart towards you, away from the troublesome distraction of the passions; cause to dwell within me a hidden light. Your acts of goodness towards me always anticipate any kind of volition on my part to do well and any readiness for virtue on the part of my heart. You have never held back your care to test my freewill; rather, as with the care of a father towards his young son, so has your care for me run after me,…for you knew all the time that, even less than a child do I know whither I am traveling.
At the door of your compassion do I knock, Lord. Send aid to my scattered impulses, which are intoxicated with the multitude of the passions and the power of darkness. You can see my sores hidden within me: stir up contrition – though not corresponding to the weight of my sins, for if I receive full awareness of the extent of my sins, Lord, my soul would be consumed with the bitter pain from them…. O name of Jesus, key to all gifts, open up for me the great door to your treasure-house, that I may enter and praise you with the praise that comes from the heart in return for your mercies which I have experienced in latter days; for you came and renewed me with an awareness of the New World.
From The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian by Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev
I am particularly struck by St. Isaac’s words:
Your acts of goodness towards me always anticipate any kind of volition on my part to do well and any readiness for virtue on the part of my heart. You have never held back your care to test my freewill;
It is an excellent testimony and commentary on the mercy of God. His goodness towards us “always anticipates any kind of volition on my part to do well.” There is grace given to us even before we choose the good. We are not placed in a system of rewards and punishments. “You have never held by your care to test my freewill.”
God knows us – it’s that simple – as well as His love. If He knows us, He does not need to test us. And His love for us is such as to set a merciful path before us.
This is not to say that everyone has it easy. Much to the contrary. But by grace, every hardship we receive is not to test or to punish, but is given as opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ – if we will but receive it.
What human suffering did Christ not make His own? He seeks unity with us in all things. And the “door of the treasure-house” remains open for us.