Some Thoughts on Rightly-Directed Zeal

In my last blog I spoke of one of the ways zeal can be wrongly directed.  Today I’d like to share a few thoughts on rightly directed zeal based on the 55th homily of St. Isaac the Syrian.  Let’s begin with this quote: In the beginning of its movement, the impulse of a desire of good is accompanied by a certain zeal, similar to coals of fire in its fervent heat.  Such…

Fear, Doubt and Closed Doors

While the tomb was sealed, You shone forth, O Life. While the doors were closed, You came to Your Disciples, O Christ God, renewing in us through them an upright spirit, according to the greatness of Your mercy, O Resurrection of all. Dismissal Hymn for Thomas Sunday As I have sung this hymn over and over again for the past few days, I have begun to think about what it means for…

Two Kinds of Confidence

Seeing Through A Glass Darkly In Homily 27, St. Isaac the Syrian speaks of two kinds of confidence. The first kind of confidence is what we generally mean when we say someone is confident. That is, the person is sure about what he or she is doing or saying.  St. Isaac tells us that this kind of confidence is spiritually dangerous. It is dangerous because we live in an age of changeability,…

St. Isaac and Theosis (and the Experience of Fear)

I am preparing now to give a presentation at the Antiochian Orthodox Institute in the Fall on the topic of divinization or theosis according to St. Isaac the Syrian.  I have been enjoying reading through the latest edition of St. Isaac’s homilies, and when I was asked to present a small lecture on some aspect of the topic of theosis, I suggested that my focus be St. Isaac.  Most of the time,…

Some Thoughts on Fear

For a while, when I was in my 30s, I was into rock climbing.  I never scaled any really large faces, although I did do a few three pitch climbs (a pitch is a little less than the length of a rope—50 metres). There are several levels of fear and even kinds of fear that one must encounter and work through as one climbs. There are irrational fears, like the fear of…

Shedding the Fear of God’s Wrath

Sister Vassa in her post on the Sunday of the Last Judgement says that the fear of God, when it is healthy, is manifest in us by the fear of disregarding our own conscience; for, as St. Isaac the Syrian says, our conscience is the voice of God within us. Many people struggle, however, with a different understanding of the fear of God. For them, fear of God refers to a fear…

Anger and Fear as Passions

There is something natural and healthy in our souls that St. Maximus the Confessor calls the “irascible aspect of the soul” and St. Basil the Great calls “temper” (at least in the English translations I am reading). This irascible aspect of the soul, or temper, when it is functioning in a healthy human being empowers the person do good and reject evil.  One might even say it is something like zeal. However,…

Love and Fear and Love

“For even true and genuine sons, ten parts of love should be mixed with five parts of fear.”   St. Isaac the Syrian The world is an unequal place. Some are born, as they say, with a silver spoon in their mouths; some are born into a world of need and instability. Some are born slaves, St. Isaac says, and some are born free; some are born into circumstances conducive to the…