Being of One Mind: What It Is and Isn’t

One of the themes that resounds throughout St. Paul’s epistles is the exhortation that his spiritual children be of one mind, that they be likeminded.  In Romans and 1 Corinthians, St. Paul explicitly both prays for and commands that the believers be of one mind.  However, it is in the book of Philippians that St. Paul makes his most emotional plea—truly  of all of the Churches St. Paul wrote to, it is…

Deeds, Disposition and Humility

…[Christ] honours obedience by His actions, and experiences it by suffering.  Just as in our case, the mere disposition is an unsatisfactory thing unless we give it practical effect—for deeds are the proof of dispositions.  We may perhaps also make the not invalid assumption that He tests our obedience by the art of His philanthropy, and measures all our sufferings against His own, so that He is able to understand our condition…

Humility And Patience In Trials

In my last blog post, I spoke of two categories of trials discussed by St. Isaac in homily 42: trials that are the fruit of pride and trials that are allowed by God to create longing and are evidence of one drawing near to God.  Before I get into what St. Isaac says about patience and humility at the end of homily 42, I want correct a potential misunderstanding some of you…

Joy And Fear Together: St. Isaac Helps Us Discern Our Trials

Continuing in homily 42, St. Isaac gives us another warning.  When you find unchanging peace, that is, when everything is going smoothly for you most of the time, then “beware: you are very far from the divine paths trodden by the weary feet of the saints.  For as long as you are journeying in the way to the city of the Kingdom and are drawing nigh to the city of God, this…

Individualism and Charismatic Delusion

In an on-going discussion with my inquiring friend today, I respond to two questions.  First, why do traditional Christians call priests father; and second, why do we pray to saints (i.e. why don’t we just go to God ourselves)?  My friend is familiar with contemporary Charismatic Protestant Christianity, so I refer to this below. You know, both those questions are related in many ways. Today we are such individualists that it is hard…

Humility And The Unseen Martyrdom

Homily thirty-seven is one of St. Isaac’s longer homilies and consists of a series of questions and answers.  The questions are posed by an apparently fictional disciple and fellow struggler in the hermitic life.  The questions are such as, “What is spiritual prayer, and how is a man who struggles deemed worthy of [attaining] it?” Or, “How is it that many who, perhaps, practise these works do not sense tranquillity from passions…

Why Does God Humble Us?

Truly, O Lord, if we do not humble ourselves, You do not cease to humble us.  Real humility is the fruit of knowledge; and true knowledge, the fruit of trials. St. Isaac the Syrian  Homily 36 In homily 36, St. Isaac says that there are two levels to our being crucified with Christ.  The first level is physical and is a matter of our will.  It has to do with bringing our…

The Least I Can Do

One of the perennial struggles I have in the spiritual life comes from a form of pride that is lodged fast in me and manifests itself in an “all or nothing” attitude toward spiritual life and other life disciplines. It can take various forms in different arenas of my life, but it always follows a similar pattern. The pattern goes like this: I set a goal or rule or ideal for myself,…

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,…

Humility By Accident

In homily 24, St. Isaac points out a fundamental law of discernment:  “Everything that can be perceived by the senses, whether an action or a word, is a  manifestation of something hidden within.”   This principle of discernment is not given to us so that we can spy into the hearts of others by trying to surmise what is hidden in their hearts by scrutinizing their words and actions.  No, if we apply…