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…

Wrongly Directed Zeal

St. Isaac the Syrian speaks of two kinds of zeal.  In homily 51 he speaks of a “sick” zeal, a “wrong” zeal.  And in homily 55 St. Isaac speaks of zeal as a “watchdog” and “shield” of the soul.  However, to say these are two different kinds of zeal is not quite correct.  Both find their origin in the natural, “incensive” faculty of the soul.  This is an old English word that…

Evangelism According To St. Isaac The Syrian

When you wish to exhort someone toward the good, at first give comfort to his body and honour him with words of love.  For nothing so persuades a man to feel shame, and causes him to exchange his evils for what is better, as the bodily benefactions and the honour which he receives from you.  And a second means of persuasion is a man’s diligent effort to make himself a laudable example. …

St. Isaac And The Passions

In the comment section of a previous post, these questions were asked.  I thought I would address my response in a full blog post.  I hope it makes sense. Two questions Father: 1) Can you explain more how the passions can never fully be uprooted from the soul? I tend to think of the soul as only having good qualities, and now becoming Orthodox I see that this is not what the…

Stillness and Love: Shunning Your Neighbour To Love Your Neighbour?

St. Isaac the Syrian’s homily 44 is one of his several very difficult homilies.  It is difficult not because it is hard to understand.  Exactly the opposite is the case.  It is quite straight forward and easy to understand.  I understand it, and I am offended by it.  Homily 44 is a letter written to another monk who loves stillness exhorting him to guard that stillness by avoiding contact with others.  St.…

Disciplines, The Shifting Meaning of Words, and the Narrow Way

In Homily 43, St. Isaac speaks of three areas of ‘discipline,’ or areas in which we must guide or rule our life.  Proper discipline in these areas leads to purity.  These three areas are bodily discipline, leading to purification of the body; discipline of the mind, leading to purification of the soul; and spiritual discipline, leading to purification of the mind.  Now right off the bat you might notice that St. Isaac…

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…

St. Isaac’s Warning Applied to Advice From Holy Elders

In Homily 42, St. Isaac the Syrian makes an interesting statement about spiritual guidance.  He says, “Do not seek advice from a man who does not lead a life similar to your own, even if he be very wise.”  St. Isaac goes on, “Confide your thoughts to a man who, though he lack learning, has experience in things, rather than to a learned philosopher who speaks on the basis of speculations, having…

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…