Spiritual Discernment In The Fog, At Night, and Without My Glasses

Passions are like some hard [dark] substances that, standing in the midst between the light and vision, prevent the latter from discerning the difference of things. St. Isaac the Syrian  Homily 66 St. Isaac the Syrian speaks of noetic vision as natural knowledge, that is, knowledge of God, of one another and of created things that human beings in a healthy (not sinning) state would know, not rationally (by deduction) but by…

Silence and Baseball in Chicago

First let us force ourselves to be silent, and then from out of this silence something is born that leads us into Silence itself.  May God grant you to perceive some part of that which is born of silence. St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 64 I’m at an archdiocese convention in Chicago, in a huge hotel with hundreds and hundreds of people.  Last night, I went to a Cubs game with some…

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,…

Avoiding Destructive Good

Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 58 “…[The realization of the good we desire] belongs to God. For this, a man has need of God’s help.  Therefore we accompany our good desire with constant prayer, and we pray not only because we need help, but also so that we can distinguish whether it [the good we desire] is pleasing to God’s will or not. “For not every fair-seeming desire falls…

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…

Cowardliness In The Spiritual Life

St. Isaac the Syrian says that there are several ways the devil attacks a person.  The goal of these attacks is to make us pull back from our pursuit of godliness.  Transformation into the image of Christ is a synergistic experience.  We labour together with Christ.  On the other hand, it is also all Grace.  There is no love, joy, peace or patience (or any other of the fruit of the Spirit) without…

Tactics In The Spiritual Warfare

For when the causes of [temptation] are distant from [a person], he is not endangered by the twofold warfare, that is, the one which is both inward and outward.  See how much easier is the struggle when [a person] desires things that are afar off than when the very things themselves are close at hand and by their sight inflame the thoughts; for the struggle in the latter case is twofold.  …

Closing The Door To Tormenting Demons

“Beware of idleness,” St. Isaac the Syrian warns the hermits, for “without it a monk cannot fall into the hands of those who strive to enslave him.” St. Isaac warns hermits not to neglect psalmody nor prayer because in abandoning them, the solitary opens a door to the demons. The judgement of God comes upon us not because we have neglected spiritual discipline, as though God punishes us for legal omissions, failing…

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…