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Tonight we began reading homily 51. To say it was challenging is an understatement. Saint Isaac presents us with the gospel in its purity and challenges us to abandon our comfortable and limited perception of the truth; in particular our understanding of mercy and justice. Isaac, in stark terms, tells us that rash zeal and fanaticism have no place in the spiritual life and in our relationships with others. We are not allowed to give way to our desire to judge others according to our own sensibilities. We are to put on the mind of Christ and our love for others is to be cruciform. 
 
Very often we take a morbid delight in assuming the position of power within relationships, enjoying correcting others when in reality we only add to their suffering. Furthermore, our rebuke of others only has the effect of undermining our own spiritual lives. Isaac bluntly tells us that to judge another is like a father slowly strangling his own beloved son. 
 
We can only understand Issac’s teachings from the perspective of the life of Grace and Theosis. We must be conformed to and transformed by Divine Love in every way.  
 
In the weeks and months to follow, St Isaac will draw us deeper into the mystery of God’s mercy and the beauty of the human person made in His image.
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Tonight we read homily 50 in its entirety. St Isaac presents us and leads us through the experience of darkness that often overcomes the solitary and anyone who is seeking to experience God as he is in himself. The path to contemplation and communion involves the movement between darkness and consolation where one comes to experience both the profound nature of their sin and of God’s mercy and love. The deepest trial belongs to solitary or hermit who desires through purity of heart to know God and know him alone and seeks simply the consolation of faith. The darkness of one so detached is beyond words and comprehension, feeling the heart and mind with slip into utter poverty. Only God can allow a person to persevere and only God can console. 
 
Even those who are engaged in external works will experience this kind of despondency. They must learn to seek out counsel but more importantly they must learn to remain in their cell. That is, we must all learn to remain focused upon God, to open the mind and the heart to he alone who knows who we are and can plumb the depths of the mystery.
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Tonight we read Homily 49 of St Isaac the Syrian. St Isaac begins to introduce us to how God‘s providence works for the soul’s advancement in things spiritually; in other words, how God leads us to greater intimacy with him and contemplation of him. A man makes his way through the ascetical life towards a disdain for the things of this world. He begins to contemplate is departure from this life and this contemplation begins to create a greater longing for the things of the kingdom. Meditation upon death must become a regular part of the spiritual life.  So valuable is this remembrance of death, Saint Isaac tells us, that Satan greatly abhors the thought. He wars against it; seeking to make man focus upon the riches of this world, distracting him with things that appeal to the senses. 
 
The more a man meditates upon death the more he is filled with wonder over the vision of divine things and longs for their sweetness. Theoria is a God given grace and fruit of repentance and an upright heart. Repentance and good discipline reveals to us God‘s providence in every aspect of our life. It shows is how God seeks to free us from the bonds of this world and to draw us to himself. Stirred by divine love a man becomes awestruck with wonder and his heart longs to be taken captive. There are moments when he no longer remembers himself and the ego is set aside radically. Through theoria God begins to reveal hidden things to man; those things that cannot be understood through human nature. Blessed is the man who is kept well this good seed once it has fallen into his soul.
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This evening we had a rich discussion of the final three paragraphs of homily 48. St. Isaac gives us wonderful counsel in regards to our speech. We are to guard the tongue and not give free reign to anger. To constrain our speech allows us to experience compunction and to see the presence of our own impatience and lack of love. Silence breeds conversion and freedom from the passion.
 
In our relations with others we are not to focus on teaching and preaching or correcting others but rather providing for their basic and fundamental needs. Quite simply we are to love others and allow this to do our speaking for us. Good example always trumps words. Likewise negligence and laxity has a negative impact upon others. Before seeking to reform others we must reform our own hearts.
 
The freedom that has been given to us in Christ is something that must be protected and valued. Only in this way are we kept from being dragged down by anxiety or fear. Living for Christ and in Christ fills our hearts with an everlasting hope and peace.
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Continuing with homily number 48, Saint Isaac speaks to us of the essential place of asceticism in the spiritual life. We must seek in every way to allow the passions to be transformed by the grace of God and through discipline of mind and body. Only in this way will we be able to experience something of the lasting joy and peace of God and the Kingdom. Through our senses we are in a constant state of communion with and receptivity to the world around us. Yet our sin makes us vulnerable and our vision of the things of the world become distorted. Conscience becomes malformed and so good appears to be evil and evil appears to be good. Only by being dead to life in this world, that is, dead to our attachment to the things of this world and our own desires can we be free to desire and love God. Ease and idleness are the very destruction of the soul and, St. Isaac tells us, injure the soul more than demons. Through our negligence we open the door for temptations to freely enter and so we darken the soul. 

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We continued tonight with the sixth part of Saint Isaac the Syrian’s 48th homily. Isaac begins to emphasize for us once again the importance of the ascetical life, bringing order out of disorder, in opening the mind and the heart to comprehend the truths of Scripture and the mysteries in which we participate that draws us into the life of God. Without order, darkness and confusion reign in the soul. Likewise, without love of neighbor and mercy, love for God will wither. 
 
Having said this, however, Isaac wants us to understand that stillness and silence must be cultivated and given priority. It is here alone that prayer can be cultivated. Silence allows us to listen to God and be strengthened by his love. Silence can never be neglected and we should never give ourselves over to distraction or excessive activity.
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We continued our reading of homily 48 of St. Isaac the Syrian. St. Isaac begins to describe how we must set aside our past life. Above all we must seek God and to love virtue and hate sin. In our pursuit of virtue we must always guard our hearts against vain glory; attributing every good and perfect gift to God and God alone. The moment we see ourselves as the source of virtue we become like a ship crashing into the reef. Destruction is sure to follow. We must not even trust ourselves in the sorrow that we experience in the face of our sin. We must realize that such sadness can simply be rooted in our sense of shame rather than our love of God and desire for conversion. The impact of God’s grace must be all-encompassing; transforming our speech, our manner of thought, our way of life and our senses. Others must see the radical change in our countenance and our actions. As Christians we are not meant to fit into this world.

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Tonight we continued our reading of Saint Isaac the Syrian’s Homily number 48. After having spoken about fraternal correction and having divine love as the standard that we follow, Isaac turns his thoughts to allowing the heart to be overcome by fervor for God. We must develop a longing for the age to come and a deep hope for heaven. 
 
The one who longs for heaven keeps before his mind’s eye the thought of death. We do not live for this world but we are citizens of heaven - those sharing a dignity and destiny that God alone has made possible -  to share in the fullness of divine life and love. 
 
Our longing for God leads us to watch for him at every moment, to make our life itself become prayer. Christ is the pearl of great price and we should be willing to let go of all things in order to pursue and possess him. We should cherish the solitude in which God speaks to us in the language of silence and where he is comprehended by the vision of faith. 
 
God is the eternal rock upon which we find stability and security. He is the cornerstone that holds our lives together.
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We continued our discussion of homily 48, in particular St. Isaac’s reflection upon fraternal correction. So often our understanding of such correction involves a spirit of vengeance and the desire to humiliate another or to take retribution. Can we say, though, that our attempts at fraternal correction are like that of God’s?  It is the Cross that leads us to repentance - that reveals the depth of our sin and the depth of God’s love. Do we correct through showing others greater love, by making ourselves more vulnerable and more generous towards them?

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Tonight we continued with our reading of homily 48 of Saint Isaac the Syrian. It is both beautiful and challenging. Isaac begins by comparing humility and conceit and how God will chastise the soul to bring healing - opening our eyes to the poverty of pride. 
 
Isaac uses this as a prelude to speaking to us about fraternal correction. We must always approach others not from the position of power but rather humbly and with the desire only to heal. We must never shame someone publicly or offend against love.  Behind all things must be the remembrance of God that guides and directs our actions and reminds us of the dignity of the other.
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