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Tonight we continued our discussion of homily 64. It is rich in every way. Every sentence could be reflected upon for hours and once again Isaac does not waste a single word. The spiritual life involves allowing ourselves to be drawn by love and to love the things that draw us to God. We are to love humility, to love chastity, and to love contrition. All of these things free us from the impediments to experiencing the fullness of the life of God, free us from those things that prevent us from entering into the Paschal mystery and being transformed by it. Silence itself is to be treasured because in silence we allow God to speak a word that is equal to Himself. Silence illuminates like the sun, it removes ignorance and most important of all that unites us to God.

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Tonight we continued following Isaac’s explication of the nature of faith in Homilies 52 and 53; how it brings us to a knowledge of God that transcends the senses and all worldly knowledge that comes through the intellect. He writes,  “all the saints who have been found worthy to attain to this spiritual discipline, which is awestruck wonder of God, pass their lives by the power of faith in the delight of that discipline which is above nature.”  The Comforter shows us the power that dwells within us at every moment and consumes with fire every part of the soul. Thus we are led into all truth - to comprehend God as He is in Himself. Faith then illuminates all things and leads the soul to stretch forth her thoughts and long for that which the eyes of the body see not. 
 
We come to experience the certainty of faith that is not merely a confession of dogmatic beliefs but rather the union established with Christ through baptism and through obedience to His commandments. When we learn to be constantly alert and foster within true contrition, we come to walk the path trodden by the saints and to taste the peace of the kingdom.

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Continuing our discussion of Conference Nine, we picked up with Abba Isaac's exposition of the final petitions of the Our Father: "And subject us not to the trial . . . but deliver us from evil."  Trial is an inevitable part of the human condition and the spiritual life, but we seek in such trials the protection of God and the grace of perseverance and long-suffering so as not to succumb to the evil of the loss of our faith or to act in a way contrary to God's will.  We ask not to be tried beyond our capacity.

When praying, care must be given not to seek those things that our transitory in nature and nothing base or temporal. To do so is to offer great injury to God's largesse and grandeur with the paltriness of our prayer.
Abba Isaac then moves on to discuss the more sublime character of "wordless prayer" that transcends understanding and to which few are called.  It is a infusion of divine light through which God can in a brief moment fill the mind and heart.  The precondition of this prayer is the breaking and humbling of the heart which is expressed through compunction and the overflow of tears that purify the heart.
A rather lengthy discussion ensued about the potential enigma of philokalic spirituality to the Western mind - the setting aside of imagination and the focus on taking every thought captive so as to eventually be brought to unceasing prayer.  

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JOYFUL SORROW: TEARS OF REPENTANCE THAT LEAD US INTO THE EMBRACE OF LOVE

In this step John discusses the source of tears and what they do for the soul.  Not only are they a gift of God which purifies our hearts and drains away our passions, but true tears produce joy within the heart.  Mourning gives way to the consolation of being forgiven by and reconciled with God.

At the heart of our mourning, then, is love for God.  We weep because we long for God and the love that He alone can provide.  According to John, this makes it one of the most important and essential of virtues.

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ON PENITENCE AND THE AVOIDANCE OF PRESUMPTION

John begins this step with a somewhat moderate and encouraging tone by describing repentance as a "renewal of one's baptism and a contract with God for a fresh start in life."  With repentance there is always hope and never despair.  As penitents we stand before our God guilty, but never disgraced.  Indeed, we inflict punishments on ourselves out of love for God, in an attempt to reconcile ourselves to him and to receive the peace that comes through his forgiveness.

However, if there is a step in the "Ladder" which pierces one's heart, if there is any part of the book which really shakes us and brings the message home, it is precisely this step concerning those blessed and compunctionate and voluntary inmates of "the Prison."  For truly these holy ones, crazed for Christ, described by John, are a mirror for us, the sluggish and indolent, to look into and to behold how wanting we are in the realm of true heartfelt repentance.  They were earnest and serious about their repentance; we are light and distracted concerning our salvation.  Some are repelled by the Prison of the "Ladder", while others are pierced and moved by the love for God and strength of soul of these stouthearted inmates, and mourn the lack of both in themselves.

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