/ Language: English / Genre:antique




In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Summer and spring hast Thou fashioned (Psalms 73:18 [74:17 KJV]).

When a sailor voyages in the midst of the sea, he watches the stars and in relation to them he guides his ship until he reaches harbor. But a monk watches prayer, because it sets him right and directs his course to that harbor toward which his discipline should lead. A monk gazes at prayer at all times, so that it might show him an island where he can anchor his ship and take on provisions; then once more he sets his course for another island. Such is the voyage of a monk in this life: he sails from one island to another, that is, from knowledge to knowledge, and by his successive change of islands, that is, of states of knowledge, he progresses until he emerges from the sea and his journey attains to that true city, whose inhabitants no longer engage in commerce but each rests upon his own riches. Blessed is the man who has not lost his course in this vain world, on this great sea! Blessed is the man whose ship has not broken up and who has reached harbor with joy! [Homily 48.]

Bestower of Grace, loving Saviour of mortals,

O Christ God, be pleased to accept this oblation,

Of the prayers, deeds, and writings of wondrous Mar Isaac, Which arise like the fragrance of spiritual incense.



Pearls – Collection of Short Quotations Gathered From the Ascetical Homilies.

Apologia – A brief expostulation about the 'economy of speech' of the Holy Bible and -by extension- these Homilies with respect to the masculine and feminine genders.

The Homilies – [Page].

Homily One – [3]

On Renunciation and the Monastic Life.

Homily Two – [10]

On Thankfulness to God, In Which There Are Also Essential Elementary Lessons.

Homily Three – [16]

That Without Toil the Soul Enters Into Understanding of the Wisdom of God and of His Creatures, If She Becomes Still to the World and Life's Concerns; for Then She Can Come to Know Her Nature and What Treasures She Has Hidden Within Herself.

-On the Soul, the Passions, and the Purity of the Mind, in Questions and Answers. [17]

-On the Senses, and on Temptations Also. [22]

-On Our Master's Tender Compassion, Whereby From the Height of His Majesty He Has

Condescended to Men's Weakness; and on Temptations. [26]

Homily Four – [29]

On the Love of God and Renunciation and the Rest Which Is in God.

Homily Five – [41]

On Keeping Oneself Remote From the World and From All Things That Disquiet the Intellect.

Homily Six – [53]

That to Our Profit God Has Permitted the Soul to Be Susceptible to Accidents, and on Ascetical Activities.

Homily Seven – [63]

On the Kinds of Hope in God; and on Who Should Put His Hope in God, and Who It Is That Foolishly and Imprudently Entertains Such Hope.

Homily Eight – [67]

On What Helps a Man to Approach God in His Heart, and What Is the Real Cause That Secretly Brings Help Near Him; and Again, What Is the Cause That Leads a Man to Humility.

Homily Nine – [71]

On Voluntary and Involuntary Sins, and on Those Which Are Committed Because of Some Accidental Circumstance.

Homily Ten – [74]

On the Words of the Divine Writings Which Urge Men to Repentance, and That They Were Said With a View to Men's Weakness, Lest They Perish From the Living God, But That One Must Not Employ Them As An Excuse for Sinning.

Homily Eleven – [77]

On How the Beauty of Monastic Life Is Preserved and On How It Can Be a Means for God to Be Glorified.

Homily Twelve – [79]

That the Servant of God Who Has Divested Himself of Worldly Goods, and Is Come Forth in Quest of Him, Must Never, Because He Has Not Attained to a Sure Apprehension of the Truth, Cease From His Quest for Fear of This, and Grow Cold in That Ardor Which Is Born of Love for Things Divine and of Searching out Their Mysteries; and on How the Mind Is Confounded By the Memory of the Passions.

Homily Thirteen – [81]

On the Alteration and Change That Takes Place in Those Who Are Making Their Way on the Path of Stillness, Which Has Been Laid out by God; for Sometimes Melancholy and Strangulation of Soul Occur, Sometimes Sudden Joy and Unaccustomed Fervor, Glory Be to Him Who Orders Our Paths Aright! Amen.

Homily Fourteen – [82]

Concerning Hesychasts: On When they Begin to Understand What Place They Have Attained With Their Labors in the Boundless Sea That Is the Life of Stillness; and on When They Can Have a Little Hope That Their Toils Have Begun to Yield Them Fruit.

Homily Fifteen – [84]

On Guarding Oneself and Keeping Oneself From Lax and Negligent Men, and on How, by Drawing Near to Them, Heedlessness and Laxity Rule Over a Man and He Is Filled With Every Passion. And on Guarding Oneself From Proximity to Youths, Lest the Intellect Should Be Defiled by Licentious Thoughts.

Homily Sixteen – [90]

On Renouncing the World and Refraining From Familiarity With Men.

Homily Seventeen – [93]

On a Rule for Beginners and Their State and the Matters That Pertain to Them.

Homily Eighteen – [96]

On the [[Successive]] Stages of the Monastic Life, Briefly and Distinctly Noted; and How and in What Way Its Virtues Are Born From Each Other.

Homily Nineteen – [98]

That Abstention From Concerns Is Profitable for Hesychasts, and That Going out and Coming in Are Harmful, and Concerning Distraction.

Homily Twenty – [101]

On the Paths Which Bring a Man Nigh to God, and Which Are Revealed to Him by the Sweet Works of Night Vigil, and That Those Who Labor in This Practice Are Fed With Honey All the Days of Their Life.

Homily Twenty-One – [105]

A Narration Concerning Saintly Men and the All-holy Words I Heard From Them, and on Their Wondrous Way of Life.

-On an Aged Elder. [106]

-On Another Elder. [107]

-On the Question of a Certain Brother. [108]

-On the Reproach of a Certain Brother. [109]

Homily Twenty-Two – [113]

On the Diverse Noetic Powers of the Intellect Employed in the Action of Revelations and Spiritual Visions.

On That Which During Prayer Occurs Within Stillness. [114]

Homily Twenty-Three – [115]

On Various Differentiations in Prayer (The Greek and the Sinai Syriac MS have, 'in stillness', but the printed Syriac text has, 'in prayer', which in context seems to be the correct reading) and the Dominion of the Intellect, and to What Extent This Dominion Is Empowered to Initiate Its Own Movements in the Different Forms of Prayer; and What

the Natural Limit of Prayer Is, and to What Extent You Are Empowered to Pray Therein, and That When Prayer Exceeds This Limit, It Is No Longer Prayer, Although This Activity Is Called Prayer.

-On Pure Prayer. [116]

Homily Twenty-Four – [123]

On the Subject of a Discourse Spoken by True Knowledge.

Homily Twenty-Five – [125]

On the Things That Are Bestowed Upon a Brother Within His Cell.

Homily Twenty-Six – [129]

On the Soul Which Seeks for Profound Theoria, That by Being Immersed Therein, She Might Be Freed of Carnal Thoughts That Arise From Things Recollected.

Homily Twenty-Seven – [133]

Against Those Who Say: If God Is Good, For What Reason Has He Made These Things?

Homily Twenty-Eight – [137]

On the Vision of the Nature of Incorporeal Beings, in Questions and Answers.

Homily Twenty-Nine – [142]

On the Example and Similitude Furnished by a Divine Vision Concerning the Lord's Day and the Sabbath.

Homily Thirty – [145]

On Different Suitable Ways of Wise Guidance for the Instruction of Disciples.

Homily Thirty-One – [148]

Containing a Most Necessary and Extremely Beneficial Daily Reminder for the Man Who Has Chosen to Sit in His Cell and Give Heed to Himself Alone.

Homily Thirty-Two – [150]

On the Power and Evil Activity of Sin, and on What Produces Them and What Causes Them to Cease.

-On the Passions. [151]

Homily Thirty-Three – [155]

That in Certain Conflicts Labor Is Better Than Being in Danger of Falling.

Homily Thirty-Four – [156]

On Guarding the Heart and on Subtler Divine Vision.

Homily Thirty-Five – [158]

On the Signs and Workings of the Love of God.

Homily Thirty-Six – [160]

On the Modes of Virtue.

Homily Thirty-Seven – [163]

A Discourse On Diverse Subjects in Questions and Answers [[On the Trustworthy Way of Life and Every Kind of Virtue. This Discourse Will Be Especially Useful for Those Who Have Stripped Off the World, Those Who Dwell in the Desert, Those Who Are Recluses, and Those Who Through Voluntary Mortification Look Forward to the Crown of Righteousness]].

-On Fasting and Vigil. [171]

-On the Difference in Tears. [174]

Homily Thirty-Eight – [187]

That the Body Which Fears Temptations Becomes a Friend of Sin.

Homily Thirty-Nine – [189]

On the Different Methods of the Devil's Warfare Against Those Who Journey on the Narrow Way That Transcends the World.

-On the First Method. [189]

-On the Second Method of the Devil's Warfare. [190]

-On the Third Method of the Enemy's Warfare Against Strong and Courageous Men.


-On the Enemy's Fourth and Obdurate Warfare. [193]

Homily Forty – [197]

On Continuous Fasting, and Remaining Collected in One Place, and What Are the Consequences of This; and That by the Knowledge of Discernment I Have Learned the Exact Use of These Things.

Homily Forty-One – [204]

On the Motions of the Body.

Homily Forty-Two – [207]

On the Kinds of Different Temptations; and on How Sweet Are the Temptations That Come to Pass and Are Endured for the Truth's Sake; and on the Levels and Disciplines Through Which the Sagacious Man Makes His Way.

-The Trials of the Friends of God, That Is to Say, the Humble. [209]

-The Trials of the Enemies of God, That Is to Say, the Proud. [210]

-On Patience. [211]

-On Faint-heartedness. [211]

Homily Forty-Three – [213]

An Explanation of the Modes of Discipline: What the Force of Each One of Them Is, and What the Difference of Each One of Them Is.

-On the Purification of the Body, the Soul, and the Intellect. [215]

Homily Forty-Four – [217]

An Epistle of Our Father Among the Saints, Isaac the Syrian Written to a Certain Brother Possessed of the Love of Stillness, on How the Devil Contrives to Make Those Who Constantly Endeavor to Practice Stillness to Desist From Their Constant Stillness by

Means of the Love of a Relative or Honored Men, and on How It Behooves the Hesychast to Disdain All Things for the Sake of the Knowledge of God Which Is to Be Found in Stillness, Even As It Has Been Shown in the Case of Our Fathers of Old.

Homily Forty-Five – [221]

An Epistle of Our Father Among the Saints Isaac the Syrian to His Natural and Spiritual Brother, Who, Dwelling in the World and Thirsting to See Him, Exhorted and Entreated the Saint by Letters to Come to Visit Him.

Homily Forty-Six – [223]

Containing Profitable Subjects Replete With the Wisdom of the Spirit.

Homily Forty-Seven – [226]

On How Great Are the Measures of Knowledge and the Measures Pertaining to Faith.

Homily Forty-Eight – [229]

Containing Counsels Replete With Profit, Which With Love He Spoke to Those Who Listened to Him Humbly.

Homily Forty-Nine – [238]

On the Angelic Movement That Is Awakened in Us by God's Providence for the Soul's Advancement in Things Spiritual.

-On the Second Activity Upon Man. [239]

Homily Fifty – [241]

On the Varying States of Light and Darkness That Occur in the Soul at All Times, and Her Training in Matters of the Right and of the Left.

Homily Fifty-One – [243]

On the Harm of Foolish Zeal That Has the Guise of Being Divine, and on the Help That Comes of Clemency and on Other Subjects.

-On Involuntary Evil Thoughts That Originate From the Previous Laxity of Negligence.


Homily Fifty-Two – [253]

On the Three Degrees of Knowledge and the Difference of Their Activities and Their Concepts; and on the Faith of the Soul and the Mystic Riches Concealed in It; and on How the Knowledge of This World Differs From the Simplicity of Faith.

-On the First Degree of Knowledge. [258]

-On the Second Degree of Knowledge. [260]

-On the Third Degree of Knowledge, Which Is the Degree of Perfection. [260]

-A Recapitulation of the Three Degrees of Knowledge. [261]

Homily Fifty-Three – [264]

Short Sections on Other Differences in the Concepts of Knowledge.

Homily Fifty-Four – [266]

On the Subject of Prayer and the Other Things Which Are Necessarily Required for

Constant Recollection and Are Profitable in Many Ways, If a Man Read Them With Discretion and Observe Them.

-On the Solitary Life, and That We Must Not Be Timorous and Afraid, but Make Our Heart Steadfast Through Trust in God, and Have Courage With Unhesitating Faith, Since We Possess God As Our Guardian and Protector. [270]

Homily Fifty-Five – [273]

On How the Hidden Wakefulness in the Soul Is Preserved, and How Sleep and Coldness Steal Into the Mind and Quench the Soul's Holy Fervor and Deaden the Godward Desire That Yearns for Things Spiritual and Heavenly.

Homily Fifty-Six – [276]

On Patience for the Sake of the Love of God, and in What Manner Help Is Obtained Through Patience.

Homily Fifty-Seven – [281]

On Those Who Live Near to God and Who Pass Their Days in the Life of Knowledge.

Homily Fifty-Eight – [286]

On the Many Changes That Cleave to the Mind and That Are Tested by Prayer.

Homily Fifty-Nine – [288]

On Love for the World.

Homily Sixty – [291]

That Without Necessity We Should Not Desire or Ask to Have Manifest Signs Wrought by Our Hands or Unto Us.

Homily Sixty-One – [295]

On the Reasons Why God Permits Temptations to Come Upon Those Who Love Him.

Homily Sixty-Two – [297]

On How a Man Can Know the Measure in Which He Stands by the Thoughts That Are Stirred In Him.

Homily Sixty-Three – [302]

On Why Men Who Are Unspiritual in Their Knowledge Investigate Spiritual Things in Accord With the Grossness of Their Flesh, and on How the Mind Can Be Raised Above the Grossness of the Flesh, and What Is the Cause of Why a Man Is Not Liberated From It; and on When and by What Means the Mind Can Remain Without Phantasies at the Time of Supplication.

Homily Sixty-Four – [305]

On Prayer, Prostrations, Tears, Reading, Silence, and Hymnody.

-On Silence. [310]

Homily Sixty-Five – [318]

An Epistle of Our Father Among the Saints Isaac the Syrian, Sent to His Friend, Wherein

He Expounds Things Respecting the Mysteries of Stillness, and How Many Monks, Being Ignorant of These Things, Are Negligent in This Wonderful Activity, and That the Majority of Them Hold on to Their Cells by Reason of the Tradition Current Among Monks; and Together With This, a Brief Collection of Sayings Useful for the Practice of Stillness.

Homily Sixty-Six – [323]

A Study and Elucidation With Examples Concerning Diverse Concepts and on What Use Each Has.

-A Selection of Short Sections. [324]

Homily Sixty-Seven – [328]

On How the Discerning Monk Ought to Dwell in Stillness.

Homily Sixty-Eight – [331]

That We Can Understand the Degree of Our Manner of Life From the Changing States of Our Mind, and That We Should Not Childishly Rely on the Great Diversity of Our Labors, but As Wise Men We Should Recognize the Degree of Our Soul From the Secret Renewal Which We Perceive Day by Day, and on the Subtle Stage of Discernment.

Homily Sixty-Nine – [335]

On True Knowledge, and on Temptations, and on How One Must Know Clearly That Not Only Certain Lowly, Weak, and Untrained Men Are Tempted, but Also Those Are Tempted Who Have Been Accounted Worthy of Dispassion for a Time, Who Have Achieved Perfection in Their Manner of Thought, and Who Have in Part Drawn Near to the Purity That Is Conjoined With Mortification, and Who Have Been Raised Above the Passions In So Far As This Is Permitted by God While Men Are in This World, Under the Yoke of Life Conjoined to the Passionate Flesh; and on How Men Endure Conflict and Are Belabored by the Passions Because of the Flesh, for by Divine Permission and Mercy They Suffer This on Certain Occasions Because of the Danger of Pride, and Many Times They Transgress, but They Heal Their Souls by Repenting and Grace Accepts Them.

Homily Seventy – [340]

On the True Sense of This Chapter and on Prayer.

Homily Seventy-One – [344]

On the Differences of the Virtues, On the Perfection of the Entire Course, and on the Greatness of Mercy and Love for Mankind Which in a Spiritual Manner Perfects All the Saints, and by Which the Divine Likeness Is Established In Them Through God's Abundant Love, Which He Has Poured Out Upon All the Sons of Men.

Homily Seventy-Two – [351]

On Faith and Humility.

Homily Seventy-Three – [358]

On the Benefit to Be Had From Fleeing the World.

Homily Seventy-Four – [360]

On the Means Whereby a Man Can Acquire a Change of His Secret Intuitions Together With a Change of His External Discipline.

Homily Seventy-Five – [365]

On Night Vigil and the Various Ways of Its Observance, and That We Must Not Make the Aim of Our Labors the Fulfillment of a Definite Quantity of Prayers, but Rather With Freedom and Discernment We Should Be Like Children of God With Their Father, Laboring With the Eagerness Proper to Love; and on How the Work of Vigil Is More Venerable Than All Other Disciplines; and on What Things Are Sought by Those Who Choose This Work; and on How Men Should Perform Night Vigil; and on the Gifts Which These Men Are Granted From God, and the Conflicts and Battles Waged Against Them by the Ruler of This World.

Homily Seventy-Six – [376]

An Answer Which Saint Isaac Made to a Brother Who Asked Him, 'Why Is It That, Although Our Lord Defined Mercy as Likeness to the Majesty of the Heavenly Father, Solitaries Honor Stillness Above Mercy?' And a Defense Concerning This.

Homily Seventy-Seven – [381]

On How Much Honor Humility Obtains, and How Very Lofty Is Its Rank.


I. On the Gloomy Darkness That Befalls Those Who Pursue the Life of Knowledge in Stillness. [387]

II. Beautiful Considerations Concerning a Man's Life. [388]

III. On the Workings of Grace. [390]

IV. On Hidden States and the Powers and Operations Therein (Homily 75 in the Syriac printed text). [394]

V. Brief Subjects. [395]


Part I – A Selection From The Book of Grace. [397]








Part II – An Epistle to Abba Symeon of Caesarea. [427]

APPENDIX C – The First Syriac Epistle of Saint Makarios of Egypt. [451]

The First Syriac Epistle of Saint Makarios of Alexandria On the Christian Discipline.

APPENDIX D – Mar John the Solitary. [461]

-An Epistle on Stillness. [461]

-On Prayer. [466]

Our Father Among the Saints Mar Ephraim the Syrian. [471]

A Homily on the Solitaries, Desert-dwellers and Monks, and on Those Who Dwell in the Mountains, Dens, Caves, and Clefts of the Earth, and on Those Who Have Stripped Themselves of All Things Earthly.

On Hidden States and the Powers and Operations Therein.

What the power of spring customarily does to the earth's nature, this also does grace do to the soul through purity. The power of springtime causes even the delicate roots that grow in the valleys to sprout, warming the earth like a fire does a cauldron, so that it sends forth the treasures of verdure that God has planted in the earth's nature to gladden creation and for His own glory. In like manner grace causes the manifest blossoming of all the splendor that God has concealed in the soul's nature, and it shows this to her and causes her to rejoice in its beauty. [Appendix A. IV.]


As the light breezes of springtime, as that gentle breeze wherein God spake to Elias at Horeb (III Kings 19:12 [I Kings 19:12 KJV]), so also are the Ascetical Homilies of Mar Isaac the Syrian to the thirsty soul which, like the psalmic hart, panteth after the living waters. Bitter winter is passed, and springtime has dawned which invigorates all creation, followed by summer wherein the fruit ripens and the crops are harvested. And even as the Lord has fashioned the natural seasons, so has he fashioned spiritual spring and summer wherein grace abounds like unto gentle showers, which drench the earth till she sprout forth all the good things which are unto life. In like manner our God and Fashioner, the Father of Lights, and our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Spirit of Truth, has by the hand of Saint Abba Isaac, the vessel of election, given us this present volume of homilies as a springtime and summertime for our souls, unto 'the manifest blossoming of all the splendor that God has concealed in the soul's nature' and that we might 'rejoice in its beauty'.

For many centuries now this holy book, in manuscript and in printed form, has been a guide to monastics. It was written primarily for hermits and inhabitants of the desert who dwell in stillness. In the words of Saint Isaac himself, the aim and purpose of these homilies and instructions is that one may—

—learn what is the life of stillness, what is its work, what mysteries are concealed in this discipline [[mysteries that are hidden from many, but after the discovery of which strenuous men run, seeking to attain them in stillness]], and why some men belittle the righteousness that is practiced in the society of men and prefer to it the tribulations and struggles of a silent and solitary abode. [[From the understanding of these things and because of what they find in this epistle, men will call blessed the solitaries who pass their lives in this world by remaining concentrated and by themselves. But to those who have no acquaintance with these matters this instruction, with all its admonitions, about the stages that are in stillness will be superfluous. I write here to wise men, and I offer advice with love]] (Homily 65).

Since the primary purpose of this book is the instruction of those in the desert, one may rightly ask why the great labor and personal cost in translating and preparing such a

work was undertaken, since there are so few, if any, desert-dwellers and workers of stillness in the world today? The answer can be found in The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Saint John Climacus, who writes: 'Angels are a light for monks, and the monastic life is a light for all men' (Step 26:31).

Thus, both monastics living in coenobia (monasteries or convents of communal life and rule) and lay people can glean words of instruction for salvation from those living the angelic life in stillness.


Short Quotations Gathered From the Ascetical Homilies.

A man who craves esteem cannot be rid of the causes of grief. [Homily 1.]

Spiritual delight is not enjoyment found in things that exist substantially outside the souls of those who receive it [[and are promised to us for the restitution to come]]. If it were, then the words, 'The Kingdom of the Heavens is within you' and, 'Thy Kingdom come' would mean that we have acquired matter of a palpable nature within us as the earnest of the delight found in that Kingdom. [Homily 2.]

Through the toil of prayer and the anguish of your heart commune with those who are grieved at heart, and the Source of mercy will be opened up to your petitions.

[Homily 2.]

Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics for they, more than anything else, can arm the spirit of blasphemy against you. [Homily 4.]

It is just as shameful for lovers of the flesh and the belly to search out spiritual things as it is for a harlot to discourse on chastity. [Homily 4.]

Whenever you wish to make a beginning in some good work, first prepare yourself for the temptations that will come upon you, and do not doubt the truth. [Homily 5.]

He who is able to suffer wrong with joy, though having means at hand to rebuff it, has [[consciously]] received from God the consolation of his faith. [Homily 5.]

The man who endures accusations against himself with humility has arrived at perfection, and he is marveled at by the holy angels, for there is no other virtue so great and so hard to achieve. [Homily 5.]

When temptation overtakes the iniquitous man, he has no confidence wherewith to call upon God, nor to expect salvation from Him, since in the days of his ease he stood aloof from God's will. [Homily 5.]

Before the war begins, seek after your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your Physician; and before grievous things come upon you, pray, and in the time of your tribulations you will find Him, and He will hearken to you. [Homily 5.]

Before you stumble, call out and make supplication; and before you make a vow, have ready what things you promise, for they are your provisions afterwards. [Homily 5.]

The ark of Noe was built in the time of peace, and its timbers were planted by him a hundred years beforehand. In the time of wrath the iniquitous perished but the ark became the shelter for the righteous man. [Homily 5.]

Love the poor, that through them you may also find mercy. [Homily 5.]

Do not disdain those who are deformed from birth, because all of us will go to the grave equally privileged. [Homily 5.]

Love sinners, but hate their works; and do not despise them for their faults, lest you be tempted by the same. [Homily 5.]

It is better to elude the passions by the recollection of the virtues than by resisting and disputing with them. For when the passions leave their place and arise for battle, they imprint on the mind images and idols, and this warfare has great force, able to weaken the mind and violently to perturb and confuse a man's thinking. But if a man acts by the first rule we have mentioned, when the passions are repulsed they leave no trace in the mind.

[Homily 6.]

Just as the dolphin stirs and swims about when the visible sea is still and calm, so also, when the sea of the heart is tranquil and still from wrath and anger, mysteries and divine revelations are stirred in her at all times to delight her. [Homily 15.]

That which befalls a fish out of water, befalls the mind that has come out of the remembrance of God and wanders in the remembrance of the world. [Homily 15.]

Just as fish perish from lack of water, so the noetic movements that God causes to blossom forth vanish from the heart of the monk who loves to dwell and pass his life in company with worldly men. [Homily 15.]

The more a man's tongue flees talkativeness, the more his intellect is illumined so as to be able to discern deep thoughts; for the rational intellect is bemuddled by talkativeness. [Homily 15.]

Who does not love a humble and meek man? Only proud men and slanderers, who are foreign to his work. [Homily 15.]

Flee from discussions of dogma as from an unruly lion; and never embark upon them yourself, either with those raised in the Church, or with strangers. [Homily 17.]

The saints of the age to come do not pray with prayer when their intellects have been swallowed up by the Spirit, but rather with awestruck wonder they dwell in that gladdening glory. [Homily 23.]

The cell of a solitary is the cleft in the rock where God spoke with Moses, as the Fathers say. [Homily 25.]

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability. [Homily 28.]

On that day God will not judge us about psalmody, nor for the neglect of prayer, but because by abandoning them we have opened our door to the demons. [Homily 32.]

Stillness mortifies the outward senses and resurrects the inward movements, whereas an outward manner of life does the opposite, that is, it resurrects the outward senses and deadens the inward movements. [Homily 37.]

What is the sign that a man has attained to purity of heart, and when does a man know that his heart has entered into purity? When he sees all men as good and none appears to him to be unclean and defiled, then in very truth his heart is pure. [Homily 37.]

Whenever in your path you find unchanging peace, 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 the city of God, this will be a sign for you: the strength of the temptations that you encounter. And the nearer you draw nigh and progress, the more temptations will multiply against you. [Homily 42.]

Faith is the door to mysteries. What the bodily eyes are to sensory objects, the same is faith to the eyes of the intellect that gaze at hidden treasures. [Homily 46.]

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness, and there the blessed Paul partook of supernatural nourishment. [Homily 46.]

Until we find love, our labor is in the land of tares, and in the midst of tares we both sow and reap, even if our seed is the seed of righteousness. [Homily 46.]

The man who has found love eats and drinks Christ every day and hour and hereby is made immortal. 'He that eateth of this bread', He says, 'which I will give him, shall not see death unto eternity'. Blessed is he who consumes the bread of love, which is Jesus! He who eats of love eats Christ, the God over all, as John bears witness, saying,

'God is love'. [Homily 46.]

Love is the Kingdom, whereof the Lord mystically promised His disciples to eat

in His Kingdom. For when we hear Him say, 'Ye shall eat and drink at the table of My Kingdom' what do we suppose we shall eat, if not love? Love is sufficient to nourish a man instead of food and drink. This is the wine 'which maketh glad the heart of man'.

Blessed is he who partakes of this wine! Licentious men have drunk this wine and felt shame; sinners have drunk it and have forgotten the pathways of stumbling; drunkards have drunk this wine and become fasters; the rich have drunk it and desired poverty; the poor have drunk it and been enriched with hope; the sick have drunk it and become strong; the unlearned have taken it and been made wise. [Homily 46.]

As it is not possible to cross over the great ocean without a ship, so no one can attain to love without fear. This foetid sea, which lies between us and the noetic paradise, we may cross by the boat of repentance, whose oarsmen are those of fear. But if fear's oarsmen do not pilot the barque of repentance whereby we cross over the sea of this world to God, we shall be drowned in the foetid abyss. [Homily 46.]

The man who chooses to consider God an avenger, presuming that [in this manner] he bears witness to His justice, the same accuses Him of being bereft of goodness. Far be it, that vengeance could ever be found in that Fountain of love and Ocean brimming with goodness! The aim of His design is the correction of men; and if it were not that we should be stripped of the honor of our free will, perhaps He would not even heal us by reproof. [Homily 48.]

A mind that has found spiritual wisdom is like a man who finds a fully equipped ship at sea, and once he has gone aboard, it brings him from the sea of this world to the isle of the age to come. In like manner, the perception of the future age while in this world is like an islet in the ocean; and he who approaches it toils no longer amid the billows of the appearances of this age. [Homily 48.]

A swimmer dives naked into the sea until he finds a pearl; and a wise monk, stripped of everything, journeys through life until he finds in himself the Pearl, Jesus Christ; and when he finds Him, he does not seek to acquire anything else besides Him.

[Homily 48.]

A serpent guards its head when its body is being crushed, and a wise solitary guards his faith at all times, for this is the origin of his life. [Homily 48.]

A dog that licks a rasp drinks its own blood and does not know its own harm because of the sweetness of the blood; and a solitary who stoops to drink vainglory, consumes his life and does not perceive his harm because of the fleeting sweetness.

[Homily 48.]

Worldly glory is a reef in the sea covered by water; for as this lies unknown to the sailor until his vessel strikes it, bottoms out, is filled with water and sinks, so vainglory does to a man until it drowns and destroys him. [Homily 48.]

Do not approach the words of the mysteries contained in the divine Scriptures without prayer and beseeching God for help, but say: Lord, grant me to perceive the power in them! Reckon prayer to be the key to the true understanding of the divine

Scriptures. [Homily 48.]

A small but always persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling persistently, hollows out hard rock. [Homily 48.]

As children are not born without a mother, so passions are not born without distraction of the mind, and sin is not committed without converse with passions.

[Homily 48.]

Ease and idleness are the destruction of the soul and they can injure her more than the demons. [Homily 48.]

If you compel your body when it is weak to labors that exceed its strength, you will instill darkness upon darkness into your soul and bring greater confusion upon her.

[Homily 48.]

Mercy and justice (This can also be translated 'just judgment') in one soul is like a man who worships God and the idols in one house. [Homily 51.]

As grass and fire cannot coexist in one place, so justice and mercy cannot abide in one soul. [Homily 51.]

As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold, so in comparison God's use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy. [Homily 51.]

Be persecuted, but persecute not; be crucified, but crucify not; be wronged, but wrong not; be slandered, but slander not. Have clemency, not zeal, with respect to evil.

[[Lay hold of goodness, not justice.]] [Homily 51.]

Be every man's friend, but in your mind remain alone. [Homily 51.]

If you cannot be merciful, at least speak as though you are a sinner. If you are not a peacemaker, at least do not be a troublemaker. If you cannot be assiduous, at least in your thought be like a sluggard. If you are not victorious, do not exalt yourself over the vanquished. If you cannot close the mouth of a man who disparages his companion, at least refrain from joining him in this. [Homily 51.]

No man has understanding if he is not humble, and he who lacks humility is devoid of understanding. No man is humble if he is not peaceful, and he who is not peaceful is not humble. And no man is peaceful without rejoicing. [Homily 51.]

We should not be exceedingly grieved when we make a slip in some matter but when we persist in it; for even the perfect often slip, but to persist therein is total death.

[Homily 51.]

There is no knowledge that is not impoverished, however rich it should be; but heaven and earth cannot contain the treasures of faith. [Homily 52.]

Verily, confusion should be called (if permissible) the chariot of the devil, because Satan is ever wont to mount upon it as a charioteer, and bearing with him the throng of the passions, he invades the wretched soul and plunges her into the pit of confusion. [Homily 54.]

The recompense is not given for labor but for humility. He who maltreats the latter loses the former. [Homily 57.]

Christ demands not the doing of the commandments, but the soul's amendment, because of which He gave His commandments to rational beings. [Homily 57.]

A gift free of trials is a disaster to those who receive it. [Homily 57.]

To choose what is good belongs to the good volition of the man who desires it; but to realize the choice of the good volition belongs to God. [Homily 58.]

His path has been trodden from the ages and from all generations by the cross and by death. But how is it with you, that the afflictions on the path seem to you to be off the path? Do you not wish to follow the steps of the saints? Or have you plans for devising some way of your own, and of journeying therein without suffering? [Homily 59.]

The path of God is a daily cross. No one has ascended into Heaven by means of ease, for we know where the way of ease leads and how it ends. [Homily 59.]

In truth, without afflictions there is no life. [Homily 60.]

The carnal man fears [death] like a beast fears slaughter. The rational man fears the judgment of God. But the man who has become a son is adorned by love and is not taught by the rod of fear; he says, 'But I and my father's house will serve the Lord'.

[Homily 62.]

A merciful man is the physician of his own soul, for as with a violent wind he drives the darkness of the passions out of his inner self. [Homily 64.]

Conquer evil men by your gentle kindness, and make zealous men wonder at your goodness. Put the lover of justice to shame by your compassion. With the afflicted be afflicted in mind. Love all men, but keep distant from all men. [Homily 64.]

As long as you have feet, run after work, before you are bound with that bond which cannot be loosed again once it is put on. [[As long as you have hands, stretch them out to Heaven in prayer, before your arms fall from their joints, and though you desire to draw them up, you will not be able.]] As long as you have fingers, cross yourself in prayer, before death comes [[loosing the comely strength of their sinews]]. As long as you have eyes, fill them with tears [[before that hour when dust will cover your black clothes and your eyes will be fixed in one direction in an unseeing gaze and you will not know it. Nay, fill your eyes with tears as long as your heart is controlled by the power of discernment and before your soul is shaken by her departure from it and the heart is left like a house deserted by its owner. [Homily 64.]

Silence is a mystery of the age to come, but words are instruments of this world.

[Homily 65.]

The passions are like dogs accustomed to lick blood in butchers' shops. When these are barred from what their habit feeds on, they stand in front of the doors and howl until the force of their previous custom is spent. [Homily 67.]

A man who sits in stillness and who receives experience of God's kindness has little need of persuasive argument, and his soul is not sick with the disease of unbelief, like those who are doubtful of the truth. For the testimony of his own understanding is sufficient to persuade him above endless words having no experience behind them.

[Homily 68.]

Know with certainty, therefore, that to stand is not within your power, nor does it pertain to your virtue, but it belongs to grace herself which carries you upon the palm of her hand, that you may not be alarmed. [Homily 69.]

Humility, even without works, gains forgiveness for many offenses; but without her, works are of no profit to us, and rather prepare for us great evils. [Homily 69.]

Not every quiet man is humble, but every humble man is quiet. [Homily 71.]

Walk before God in simplicity and not with knowledge. Simplicity is attended by faith; but subtle and intricate deliberations, by conceit; and conceit is attended by separation from God. [Homily 72.]

When you fall down before God in prayer, become in your thought like an ant, like the creeping things of the earth, like a leech, and like a tiny lisping child. Do not say anything before Him with knowledge, but with a child's manner of thought draw near God and walk before Him, that you may be counted worthy of that paternal providence which fathers have for their small children. [Homily 72.]

A man cannot receive spiritual knowledge except he be converted, and become as a little child. For only then does he experience that delight which belongs to the Kingdom of the Heavens. By 'Kingdom of the Heavens' the Scriptures mean spiritual divine vision.

[Homily 72.]

It is not possible without temptations for a man to grow wise in spiritual warfare, to know his Provider and perceive his God, and to be secretly confirmed in his faith, save by virtue of the experience which he has gained. [Homily 72.]

A man can never learn what divine power is while he abides in comfort and spacious living. [Homily 72.]

Just as a man whose head is submerged in the water cannot breathe the subtle air which is poured upon the [atmosphere's] empty gulf, so he who immerses his mind in the cares of the present life cannot take in the breath that is a perception of the new world.

[Homily 74.]

It is a spiritual gift from God for a man to perceive his sins. [Homily 74.]

This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.

[Homily 74.]

The cross is the door to mysteries. Through this door the intellect makes entrance into the knowledge of the heavenly mysteries. The knowledge of the cross is concealed in the sufferings of the cross. And the more our participation in its sufferings, the greater the perception we gain through the cross. For, as the Apostle says, 'As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ'. Now by consolation he means theoria, which, being interpreted, is vision of soul. Vision gives birth to consolation. [Homily 74.]

Prayer offered up at night possesses a great power, more so than the prayer of the day-time. Therefore all the righteous prayed during the night, while combating the heaviness of the body and the sweetness of sleep and repelling corporeal nature. [Homily 75.]

There is nothing which even Satan fears so much as prayer that is offered during vigilance at night. And even if it is offered with distraction, it does not return empty, unless perhaps that which is asked for is unsuitable. [Homily 75.]

He who despises the sick will not see light, and the day of him who turns his face from a man straitened by affliction will become darkness. The sons of the man who scorns the voice of one suffering hardship will grope their way, being struck with blindness. [Homily 76.]

For unless those who travel on the road go forward day by day, shortening their journey—and, on the contrary, should they stand in one place—the road before them will never diminish and they will never arrive at their destination. So it is with us also. If we do not constrain ourselves little by little, we shall never have the strength to abstain from bodily things so as to gaze toward God. [Appendix A. II.]


The Holy Bible addresses itself almost exclusively to recipients of the male gender, in what might be termed an 'economy of speech'. That is; it mostly speaks to the masculine reader in almost the whole of its entirety, although it is manifest when studied in depth that it is speaking in context to both male and female readers simultaneously, and not adults only but readers of all ages, and does so in large part purely to avoid the awkwardness and laboriousness of having to name both genders in every instance.

Whether Saint Isaac copies this form of address and presents his writings to the masculine gender for the same reason only, or also in part to avoid the unseemliness of a monk who has 'made a covenant with his eyes not to look with lust at a young woman'

(Job 31:1), and is under a vow 'not to look upon a woman to lust after her' (Matthew 5:28), we hasten to affirm that Saint Isaac's teachings are most certainly not written

exclusively for the edification of male monastics only, but for monastics and lay persons both male and female, and indeed, is profitable for serious study and imitation by monastics and lay people, and adults and children of all ages and both genders. For 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them' (Genesis 1:27), 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3:28),

'But Jesus said, Suffer (permit) little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven' (Matthew 19:14), 'And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer (permit) the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein' (Mark 10:13-15), and 'But Jesus called unto him, and said, Suffer (permit) little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God' (Luke 18:16).

In Homily 64, page 308, paragraph 2, Saint Isaac employs an ancient manner of speech in which any man or woman who shows courage or fortitude is described as

'playing the man' or 'being manful', whereas one who is sinfully weak or cowardly -be it man or woman- is described as being 'womanish'. Such gender distinctions are not intended by Saint Isaac to be taken as personal insults, but as allegories more appropriate to the times in which he lived.

In Homily 75, page 367, paragraph 1, it is said that [[These are all distinctions in the labor of vigil and by them strenuous men put off 'the old man', which is corrupted by deceitful lusts, and put on Christ and are saved (Cf. Ephesians 4:22, 23)]], in which our universal 'sin nature' is commonly referred to as the 'old man' or 'old man of sin' and not as the 'old woman of sin'.

Note also that the soul of a man, woman, boy, or girl, which souls collectively constitute the 'Bride of Christ', is always spoken of by Saint Isaac -in the common vernacular- as 'she'. Such a remark is not intended to suggest that only females are saved, and indeed all such remarks may safely be assumed to disparage neither males nor females and should never be taken personally as intentionally negative aspersions to one's own gender or person.

But nowhere does he forbid females, young adults, or children of either gender or any age group to study his writings, nor does Christ our Lord. Those who have made a serious study of these writings would overwhelmingly affirm that Saint Isaac the Syrian's Homilies are inspired writings intended for the profit of everyone, male and female, young and old.

Use of ( ((double parentheses)) within parentheses) is mostly not done in this digitized text.

Table of OT & Psalms Equivalents.

1 Kings (1 Samuel, KJV)

2 Kings (2 Samuel, KJV)

3 Kings (1 Kings, KJV)

4 Kings (2 Kings, KJV)












116 v. 1-9


116 v. 10-19




147 v. 1-11


147 v. 12-20




With original page divisions & Index.


Homily 1.

On Renunciation and the Monastic Life.

In order to lay the foundation of virtue, nothing is better for a man than to contain himself by means of flight from the affairs of life, and to persevere in the illumined word of those straight and holy paths, even that word which in the Spirit the Psalmist named a lamp (Psalms 118:105. For lamp Saint Isaac uses a Syriac word meaning a signifier, an indicator. The Greek has changed it into a verb).

Scarcely a man can be found who is able to endure honor, but perhaps such a one cannot be found at all. This, one might say, is because of a man's sudden receptivity to change, even if he be a peer of the angels in his way of life.

The beginning of the path of life is continually to exercise the 'intellect' (as defined and explained in the GLOSSARY at the end of this book) in the words of God, and to live in poverty. For when a man waters himself with one, it aids in the perfection of the other. That is to say, to water yourself with the study of the words of God helps you in achieving poverty, while achieving freedom from possessions affords you the time to attain to constant study of the words of God. But the help provided by both speedily erects the entire edifice of the virtues.

No one can draw nigh to God save the man who has separated himself from


the world. But I call separation not the departure of (Syriac; from) the body, but departure from the world's affairs.

This is virtue: that in his mind a man should be unbusied with the world. The heart cannot become tranquil and be without imaginings as long as the senses are active.

Outside of the desert [[and the wilderness]] the bodily passions do not abate, nor do evil thoughts cease.

Until the soul becomes drunk with faith in God by receiving a perception of faith's power, she ((that is, the soul, which Saint Isaac always refers to in the feminine gender as being a composite part of the Bride of Christ; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7)) can neither heal the malady of the senses, nor be able forcefully to tread visible matter

underfoot, which is the barrier to things that are within and unperceived.

The rational faculty is the cause of liberty (i.e. In the bad sense. The Syriac word also means freedom and free will. The Greek translates it free will or the faculty of self-determination. Here, however, liberty in the bad sense is meant) and the fruit of both is aberration. Without the first (i.e. reason) there is no second (i.e. liberty) but where the second is lacking, there the third (i.e. aberration, deviation) is held as with a bridle (this passage is extremely obscure in Greek, but in Syriac it is somewhat clearer. For is lacking the Greek has walks aright. In the Syriac Estrangela script these words are similar in appearance).

When grace is abundant in a man, he easily scorns the fear of death on account of his longing for righteousness, and he finds in his soul many reasons for the necessity of suffering tribulation for the fear of God. All things that are thought to harm the body and that suddenly attack its nature, consequently causing it to suffer, are reckoned in his eyes as nothing in comparison with what is to be hoped for hereafter. It is not possible for us to know the truth unless temptations are allowed to come upon us. And a man's mind gives him assurance of exactly this, and further, of the fact that God takes very great forethought for men, and that there is no human being who is not under His providence (Syriac; who is abandoned to chance) and this especially he sees pointed out as clearly as by a finger in the case of those who go out to seek Him and endure suffering for His sake.

But when the privation of grace (Syriac; lack of faith; in this section the Syriac MSS have numerous variants) becomes great in a man, then all we have said is found to be nearly the opposite; for him knowledge is greater than faith, since he relies on investigation; trust in God is not present in everything he does, and divine providence for man is understood differently. Such a man is continually waylaid in these matters by those who

'in a moonless night lie in ambush to shoot down a man with their arrows' (Cf. Psalms 10:2).

The beginning of a man's true life is the fear of God. But the fear of God does not consent to dwell in a soul that is distracted over outward things.


By serving the senses, the heart is turned away from delight in God; for our inward thoughts, they say, are bound by their perception to the sensory organs that serve them.

Doubting hesitation of the heart introduces cowardice into the soul, but faith can make firm her volition even in the cutting off of the body's limbs. In the measure that love for the flesh prevails in you, you can never become brave and dauntless, on account of the host of adversaries that constantly surround the object of your love.

A man who craves esteem cannot be rid of the causes of grief.

There is no man who, with a change of circumstances, will not be subject to a change in his mind with respect to what lies before him.

If desire, as they say, is the offspring of the senses, then let them be silent who profess to keep their mind peaceful in the midst of distraction (this refers to the heretics known as the Messalians, or 'praying people', who claimed to reach such a state of perfection and dispassion that they could walk about in the cities and converse with all men without suffering spiritual harm or even distraction from prayer and peace of mind.

In other words, their teaching was directly opposed to that of Saint Isaac, and the Saint repeatedly refutes it. See, for example, Homilies 23, 29, and 69. The Syriac printed text reads here If, indeed, there is a secondary perception of the senses from which natural

desire is born... ).

Not he is chaste who, in the strain and crisis of combat and struggle, says that shameful thoughts cease within him, but rather he who, by the uprightness of his heart, makes the vision of his mind so pure that he cannot gaze on lewd thoughts without shame. And when the gaze of his eyes is held fast (this verb is added from the Syriac, it being lost in the Greek) thus bearing witness to the holiness of his conscience, then shame is like a veil that hangs over the hidden place of his thoughts, and his purity becomes like a chaste virgin being faithfully kept for Christ.

There is nothing so capable of banishing the inherent tendencies of licentiousness from our soul, and of driving away those active memories which rebel in our flesh and produce a turbulent flame, as to immerse oneself in the fervent love of instruction, and to search closely into the depth of the insights (or meanings) of divine Scripture.

When a man's thoughts are totally immersed in the delight of pursuing the wisdom treasured in the words of Scripture by means of the faculty that gains enlightenment from them, then he puts the world behind his back and forgets everything in it, and he blots out of his soul all memories that form images embodying the world. Often he does not even remember the employment of the habitual thoughts which visit human nature, and his soul remains in ecstasy by reason of those new encounters that arise from the sea of the Scripture's mysteries.

And again, if the mind swims on the surface of the waters, that is, of the sea of the divine Scriptures, and its perceptions cannot fathom the great depth so as to be able


to grasp all the treasures in its deep, yet even this practice in itself, by the power of its fervent love, will suffice the mind firmly to pinion its thoughts by a single thought of wonder, and to prevent them from hastening toward the body's nature, as one of the Godbearing Fathers said. And this [[he says]] is because the heart is feeble and cannot sustain the evils that it encounters from inner and outer warfares. And you know that an evil [[bodily]] thought is oppressive. If the heart is not occupied with study (or learning) it cannot endure the turbulence of the body's assault.

Just as the heaviness of weights impedes the quick swaying of a balance in a gust of wind, so shame and fear impede the aberration of the mind. In proportion to the lack of shame and fear, there is an abundance of the dominion of liberty (or freedom, but in the bad sense) in the mind. And just as a decrease in the weight in the pans will be a cause for them to sway more easily to and fro, so an increase of liberty through removal of fear from the soul causes the scales of the mind to sway easily from side to side. Therefore the mind's mobility is a consequence of liberty, and mental changes are a consequence of aberration (this entire paragraph is rendered according to the Syriac).

Be wise, then, and lay the fear of God as the foundation of your journey (Syriac; lay a foundation for your journey) and in but a few days it will bring you before the gate of the Kingdom with no windings (meanderings) on the way.

[[Do not, like the pupils of teachers, overly scrutinize words that are written from experience for the rearing of your way of life and that help you, by their lofty insights, to elevate yourself.]]

Discern the purport of all the passages (the word passages is missing in the Greek.

The Syriac word also means histories) that you come upon in sacred writings, so as to immerse yourself deeply therein, and to fathom the profound insights found in the compositions of enlightened men (the present Greek text reads to fathom with great

understanding the profundity of the insights of holy men).

Those who in their way of life are led by divine grace to be enlightened are always aware of something like a noetic ray (of light) running between the written lines which enables the mind to distinguish words spoken simply from those spoken with great meaning for the soul's enlightenment.

When in a common way a man reads lines that contain great meaning, he makes his heart common and devoid of that holy power which gives the heart a most sweet taste through intuitions that awe the soul.

Everything is wont to run to its kindred; and the soul that has a share of the Spirit, on hearing a phrase that has spiritual power hidden within, ardently draws out its content for herself.


Not every man is wakened to wonder by what is said spiritually and has great power concealed in it. A word concerning virtue has need of a heart unbusied with the earth and its converse.

The things of virtue do not awaken the mind of a man who travails in cares about transitory things to a longing and a quest to gain them.

Liberation from material things precedes the bond with God, even though often with some, through the oeconomy of grace, the latter is found to precede the former, such that love covers love (the meaning of this seems to be that the love of God covers the love of material things). Oeconomy's usual order is different from the order of the community of men; but you must keep to the common order. If grace comes within you first, that is its own affair; but if not, make the ascent of the spiritual tower by the path common to all men, on which they have journeyed one after another.

Everything that is effected through 'divine vision' (see GLOSSARY) and on account of which a commandment is fulfilled, is wholly unseen by the eyes of the body.

Every virtuous action that is effected through righteous activity ( praxis) is composite; for the commandment, which is but one (i.e. righteous activity) requires both, theoria and praxis, on account of our corporeal and incorporeal parts. For the combination of these two is one (the Syriac reads here and the combination of the two is from all. The Greek translators took from all to mean complete). [[For this very reason the enlightened intellect understands [the commandment] as formerly the blessed Moses commanded [it], namely, what is simple is understood as well as what is twofold.]]

Works having purity as their goal (or that are solicitous over purity; the Syriac printed text has a variant reading here) do not shake off the memory's awareness of past offenses, but take the grief of the recollection away from our mind. Henceforth it happens that when the recollection passes through our mind, it does so to our advantage.

The soul's insatiability for gaining virtue seizes for its own the portion of desire for visible things that belongs to her yoke-mate, the body.

Moderation adorns all things; for without moderation, even things deemed good become harmful.

Do you wish to commune with God in your intellect by receiving a perception of that delight which is not enslaved to the senses? Pursue mercy; for when something that is like unto God ( Vide Matthew 5:45-48) is found in you, then that holy beauty is depicted by him (this is the Syriac reading; the Greek has is depicted in you, whereto you were likened). For the whole sum of the deeds of mercy immediately brings the soul into communion with the unity of the glory of the Godhead's splendor.


Spiritual unity is an unsealed and perpetual recollection that incessantly blazes in the heart with ardent longing; and from perseverance in the commandments the heart receives its capacity for this bond, not figuratively, nor in a natural way. For there it finds material for the soul's divine vision so as to be sustained in this [union] hypostatically.

For this reason the heart comes to awestruck wonder as the eyes of the twofold senses close: those of the flesh and those of the soul.

There is no other path toward spiritual love, which forms the invisible image (the Syriac word is a transliteration of the Greek icon, image, and refers to a man's likeness to God) but firstly to begin to show compassion in proportion to the Father's perfection, as our Lord said ( Vide Luke 6:36; Matthew 5:46-48). for He commanded those who obey Him to lay this as their foundation.

A word born of righteous activity ( praxis) is one thing, and a beautiful speech is another. Even without experience, wisdom is clever at imparting beauty to her words, at speaking the truth without really knowing it, and at making declarations on virtue while the man himself never makes trial of it in his deeds. Speech that comes from righteous activity is a treasury of hope (Syriac; trust; the meaning here is probably a treasury one can trust in) but wisdom not based on righteous activity is a deposit of disgrace. Just as when an artist frescoes water on the walls and cannot relieve his thirst with it, or just as a man dreams beautiful dreams, even so is speech (that is) not based on righteous activity ( Vide Romans 2:21-22).

A man who talks of virtue from the experience of his own labor transmits virtue to his hearer just as though he distributes money earned from his own commerce, and as it were from out of his own possessions he sows his teaching in the ears of those who give him ear. Such a man opens his mouth with boldness before his spiritual children, even as the ancient Jacob said to Joseph the Chaste, 'Behold, I have given thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow' (Genesis 48:22).

This transient life is cherished by every man whose way of life is corrupt; and second to him is the man deprived of knowledge. Well has one said, 'The fear of death distresses a man with a guilty conscience (the Syriac printed text reads a carnal man) but the man with a good witness within himself longs for death as for life.'

Count no man truly wise who, because of this temporal life, enslaves his mind to timidity and fear.

Let whatever good or evil things that befall the flesh be reckoned by you as dreams. For it is not only with death that you will have release from them, but often before death they retire and leave you alone.

But if any of these things that befall you should have communion with your


soul, then consider them as your acquisitions in this age, and they will also go with you into the next. If they are good, rejoice and give thanks to God in your mind. But if they are evil, be grieved and sigh; and as long as you are still in the body, seek to be set free of them.

Of everything good wrought within you noetically and in secret, be certain that baptism and faith have been the mediators whereby you received it; through these you were called by our Lord Jesus Christ to His good labors, to Whom with the Father and the

Holy Spirit be glory, honor, thanksgiving and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 2.

On Thankfulness to God, In Which There Are Also Essential Elementary Lessons.

The thanksgiving of the receiver incites the giver to give gifts greater than the first. He that returns no thanks (Syriac; keeps silent; the word can also mean defrauds, hence the connection with the remainder of the sentence) in small matters is a dissembler and dishonest in greater ones also. If a man is ill and he recognizes his ailment, his healing will be easy. If he confesses his pain, he draws nigh its cure. There are many pangs for the unyielding heart, and the patient who resists his physician amplifies his torment. There is no unpardonable sin, save the unrepented one. Nor does any gift remain without addition, save that which is received without thanksgiving. The fool's portion is small in his eyes.

Ever keep in remembrance those who surpass you by their virtue, so as to see yourself always as inferior to their measure. And be ever conscious of the bitter tribulations of the afflicted and oppressed, so that you may render due thanksgiving for your small and inconsequential troubles, and be able to endure them patiently and with joy. At the time of your defeat, when you are bound both with languor and slothfulness, and subdued by the enemy in the most painful misery and wearisome labor of sin, ponder in your heart on the former time of your diligence, and how you used to concern yourself even over the most minute matters, and the valiant struggle which you displayed, and how you were stirred up with zeal against those who would hinder you in your progress.

Furthermore, reflect upon the groans which you used to utter because of the small faults that you committed due to your negligence, and how in all these things you took the crown of victory. For thus, with such and so many recollections, your soul is wakened as if from the deep


and is clad with the flame of zeal. Then through fervent struggling against the devil and sin she rises up out of her sunken state as if from the dead, she is raised on high, and she returns to her ancient estate.

Remember the fall of the mighty, and be humble in your virtues. Recollect the grievous transgressions of those who of old trespassed and repented, and the sublimity and honor of which afterwards they were deemed worthy, and take courage in your repentance. Be a persecutor of yourself, and your enemy will be driven from your proximity. Be peaceful within yourself, and heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Be diligent to enter into the treasury that is within you ( Vide Matthew 6:6), and you will see the treasury of Heaven: for these are one and the same, and with one entry you will behold them both. The ladder of the Kingdom is within you, hidden in your soul. Plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you will find steps by which you will be able to ascend.

Scripture has not explained to us what the things of the age to come are; and yet, how we might receive a perception of their delight here, without a change of nature and a translation to another place (Literally; a topical translation or migration. The Greek has departure from this world, but this phrase refers not to death but to physical rapture),

Scripture has easily taught us. For although it does this by the names of things desirable and highly esteemed, which to us are sweet and precious, in order to stimulate us to a yearning for them, still when it says, 'which eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard', and the rest (1 Corinthians 2:9), Scripture has declared to us that the good things to come are incomprehensible, and have no similarity to any thing here.

Spiritual delight is not enjoyment found in things that exist substantially outside the souls of those who receive it [[and are promised to us for the restitution to come]]. If it were, then the words, 'The Kingdom of the Heavens is within you' (Cf. Luke 17:21) and, 'Thy Kingdom come' (Matthew 6:10), would mean that we have acquired matter of a palpable nature within us as the earnest of the delight found in that Kingdom ( Vide 2

Corinthians 1:22). For the thing acquired must needs be like the earnest of it, and the whole like its part. And although 'as in a mirror' (2 Corinthians 3:18) indicates 'not substantially', yet it does show clearly, in any case, the acquisition of a likeness. But if, as the true testimony of those who have interpreted the Scriptures says, this perception (This word also means: consciousness, sensation, awareness, or in this sense, experience. This is the earnest of which Saint Isaac speaks) is the noetic operation of the Holy Spirit, and it is a part of that whole [[then—besides that spiritual operation which mediates between the Spirit and the saints through noetic perception—there is no palpable mediation by the senses for the delight of the saints yonder, [but instead of the senses] there are only those receptacles [of the mind] which contain


everything in a well-ordered manner. And if we should call this (i.e. the operation of the Holy Spirit) a profusion of light, we do not mean [light] that is not noetic]].

The lover of virtue is not he who does good with valiant struggle, but he who accepts with joy the evils that attend virtue. It is not so great a thing for one patiently to endure afflictions on behalf of virtue, as it is for the mind through the determination of its good volition to remain unconfused by the flattery of tantalizing pleasures. No kind of repentance that takes place after the removal of our free will will be a well-spring of joy, nor will it be reckoned for the reward of those who possess it.

Cover a man who stumbles, so long as you receive no harm from him, and give him encouragement; then your Master's loving-kindness will bear you up. Support with a word the infirm and those who are grieved at heart in so far as this lies within your hands, then the Right Hand that sustains all will also sustain you. Through the toil of prayer and the anguish of your heart commune with those who are grieved at heart, and the Source of mercy will be opened up to your petitions. Belabor yourself in constant supplication before God with a heart possessing a pure, compunctionate meditation, and God will protect your mind from filthy thoughts, that His way may not be defamed through you.

Continuously apply yourself to the study of reading the divine Scriptures with precise understanding, lest by reason of the idleness of your intellect, your sight be polluted with foreign pollutions (Syriac; divert your gaze toward the continual study of prudent reading, lest by reason of its idleness, your vision be polluted by some foreign spectacle).

At a time when you think you will not be worsted, do not voluntarily make trial of your mind with lewd reflections which tempt you, because in this way wise men have been darkened and made fools. Do not store a flame in your bosom (Cf. Proverbs 6:27).

Without harsh tribulations of the flesh it is difficult for untrained youth to be held under the yoke of sanctification. The beginning of the intellect's darkening (once a sign of it is visible in the soul) is to be seen, first of all, in slothfulness with regard to the

[church] services (Literally; service or liturgy. Here the chanted services established by the Church, e.g. the Hours, Nocturns, etc., are meant and they are distinguished from solitary prayer) and prayer. For except the soul first fall away from these, she cannot be led in the way of error; but as soon as she is deprived of God's help, she easily falls into the hands of her adversaries. And again, whenever the soul becomes heedless of virtue's labors, she is inevitably drawn to what is opposed to them. A transition, from whichever side it occurs, is the beginning of what belongs to the opposite quarter. Practice the work of virtue in your soul and do not concern yourself with futile matters (Syriac; and ponder upon it [i.e. the work of virtue] and so on. There are many readings in the MSS for the first part of this sentence). Always lay bare your weakness before God, and you will never be put to the test by aliens when you are found alone, distant from your Helper.


The activity of taking up the cross is twofold, in conformity with the duality of our nature, which is divided into two parts. The first is patient endurance of the tribulations of the flesh which is accomplished by the activity of the soul's incensive part (See also pages 18, 273, and 357), and this is called righteous activity (praxis). The second is to be found in the subtle workings of the intellect, in steady divine rumination, in unfailing constancy of prayer, and in other such practices. This second activity is carried out through the appetitive part of the soul, and is called divine vision (theoria). As for the first, that is, praxis, it purifies the passionate part of the soul by the power of zeal.

And the second, theoria, through the action of the soul's love, which is a natural yearning, thoroughly filters out the noetic part of the soul. Thus every man who, before training completely in the first part, proceeds to that second activity out of passionate longing for its sweetness (or rather, should I say, out of sloth)has wrath come upon him, because he did not first 'mortify his members which are upon the earth' (Cf. Colossians 3:5), that is, heal the infirmity of his thoughts by patient endurance of the labor which belongs to the shame of the cross. For he dared to imagine in his mind the cross's glory. And this is what was said by holy men of old: 'If the intellect should wish to mount upon the cross before the senses have found rest from their infirmity, the wrath of God comes upon it.' His mounting of the cross which brings wrath upon itself does not result from the first part, that of patient endurance of afflictions which is the crucifying of our flesh, but results from the desire to ascend to divine vision ( theoria), which is the second part and takes place after the healing of the soul. A man whose mind is polluted with the 'passions of dishonor' (Romans 1:26), and who rushes to imagine with his mind the phantasies of the thoughts, is put to silence by Divine punishment, because he did not previously purify his mind through afflictions, and subdue the lusts of his flesh. But from what he has heard with his ears, and from the ink of his book-learning, he ran ahead of himself to walk in a way filled with gloom, while his own eyes were blind. For even those whose sight is sound and who are filled with light, who have obtained grace as their guide, are in peril both night and day. Their eyes are filled with tears, and they are diligent in prayer and weeping all the day and in the night, because they fear the journey and the great precipices that confront them and the illusions of dissembling shapes found mixed with truth.

The things of God, they say, come of themselves, without one being aware of it.

Yes, but only if the place is clean and not defiled. If the pupil of your soul's eye is not pure, do not venture to gaze at the orb of the sun, lest you be deprived of your sight—

which is simple faith, humility, confession from the heart and your small labors

according to


your capacity—and lest you be cast aside in a lone region of the noetic world (which is the 'outer darkness', outside God, a figure of Hell) like that man who shamelessly entered into the wedding feast with unclean garments ( Vide Matthew 22:11 ff).

From exertions and watching (i.e. the guarding of the mind. In Syriac there is a play on words here: from zehirutha springs zahiyutha) there springs purity of the thoughts. And out of purity of the thoughts, the light of the understanding dawns. From this the intellect is guided by grace into that wherein the senses have no power, either to teach, or to learn.

Think to yourself that virtue is the body, but divine vision the soul, while both are one complete man in spirit, which is united out of two parts, the physical and the noetic.

And just as it is impossible that our soul should come into being and be born without the complete forming of the body with its members, so is it impossible that there be divine vision, that second soul (which is also the spirit of revelation, and is molded in the matrix of the intellect ((Greek; womb. The text which the Greek translators employed apparently had this reading since it resembles intellect (mad'a) in Syriac)) that receives the substance of the spiritual seed) without the completion of virtue's labor; and virtue is the house of knowledge which is a host to revelations.

Divine vision is the perception (reference is repeated here to the earlier footnote on p. 11, which is repeated verbatim: Greek; (This word also means: consciousness, sensation, awareness, or in this sense, experience. This is the earnest of which Saint Isaac speaks) of divine mysteries which are hidden in things and causes (Syriac; in things spoken). Whenever you hear of withdrawal or abandonment of the world, or of being pure from the world, then first you must learn and understand the term world, not as common, unlearned men do, but in its spiritual senses, and how many different things this name comprises. Then you will be able to know your soul, how distant she is from the world, and how great an intermingling she has with the world.

World is a collective noun which is applied to the so-called passions. But if a man does not know first what the world is, he will never come to know with how many of his members he is distant from the world, and with how many he is bound to it. Many are the persons that with two or three members have parted from the world, and curb themselves with respect to these, and suppose themselves to be strangers to the world in their way of life. This, however, is because they neither understand nor prudently see that with two of their members they have died to the world, while their remaining members live within the body of the world. Howbeit, they have not even been able to perceive so much as their passions. And since they have no awareness of them, neither have they made an effort to heal them.

By contemplative examination, the world is also called the aggregate of the collective noun which is applied to the separate passions. When we wish to give a collective name to the passions, we call them world. And when we wish to designate them specifically


according to their names, we call them passions. The passions are portions of the course of the world's onward flow; and where the passions cease, there the world's onward flow stands still. These are the passions: love of wealth; gathering objects of any kind; bodily

pleasure, from which comes the passion of carnal intercourse; love of esteem, from which springs envy; the wielding of power; pride in the trappings of authority; stateliness and pomposity; human glory, which is the cause of resentment; fear for the body (from here to the end of the paragraph we have followed the Syriac). Wherever these have halted in their course, there, in part, to the extent that the passions are inactive, the world fails from its constitution and remains inactive. Thus it was with each of the saints, that while they lived, they were dead. For living in the body, they lived not according to the flesh.

Examine in which of these passions you are alive, and then you will know in how many parts you are alive to the world, and in how many you are dead. When you learn what the world is, by distinguishing these matters you will also come to know your entanglement in the world as well as your freedom from it. But that I may speak briefly: the world is the carnal way of life and the 'mind of the flesh' (Romans 8:7). Hence, a man's elevation above the world can also be recognized from these two things: from the good transformation of his way of life and from a discernment of his thoughts. Therefore, you may comprehend the measure of your way of life from that which arises in your mind with regard to the things it muses upon in its thoughts: for which things your nature effortlessly longs, what stirrings are aroused continually, and which are caused by an accidental circumstance; whether your mind has any perception at all of incorporeal thoughts; or whether all its motions are of a material sort; and whether the mind's material quality is something passionate, or only that the thoughts are the imprints of the physical aspect of a man's virtuous labor: for the mind involuntarily muses upon the things wherewith it performs the virtues. From these things [last mentioned] the mind, in a wholesome manner, receives the cause of fervor and the gathering of its deliberations, for because of its lack of training (Greek; and western Syriac; on account of its training.

Bedjan's reading, used above, is preferable) the mind, with a good intention, prefers to labor in a corporeal manner, though it does not do so passionately. Observe also whether your mind remains unaffected by hidden confrontations with the imprints of thoughts because of a mightier ardor for the Divine, which is wont to cut off vain recollections.

The few indications we have provided in this chapter will suffice a man for his enlightenment instead of many books if he lives quietly and has discernment (Greek; is separated [from all]. The Syriac could also mean this). Fear for the body is often so strong in a man as to make him incapable of any deeds worthy of honor or praise. But when fear for the soul overshadows bodily fear, then bodily fear wilts before it like wax from the heat of a flame. But to our God be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 3.

That Without Toil the Soul Enters Into Understanding of the Wisdom of God and of His Creatures, If She Becomes Still to the World and Life's Concerns; for Then She Can Come to Know Her Nature and What Treasures She Has Hidden Within Herself.

When life's concerns do not incur into the soul from without, and she abides in her nature (Syriac; A soul that does not overpower what belongs to her nature by increased care for amassing possessions) then she does not require prolonged toil to penetrate into and understand the wisdom of God. For her separation from the world and her stillness naturally move her toward the understanding of God's creatures. And by this she is lifted up toward God; being astonished, she is struck with wonder, and she remains with God.

When water does not seep into the fountain of the soul from without, the natural water that springs up in her incessantly bubbles forth intuitions of God's wonders (Syriac; the waters from her own nature bubble up, which are wondrous intuitions that ever arise concerning God). But when the soul is found bereft of these, it is either because she has received a cause for this from some alien recollection, or because the senses have stirred up turmoil against her by means of encounters with objects. When the senses, however, are confined by stillness and not permitted to sally forth, and by its aid the soul's memories grow old, then you will see what are the soul's natural thoughts, what is the nature of the soul, and what treasures she has hidden within herself. These treasures are incorporeal intuitions that are inspired in the soul by themselves, without the exercise of forethought and toil in their behalf. A man, however, does not even know that such thoughts could arise in human nature. For who taught him these things? Or how did he comprehend that which, even when understood, is impossible to make plain to others? Or who was his guide to that which he had never learned from another?


The nature of the soul is, then, something like what we have described. The passions are, consequently, an addition [to nature] from causes in the soul. Yet by nature the soul is passionless. Whenever you hear in the Scriptures of passions of the soul and body, know that this is said in reference to the causes of the passions. For the soul is naturally dispassionate. Those who prefer outward philosophy do not accept this, and neither do their adherents. But we believe that God created His image passionless (but I do not mean His image in reference to the body, but to the soul, which is invisible). For every image is taken from a prototype. And it is impossible for a visible image to depict the likeness of something invisible (Greek; And it is impossible for a man to depict an image when he has not seen beforehand a likeness thereof). So you must believe that the passions, as we said earlier, do not belong to the soul [by nature]. But if anyone wishes to challenge what has been said, we shall ask:

Question: What is the nature of the soul? Is it, then, something passionless and filled with light, or something passionate and dark?

Answer: If the nature of the soul was once translucent and pure by the reception of that blessed light, it will be found the same when it returns to its original state. Therefore, when the soul is moved in a passionate way, she is confessedly outside her nature, as the children of the Church maintain. The passions, therefore, entered into the soul afterwards, and it is not right to say that the passions belong to the soul, even though she is moved by them. Hence it is evident that she is moved by things from without, not by what is her own. If passions are said to be natural because by them the soul is moved through (the Greek and the Vatican Syriac MS 124 read without, but the Syriac printed text and the context show this to be an error) the intermediary of the body, then hunger, thirst, and sleep would also be natural [to the soul], because she suffers in these things and groans together with the body: in the amputation of its members, in fevers, in diseases, and in what is akin to these. For because of her communion with the body, the soul suffers pain together with it, just as the body with the soul; and the soul is moved to gladness by the body's gladness and she bears its afflictions.

On the Soul, the Passions, and the Purity of the Mind, in Questions and Answers.

(This title is found in the Greek as the beginning of a new homily).

Question: What is the natural state of the soul, what is the state contrary to nature, and what is the state above nature?


Answer: The natural state of the soul is understanding of God's creatures, both sensory and noetic. The supernatural state of the soul is her movement in (Greek; the movement of) the divine vision of the transubstantial Deity. The contranatural state of the soul is her being moved by the passions. And this is exactly what the divine and great Basil has said: 'When the soul is found in accord with her nature, her life is on high; when she is found outside her nature, she is below upon the earth. When she is on high, she is free from the passions; but as soon as her nature descends from its own state, the passions are found in her.' It is evident, therefore, that the so-called passions of the soul are not the soul's by nature. If this be so, then the soul is moved by the body's blameworthy passions even as she is by hunger and thirst. But since no law has been imposed on her in regard to the latter, the soul is not to be blamed, as she is in regard to the former passions which are subject to reproach. There are times when God permits a man to do something apparently improper and he receives, instead of blame and censure, a good recompense: as Osee the prophet, who married a harlot ( Vide Hosea 1:2); as the prophet Elias, who put men to death in his zeal for God ( Vide 3 Kings 18:40); and as those who slew their kindred by the sword at Moses' command ( Vide Exodus 32:27). It is said, nevertheless, that desire and anger (Greek; or strong feeling) naturally belong to the soul apart from what pertains to the nature of the body, and that these are her passions.

Question: We ask: is the soul's desire natural when it is kindled by divine things, or by the things of earth and the flesh? And is anger natural when it is said that by anger the soul's nature is excited to zeal on account of bodily desire, envy, vainglory, and the rest, or when it is on account of things opposed to these? Let the disputer reply to us on these points, and we shall follow up (this is the Syriac reading).

Answer: Divine Scripture says many things [[with a special intent]] and often uses names figuratively, as for instance: things which pertain to the body are said of the soul, and things pertaining to the soul are said of the body, making no distinction between them. The sagacious, however, understand [[what they read, that is, the intent of Scripture]]. Likewise things pertaining to the Lord's Divinity (which are not compatible with human nature) are said with respect to His all-holy body; and again lowly things are said concerning His Divinity which pertain to His humanity. Many, not understanding the intent of the Divine words, have stumbled here with a stumbling from which there is no recovery. So too it is with names pertaining to the body and the soul. If, therefore, virtue is the natural health of the soul, then the passions are an illness of the soul which befalls and invades her nature and despoils her proper health. Now it is obvious that in every nature health is antecedent to any disease which might befall it. And if this be so, as indeed it is,


then [[by necessity]] virtue is in the soul naturally, but that which is an accident (or a chance occurrence, a contingency) is external to her nature. [[For it is impossible that

something which is prior should not be natural.]]

Question: Do the bodily passions belong to the soul by nature, or by accident?

And are the passions of the soul which she possesses by reason of her connexion with the body said to be hers naturally, or by a figure of speech?

Answer: No one dares say that the passions belong to the body only figuratively; but as for those of the soul, one must be bold and say, inasmuch as it is recognized and confessed by all that purity is a natural property of the soul, that the passions in no wise belong to the soul by nature. For sickness is posterior to health, and it is impossible that one and the same nature be both good and evil. Therefore of necessity, one must precede the other; and the one which is prior is also the natural, because anything which is accidental is not said to belong to a nature, but to intrude from without. And change follows upon every accident and intrusion. Nature, however, does not change or alter itself.

Every passion that exists for our benefit has been given by God. The passions of the body have been implanted in it for its benefit and growth, and the same is true with respect to the passions of the soul. But whenever the body is forced by a privation of what is proper to it to be outside of its own well-being and to follow after the soul, it is enfeebled and harmed. And whenever the soul, abandoning what belongs to her, follows after the body, she is immediately harmed, as the divine Apostle said: 'The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary the one to the other' (Galatians 5:17). Let no one, therefore, blaspheme God, saying that He has imposed the passions and sin upon our nature. For He has implanted in natures that which causes each to grow. But whenever one nature enters into agreement with another, it is no longer found in what is proper to it, but in that which is opposed to it. For if the passions were in the soul naturally, for what reason is she harmed by them? For that which is proper to a nature does not destroy it.

Question: Why does the [[fulfilling of the]] bodily passions strengthen and make the body grow, while those of the soul harm the soul, if they are proper to her? And for what reason does virtue torment the body but enrich the soul?

Answer: Do you not see how things that are external to a nature harm it? For every nature is filled with gladness when it draws near to what is proper to it. And do you wish to know what is proper to each nature? Observe, that which aids nature is proper to it; but that which is harmful is alien and invades it from without. Therefore, since it is known that the passions of the soul and body oppose one another (Cf. Galatians 5:17), it is evident that


although the soul should employ something that helps and relieves the body, this thing should not be thought to belong to the soul's nature. For what is proper to the soul's nature is death to the body. But by a figure of speech it is nevertheless attributed to the soul, and because of the body's frailty she cannot be liberated from these things so long as she is clad with the flesh. For through God's inscrutable wisdom, by nature the soul has been made a sharer in the body's griefs, by reason of the union of her movement with the body's movement. But although they are thus partakers of one another, still the movement

of one is separate from the movement of the other, the will of one from the will of the other, the body from the spirit. Nature remains totally unconfused and it does not suppress its properties (Greek; nature does not change). Every nature (Specifically, that of the soul and body. The Greek MSS have various readings here) though a man forcibly brings it into agreement with either sin or virtue, will exert its own will and breed its own offspring. When the soul is raised from bodily cares, then by the action of the Spirit she, in her entirety, stimulates her movements to blossom forth and in the bosom of Heaven she swims amidst incomprehensible things. But even when this occurs, the body is permitted to retain a consciousness of what is proper to it. Likewise, if the body is found in sin, the soul's own deliberations do not cease to spring up in the intellect.

Question: What is the purity of the mind?

Answer: The man who is pure in mind is not he who has no knowledge of evil (for that is to be like a brute beast) nor he who is by nature on the level of infants (i.e. a half-wit) not again he who never takes up human affairs (this is the reading of the Vatican Syriac MS 124. The Greek has nor he who takes face[s], that is, shows partiality. Here the Greek translators read the Syriac word eyes in place of affairs—they being very similar—and translated eyes by face) [[nor yet is purity of mind that we should not beseech men for any created thing]]. But purity of the mind is this: to be rapt in things divine, and this comes about after a man has practiced the virtues. We are not so bold as to say that anyone has achieved this without experience of evil thoughts, for in such a case he would not be clad with a body. For until death we cannot dare to say that our nature is not warred upon or harmed. And by experience of evil thoughts I mean not to submit to them but to make a beginning to struggle with them.

The movement of thoughts in a man originates from four causes. Firstly, from the natural will of the flesh; secondly, from the imagination of the world's sensory objects which a man hears and sees; thirdly, from mental predispositions and from the aberration of the soul; and fourthly, from the assaults of the demons who wage war with us in all the passions through the causes which we have already mentioned. For this reason, till death a man cannot be without thoughts and warfare so long as he is in the life of the


flesh (From the beginning of the paragraph until this point the Syriac reads Struggle with the thoughts is aroused in the mind by four general causes which form a basis for the movement of all the different passions. Hence, in this life, a man cannot be freed from recollections of this world, and though he be a front-line fighter, or even like Paul, he cannot be considered perfect. Still, although he experiences the vexation of the passions through these four causes—namely, the body, through its naturally ordered movements; the world, through its objects with the mediation of the senses; the soul, through thoughts, recollections, and aberrant forces; and the demons, through the activities of the aforesaid—yet even so, when he is troubled by them but briefly, he will be caught away to more excellent things which he perceives by his intuitions). If, before the destruction of this world or before a man's death, one of these four causes could possibly be done away with, or whether it be possible for the body not to seek its needs and not to be compelled to desire any of the world's goods, judge for yourself. But if it is absurd to suppose any such thing, since our nature is in need of the world's goods, then it follows that the passions move in the man who is clad with a body, whether he wills it or not. Wherefore

every man must guard himself. By the word passion I do not speak of one [sort] only—

which openly and continually moves within a man—or of two, but of many kinds, since he is clad with a body. Although those who have vanquished the passions by means of the virtues are vexed by thoughts and the assaults of these four causes, yet they are not overcome, because they have power and their mind is caught away into good and divine recollections (Instead of this the Syriac reads But if a man should grow presumptuous because of the weakness of his thoughts and the fewness of his severe conflicts, we say that whoever it might be, men are not in need of labors but of great watchfulness).

Question: In what respect does purity of mind differ from purity of heart?

Answer: Purity of mind is one thing, and purity of heart is another [[just as a limb differs from the whole body]]. Now the mind is one of the senses of the soul, but the heart is what contains and holds the inner senses [[:it is the sense of senses]], that is, their root; but if the root is holy, then the branches are holy. It is evident, therefore, that if the heart is purified, all the senses are made pure (Syriac; But this is not so if only one of the branches is sanctified). Now if the mind, on the one hand, is a little diligent in reading the divine Scriptures and toils a little in fasting, vigil, and stillness, it will forget its former activity and will become pure, as long as it abstains from alien concerns. Even so its purity will not be permanent, for just as it is quickly cleansed, so too it is quickly soiled.

But the heart, on the other hand, is only made pure by many afflictions, deprivations, separation from all fellowship with the world, and deadness to all things. Once it is purified, however, its purity is not soiled by little things, nor is it dismayed by great and open conflicts (I mean dreadful ones), inasmuch as it has acquired, as it were, a strong stomach capable of quickly digesting all the food that is indigestible to those who are weak. For so it is said among the physicians, that all meat is difficult to digest, but it produces great strength in healthy bodies when a strong stomach takes it. Even so, any purity that comes quickly, with little time and slight labor, is also quickly lost and


defiled. But the purity that comes through many afflictions and is acquired over a long period of time in the soul's superior part (this is the sense of the Syriac) is not endangered by any moderate assault.

On the Senses, and on Temptations Also.

(This title is found in the Greek as the beginning of a new homily).

When the senses are chaste and collected, they give birth to peace in the soul and do not allow her to experience strife (Greek; things); and whenever the soul has no perception of anything, victory will be gained without struggle. But (from this point to the end of the paragraph the Syriac of the Vat. MS 124 has been rendered) if the soul should grow negligent in this matter, she will not be able to remain secure; and after a perception has entered, she must fight hard to expel it from herself. However, her first state of limpid purity

(This is the translation of the Syriac term shapyutha, which means clearness, limpidity, transparency, serenity. A clear sky is also serene. Some say that this term is equivalent to

the Greek; dispassion. For Saint Isaac, the soul's primordial state is one of limpid purity, and resembles Adam's state before he tasted of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Worldly knowledge and passions cause a man to lose the limpidity that is both natural and proper to his soul. Later East Syrian ascetical writers used the term shapyutha in a more technical sense, referring to a stage in spiritual life)

—and natural innocence are lost. The majority of men, if not all the world, for this reason (the Greek has because of their negligence, explaining the reason) depart from the natural state and that limpid purity which is prior to the knowledge of diverse things. On this account, the more men are involved with the world, the more it is difficult for them to regain limpid purity, by reason of their knowledge of many evil things. Only one man among many can once again return to his primordial state by another means (instead of by another means the Greek has the explanatory sentence: To attain this each man must always securely guard his senses and his mind from assaults, for there is much need of sobriety, guarding, and watchfulness). But simplicity is more beautiful (or better) than the diverse ways of [obtaining] forgiveness.

Fear is necessary for human nature in order that it might keep within the bounds of obedience to God. But the love of God incites a man to desire the works of virtue and through love he is caught away to the doing of good. Spiritual knowledge naturally comes after the performance of the virtues, but both are preceded by fear and love; and again, fear precedes love. Whoever says with presumption that it is possible to acquire the more perfect virtues before he accomplishes the elementary has, without a doubt, laid the first foundation for the ruin of his soul. For the Lord's way is that the more perfect be born of the former virtues.

Do not exchange your brother's love for the love of any fleeting thing, because love


conceals within itself Him Who is more precious than all things (The Syriac continues with the following passage: That which a material object is to the eyes of the flesh, the same is passionate behavior to the hidden faculty of sight. And that which the murky passions are to the second mode of natural theoria, the same the passions are to the natural, settled state; and they are thus related to one another throughout the range of the diverse theorias. When the intellect is fixed in the natural, settled state, it abides in angelic theoria, that is, primary and natural theoria, which is also called naked intellect.

But when the intellect is in the second, natural knowledge, it suckles and is sustained by milk from breasts, as it were. This is called the outward garment of the degree just mentioned [i.e. the naked intellect]. It is placed after purity, which the mind enters first. It is also prior in existence, for it is the first degree of knowledge, although it is last in honor. For this reason it is also called secondary, and is like certain inscribed letters whereby the intellect is trained and cleansed for the ascent to the second degree, which is perfection of the motions of the mind and the degree that is nigh to divine theoria. The outward garment of the intellect is the senses, but its nakedness is its being moved by immaterial divine visions). Abandon what is small, that you may find what is great.

Spurn what is superfluous and without value, that you may discover what is truly valuable. Become as one dead during your life and you will not live unto death. Give yourself over to death in your struggles, rather than live in heedlessness. For martyrs are not only those who have accepted death for their belief in Christ, but also those who die

for the sake of keeping His commandments.

Do not become foolish in your petitions, lest you insult God by the meanness of your knowledge. Become wise in your prayers that you may be accounted worthy of glorious things. Seek what is honorable from Him Who gives ungrudgingly, that you may also receive honor from Him by reason of your wise volition. Solomon asked for wisdom and with it he received an earthly kingdom, inasmuch as he asked wisely of the Great King Himself ( Vide 3 Kings 3:9 ff; Wisdom 7:7 ff). Elisseus asked for a double portion of the grace of the Spirit that abode in his teacher, and by no means failed in his request ( Vide 4 Kings 2:9). For he that requests contemptible things of a king brings contempt upon the latter's honor. Israel asked for what was contemptible and received the wrath of God. It ceased to marvel at the works of God, His terrible wonders, and made supplication for its belly's lusts: 'But while their food was yet in their mouth, the wrath of God rose up against them' (Psalms 77:30, 31). Present your petitions to God so as to accord with His glory, that your honor may be magnified before Him, and He rejoice over you. For if a man should beseech the king for a measure of dung, he not only dishonors himself by his miserable petition (since he has shown great lack of sense) but also he has heaped insult upon the king because of what he asked for, even so he that seeks earthly things from God in his prayers does the same. For lo, angels and archangels, who are the King's great officials, are gazing steadfastly upon you at the time of your prayer to see what petition you will make of their Master; and they are astonished and exultant whenever they behold one who is made of earth forsake his dunghill and ask for what is heavenly.

Do not ask of God a thing which He Himself, without our asking, has already taken


forethought to give not only to us, those of His own household and His beloved friends, but also to those who are strangers to the knowledge of Him. 'Be not like unto the heathen', He says, 'who use vain repetitions in their prayers' [Cf. Matthew 6:7]. 'For after all these bodily things do the heathen seek', says the Lord [Cf. Matthew 6:32]. 'But ye, take no thought what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or what ye shall put on' [Cf.

Matthew 6:31]. 'For your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things' [Cf. Matthew 6:32]. A son does not ask bread of his father, but seeks the great and lofty things of his father's house. It was on account of the feebleness of the minds of [common] men that the Lord commanded us to ask for our daily bread, for see what He commanded those who are perfect in knowledge and healthy of soul: 'Take no thought concerning food or raiment' [Cf. Matthew 6:28], He says, 'for if He taketh care for the brute beasts, and the birds, and even lifeless things, will He not take much more care for you?' [Cf. Matthew 6:26]. 'But seek ye rather the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you' [Cf. Matthew 6:33].

If you should beseech God for a thing and He is slow to hearken to you speedily, do not grieve, for you are not wiser than God. This happens to you either because you are not worthy to obtain your request, or because the pathways of your heart do not accord with your petitions (but rather the contrary) or because you have not yet reached the measure wherein you could receive the gift you ask for, [Syriac; or because your hidden measure is too immature for the greatness of the thing]. We must not rush onwards to great measures before the time [Syriac; it is not right that great things should quickly fall into our hands], lest God's gift be debased by our hasty reception of it. For anything that

is quickly obtained is also easily lost, whereas everything found with toil is also kept with careful watching.

Thirst for Christ, that He may make you drunk with His love. Close your eyes to the delights of this life [Syriac; the precious things of this world], that God may deem you worthy to have His peace reigning in your heart. Abstain from what your eyes behold, that you may be accounted worthy of spiritual joy. If your works are displeasing to God, seek not from Him glorious things, lest you become a man who tempts God. As your manner of life, so must your prayer be. For it is impossible for someone bound up in earthly matters to seek what is heavenly, and the man who is occupied with worldly affairs cannot ask for what is divine. Each man's desire is revealed by his works, and in whatever matters he shows his zeal, it is for those that he strives in prayer. The man who desires the greatest things does not concern himself with the lesser.

Be free, though you are bound in a body, and for Christ's sake show forth obedience in your freedom. But also be prudent in your simplicity, lest you be plundered.

Love humility in all your activities, that you be delivered from the imperceptible snares that are


always found outside the pathways of humble men. Do not reject afflictions, for through them you will enter into the knowledge of the truth; and do not fear temptations, because therein you find precious things. Pray that you enter not into the temptations of the soul, but with all your strength prepare yourself for those of the body. Without these you cannot draw nigh to God, because divine rest is laid up within them. He that flees temptations flees from virtue. But by temptation (The basic sense of the word is a trial; it will be sometimes translated in this way according to the context. The Latin equivalent is tentatio, an attack, also a trial: hence the English temptation) I mean not that which originates from lusts, but from afflictions.

Question: How does, 'Pray that ye enter not into temptation' (Matthew 26:41) agree with, 'Strive to enter in at the narrow gate'?, (Luke 13:24). And again, with 'Fear not them that kill the body' (Matthew 10:28) and, 'He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it'?, (Matthew 10:39). Why is it that the Lord everywhere urges us on to temptations, yet here He enjoins us to pray not to enter into them? Indeed, what virtue is without affliction and trial? Or what kind of trial is greater than for a man to lose his very self, a trial into which He has bidden us all to enter on His account? For He says, 'He that taketh not up his cross and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me' (Matthew 10:38). How is it, therefore, that in all His teaching He has enjoined us to enter into temptations, yet here He has commanded us to pray not to enter into them? 'Ye must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God', says Paul (Cf. Acts 14:22). And again, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation' (John 16:33) and, 'In your patience', regarding these things, 'ye shall gain your souls' (Luke 21:19).

O the subtlety of the path of Thy teachings, O Lord! Outside this path is the man who reads without understanding and knowledge. When the sons of Zebedee and their mother aspired to sit at Thy side in Thy Kingdom, Thou didst say unto them, 'Are ye able to drink the cup of temptations 'that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?' (Matthew 20:22). And how is it that here, O Master, Thou dost permit us to pray not to enter into temptation? Concerning what sort of temptations dost Thou command us to pray that we enter not into them?

Answer: Pray, He says, that you enter not into temptations of your faith. Pray that through your mind's self-esteem you enter not into temptation with the demon of blasphemy and pride. Pray that you enter not by God's permission into the manifest temptation of the devil because of the evil thoughts which you have entertained in your mind and on account of which you suffer temptation (Syriac; the manifest temptations of the senses, which the devil knows how to bring upon you when God permits it because of the foolish thoughts you entertain). Pray that the angel (Syriac; witness) of your


chastity may not withdraw from you, that you be not warred upon by the fiery war of sin, and be separated from him. Pray that you enter not into a temptation of vexation with someone. Pray that you enter not into temptations of soul through doubts [[and provocations]] by which the soul is violently drawn into great conflict. Howbeit, prepare yourself with all your soul to receive bodily temptations; voyage in them with all your members and fill your eyes with tears, so that the angel who guards you does not depart from you. For without trials God's providence is not seen, and you cannot obtain boldness before God, nor learn the wisdom of the Spirit, nor can divine longing be established in you. Before temptations a man prays to God as though he were a stranger; but when he enters into temptations for the sake of His love and does not permit himself to be deflected, then straightway he has, as it were, God as his debtor, and God reckons him as a true friend, since he has warred against His enemy and defeated him for the sake of His will. This is to 'pray that you enter not into temptation.' And again, pray that you enter not into the fearsome temptation of the devil by reason of your arrogance, but because you love God, and you wish that His power might help you and through you vanquish His enemies. Pray that you enter not into such trials because of the wickedness (Syriac; folly) of your thoughts and works, but rather in order that your love of God may be tested, and that His strength be glorified in your patience.

On Our Master's Tender Compassion, Whereby From the Height of His Majesty He Has Condescended to Men's Weakness; and on Temptations.

(This title is found in the Greek as the beginning of a new homily).

But on the other hand, if you pay attention with understanding, our Lord did enjoin us to pray concerning bodily trials also, making provision for us after the manner of His loving-kindness and according to the measure of His grace. For knowing our nature to be frail because of the earthy and unsound substance of our body, and that it,

[i.e. our nature] cannot withstand temptations when engulfed by them, and that for this reason we fall away from the truth and we turn our backs, being overcome by afflictions, He therefore commanded us to pray that we should not suddenly fall into temptations, if it be possible to please God without them.


If, however, we should fall suddenly into terrible trials by reason of our quest for great virtue, and if virtue cannot be accomplished at that time if we do not endure them, then, in such a case, we should spare neither ourselves nor other men. Nor out of fear must we relinquish the gallant and honorable deed in which the life of the soul is treasured up, and employ as a veil for our laxity (Greek; offer excuses and precepts for

our laxity, such as. Perhaps the translators read tahwitha (demonstration) for tahpitha (veil)) the words, 'Pray that ye enter not into temptation.' It is said concerning such persons that 'through the commandment they sin in secret.' If, therefore, it befalls a man that temptation comes upon him and compels him to break one of Christ's commandments, that is, to abandon his chastity, or the monastic life, or to deny the Faith, or not to struggle for Christ's sake (Syriac; not to bear witness to the Word of God), or to set at naught any one of the commandments, and he becomes afraid and does not courageously resist these temptations, then he will fall away from the truth.

So let us shun the body with all our strength, surrender our souls to God, and in the Lord's name enter into the arena of temptations. May He that preserved Joseph in the land of Egypt and showed him forth as an icon and exemplar of chastity ( Vide Genesis 39:1 ff), and Who kept Daniel unharmed in the lions' den ( Vide Daniel 6:16 ff) and the Three Youths in the fiery furnace ( Vide Daniel 3:20 ff), and Who delivered Jeremias from the pit of mire ( Vide Jeremias 45 (38):6) and bestowed mercy upon him in the midst of the camp of the Chaldeans ( Vide Jeremias 47 (40):1), and Who brought Peter out of prison while the doors were shut ( Vide Acts 12:7 ff) and saved Paul from the synagogue of the Jews ( Vide Acts 21:30 ff) and, to speak simply, He that always continues with His servants in every place and country (Syriac; generation), Who manifests His power and victory in them, Who preserves them with manifold wonders and Who reveals His salvation to them in all their afflictions, may He give us strength also, and rescue us from amid the waves that encompass us. Amen.

Let us, therefore, acquire zeal in our souls against the devil and his commissaries even such as the Maccabees had, and the holy prophets, apostles, martyrs, the righteous, and the just. For these men proved allies of the Divine laws and the commandments of the Spirit in fearful places and amid most grievous tribulations. Mightily did they put the world and the flesh behind their backs and persevere in their righteousness; and they were not overcome by the perils that encircled both their soul and body, but courageously they took the victory, and their names are written in the book of life until the coming of Christ.

By God's decree their teaching has been preserved for our instruction and strengthening, as the blessed Apostle testifies (Cf. Romans 15:4) that we might become wise and learn the ways of God, and keep their histories and lives in view as living and breathing icons, and take our


example from them, and run their course, and make ourselves like unto them. The words of God are as sweet to the soul possessed of great understanding, as food that delights the body; and the histories of the righteous are as desirable to the ears of the meek, as continual watering to a newly planted tree.

Therefore, beloved, have in your mind God's providence (which from the beginning until now is dispensed with foreknowledge (Syriac; which was dispensed to the men of olden times)) as some excellent medicine for weakened eyes, and keep its recollection with you at all times. Ponder, consider, and be taught by these things, that you may learn to hold the remembrance of the greatness of God's honor in your soul, and thus find life eternal for your soul in Jesus Christ our Lord, Who is become 'the Mediator between God and men' (1 Timothy 2:5) as being the Uniter in His two natures (or, Uniter by His two natures, or, united in His two natures, i.e. reading a passive participle instead of an active one (in Syriac the forms are identical). The Greek reads here, united out of both, while the Vatican Syriac MS 124, united out of the two, i.e. natures, an evident

interpolation). The orders of the angels cannot approach the glory that surrounds the throne of His majesty, yet He has appeared in the world for our sake in a mean and humble form, as Esaias said: 'We beheld Him, that He had no form nor beauty' (Isaiah 53:2). It is He that, being invisible to all created nature, put on a body and fulfilled the oeconomy for the salvation and life of all the nations which were cleansed by Him, and to Him be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 4.

On the Love of God and Renunciation and the Rest Which Is in God.

The soul that loves God finds rest only in God. First loose yourself from all external bonds and then you may strive to bind your heart to God, because unification with God is preceded by loosing from matter. After an infant is weaned, it is given bread to eat; and the man who wishes to progress in things divine must first be weaned from the world, just as an infant from the breasts of its mother. Works performed with the body precede those with the soul, just as in generation the creation of the body preceded the creation of the soul ( Vide Genesis 2:7. This is the reading of the Syriac printed text. Here the Origenists are refuted. The Vatican Syriac MS reads as in the case of the soul's inbreathing. The Greek has as dust did the soul's inbreathing in Adam). The man who has not performed bodily works cannot possess the works of the soul, since the second are born of the first just as the ear of corn from a naked grain of wheat. And the man who does not possess the works of the soul is bereft of spiritual gifts.

The sufferings of the present age undertaken for the truth cannot be compared with the delight that is prepared for those who labor in good works (Cf. Romans 8:18).

And just as the sheaves of gladness follow for those who sow with tears (Cf. Psalms 125:5) so joy follows for those who suffer hardship for the sake of God. Bread procured with much sweat seems sweet to the husbandman, and sweet are works for righteousness'

sake to the heart which has received the knowledge of Christ. Suffer contempt and humiliation with good will, that you may have boldness before God. The man who with knowledge endures all manner of harsh words without having previously wronged his chider, at that moment places a crown of thorns on his head, and he is blessed, for he is crowned with an imperishable crown in a time which he knows not.


The man who flees futile glory with knowledge has already sensed in his soul

[[the hope of]] the age to come. The monk who says he has left the world and strives with men because of some necessity, lest he should be deprived of his ease, is utterly blind, since although he has voluntarily abandoned the whole body (Syriac; world), yet he contends for one of its members. The mind of the man who flees the ease of this age has scrutinized the future age. He who is bound by possessions is a slave of the passions. Do not imagine that merely the possession of gold and silver is possessiveness; rather, it is the acquisition of anything whatever which your will clings to. Do not extol the man who endures bodily hardship and yet gives free reign to his senses: I mean, that of hearing, and whose mouth is gaping and intemperate, and eyes roaming. If you make it a rule for your soul to practice [deeds of] mercy, accustom your soul not to seek your justification in other works, lest you find yourself scattering with one hand what you have gathered

with the other; for solicitude is necessary in the first instance, whereas breadth of heart in the second. Be it known to you, that to remit our debtors their sins is one of the works of righteousness; then you will see tranquility and luster throughout your entire mind. When you rise above the path of justice, you will cleave to freedom in all your actions (Syriac; That is to say, when in your path you are above justice and [the doing of] what is fitting, you will make way for freedom in all [things]).

One of the saints spoke of this, saying: 'The merciful man, if he be not just, is blind' (Abba Nilos of Sinai (PG 79. 1244c)). That is to say, he must give to another man what he has gained by his own labors and hardship and not what he has [gained] through fraud, injustice, and trickery. And the same saint said in another place: 'If you wish to sow your seed among the destitute, sow from your own seed; for if you wish to sow from other men's seed, know that what you sow is the most bitter of tares' ([this footnote is repeated a second time on the same page here]; Abba Nilos of Sinai; (PG 79. 1244c)).

But I say, that if the merciful man does not rise above what is just, he is not merciful.

That is to say, he is merciful who not only shows mercy to others by giving from his own means, but who also suffers injustice from other men with joy [[voluntarily, and who not merely keeps and requires justice in his dealings with his fellow men]], but also shows them mercy. When a man overcomes justice by mercy, he is crowned, though not with crowns awarded under the Law to the righteous, but with the crowns of the perfect who are under the Gospel. For, the ancient Law also dictates that a man must give to the poor from his own means, and clothe the naked, and love his neighbor as himself, and forbids injustice and lying. But the perfection of the Gospel's dispensation commands the following: 'Give to every man that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again' (Luke 6:30). And further, a man must not merely with joy suffer injustice as regards his possessions and the rest of the external things which come upon him, but he must also lay down his life for his brother. This is the merciful man, and not he


that simply shows mercy to his brother by giving him something. And whoever burns within his heart when he sees or hears of something that grieves his brother, such a one is truly merciful, as is also the man who being slapped by his brother does not act shamelessly and answer abusively, thus grieving his brother's heart.

Honor the work of vigil, that consolation may come near your soul. Persevere in reading while dwelling in stillness that your intellect may be drawn toward the wonders of God (Syriac; awestruck wonder) at all times. Love poverty with patience, that your mind may be collected and secured from wandering. Detest superfluity, that you may preserve your thoughts untroubled. Withdraw yourself from multitudinous affairs and have your soul as your only concern, so that you may save her innermost tranquility from dispersion. Love chastity, that you may not be disgraced in the time of your prayer to Christ [[the Judge of the contest]]. Acquire purity in your actions, that your soul may glisten with joy during prayer and that at the remembrance of death rejoicing may be ignited in your mind. Be on your guard against small things so that you do not fall in great matters. Do not be slothful in your work, lest you be disgraced when you stand in the midst of your companions; and do not be found without provisions for your journey, lest you be left alone by the wayside. Conduct your works with knowledge, lest you abandon your entire course. Acquire freedom in your manner of life, that you may be freed of turmoil. Do not bind your freedom by what affords you pleasure, lest you

become a slave of slaves. Love mean apparel as your dress so that you may set at naught the thoughts which spring up in you, I mean, haughtiness of heart [[and licentiousness]].

For the man who loves splendid apparel cannot acquire humble thoughts, since necessarily the heart within conforms to outward attire.

Who is the man that can acquire a pure mind while loving idle chatter? And who can acquire lowly thoughts while seeking to capture glory from men? Or, who can become pure of thought and humble of heart when he is licentious and dissolute in his members? For whenever the intellect is drawn away by the senses, it also eats the food of beasts with them. But when the senses are drawn by the intellect they partake together with it of the sustenance of angels.

Vainglory is a servant of fornication; but when it is found in monastic discipline, it is a servant of pride. Self-constraint follows humility, but spacious living is united to love of glory (These two sentences are translated from Syriac. The Greek abbreviates them). Humility attains to divine vision by means of her continual self-constriction, and she adorns the soul with chastity. But vainglory, through its continual turmoil and confusion caused by thoughts which arise from encounters with things, gathers abominable treasures for itself and defiles the heart. And again, vainglory beholds the natures of things with a licentious vision and occupies the mind with deplorable imaginings; but humility


spiritually constricts herself by means of divine vision and moves the man who possesses her to glorify God.

Do not compare those who work signs and wonders and mighty acts in the world with those who practice stillness with knowledge. Love the idleness of stillness above providing for the world's starving and the conversion of a multitude of heathen to the worship of God. It is better for you to free yourself from the shackle of sin than to free slaves from their slavery. It is better for you to make peace with your soul, causing concord to reign over the trinity within you (I mean, the body, the soul, and the spirit) than by your teaching to bring peace among men at variance. For, as Gregory the Theologian says, 'It is a good thing to speak concerning the things of God for God's sake, but it is better for a man to make himself pure for God' (Oration 3, On Flight 12). Love uncouthness of speech joined with knowledge from inner experience more than to spill forth rivers of instruction from the keenness of your mind [[and from a deposit of hearsay and writings of ink]]. It is more profitable for you to attend to raising up unto the activity of intuitions concerning God the deadness of your soul due to the passions, than it is to resurrect the dead.

Many have accomplished mighty acts, raised the dead, toiled for the conversion of the erring, and have wrought great wonders; and by their hands they have led many to the knowledge of God. Yet after these things, these same men who quickened others, fell into vile and abominable passions and slew themselves, becoming a stumbling-block for many when their acts were made manifest. For they were still sickly in soul, but instead of caring for their souls' health, they committed themselves to the sea of this world in order to heal the souls of others, being yet in ill health; and, in the manner I have stated they lost their souls and fell away from their hope in God. The infirmity of their senses was not able to confront or resist the flame of things which customarily make wild the vehemence of the passions. For their senses still required guarding: I mean, that these men should not have seen women at all, or have taken their ease, or gained wealth and

possessions, or had authority over others, or been exalted above other men.

It is better for you if men think you unlearned and uncouth because of your inexperience in disputation, rather than one of the wise because of your shamelessness (Syriac; Be despised by fools for your uncouthness, and not by wise men for your shamelessness). Become poor for humility's sake, and do not amass riches on account of your shamelessness. Confute those who would strive to dispute with you (or simply who dispute with you) by the strength of your virtues and not by the persuasiveness of your words. By the meekness and quietness of your lips put the impudence of the obstinate to silence [[and not by speaking]]. Reprove the wanton


by the nobility of your life, and those who are shameless as regards the senses, by the modest curbing of your eyes.

Consider yourself a stranger all the days of your life, wherever you may be, so that you may find deliverance from the injury which is born of familiarity. In every matter consider yourself to be totally ignorant so as to escape the reproach which follows the suspicion that you wish to set aright other men's opinions (Syriac; that you are competent to correct others). Let your lips always utter blessings, and you will never be reviled; for revilement begets revilement, and blessing begets blessing. In all things think that you are in need of teaching and you will prove wise throughout your life. Do not pass on to another what you yourself have not attained, lest you put yourself to shame and your lie be exposed by a comparison with your life. If you begin to say something profitable, say it as though you yourself are still earning, and not with authority and shamelessness. Judge yourself beforehand and prove to your listeners that you are inferior to them in order to show them the way of humility, and to incite them to hearken to your words and readily to take action; then you shall be venerable in their eyes. And if possible, speak of these matters with tears so that both you and they may be profited and the grace of God may be with you.

If you gain the grace of God and are deemed worthy to revel in the divine vision of God's judgments and of visible creation (Syriac; and attain to reveling in the mysteries of visible creation), which is the first summit (Greek; stage. Here Saint Isaac is not referring to the first degree of knowledge explained in Homily 52) of knowledge, prepare yourself, yea, arm yourself against the spirit of blasphemy. Do not take a stand in this battlefield without weapons, lest speedily you be slain by those who lie in wait for you and deceive you. And let your weapons be tears and continuous fasting (Syriac; fasting and tears shed with continual prostrations). Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics (Syriac; Beware of reading books that delineate the doctrines of [other] creeds with a view to explaining them) for they, more than anything else, can arm the spirit of blasphemy against you. And, when you fill your stomach, do not shamelessly search out matters and concepts concerning God, lest you later repent of it. Understand what I say: there can be no knowledge of the mysteries of God on a full stomach. Read often and insatiably the books of the teachers of the Church on divine providence, for they lead the mind to discern the order in God's creatures and His actions, give it strength, and by their subtleness they prepare it to acquire luminous intuitions and guide it in purity toward the understanding of God's creatures. Read also the Gospels (Syriac; and you will gain luminous intuitions by their subtleness, so that your mind may journey smoothly on the path toward the goal of [understanding] the right explanation of the fashioning of the world, according to the wise and laudable mind of the Maker of creation. Read also the

two Testaments), which God ordained for knowledge for the whole world, that you may find provisions for your journey in the might of


God's providence for every generation, and that your intellect may plunge deeply into wonder at Him. Such reading furthers your aim. Let your reading be done in a stillness which nothing disturbs; be free of all concern for the body and the turmoil of affairs, so that through the sweet understanding which surpasses all the senses you may savor that most sweet taste in your soul which she perceives in herself because of her constant intercourse with these things. Let not the words of experienced men be to you as those of shallow persons and the vendors of words, lest you dwell in darkness till your life's end and be deprived of any profit from them, and lest, like a man confused, you become troubled in the time of warfare and fall into a pit due to a thing that is seemingly good (Syriac; into one of the pits which bears the likeness of the truth).

This shall be a sign for you, in whatever matter you wish to penetrate, if you have truly entered into that realm: when grace begins to open your eyes so that you may perceive the divine vision of things such as they are, then your eyes will immediately start to shed torrents of tears, so much so that they will wash your cheeks by their abundance. Thereupon peace comes to the war of the senses and it is curtailed within you. But if someone should teach you otherwise, do not believe him. Besides tears, you should not ask any other manifest sign from the body [[as an indication that you have perceived the truth, except the silence of the activity of the members, that is to say]] when the mind is exalted above created things, the body also takes leave of tears and of every movement and sensation [[apart from its natural vitality. For this knowledge does not stoop to take with itself as a companion—figuratively, through mental vision—the forms of things of the visible world. 'Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth,' and he heard 'unspeakable words' (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). All that is heard by the ears can be spoken (Vatican Syriac MS 124 when something is heard it can be spoken). He did not hear audible sounds, nor did he see a vision composed of the corporeal images of sense perception, but it was by intuitions of the understanding, being in rapture, while his will had no fellowship with the body. Eye has never seen such things, nor ear heard the like, and his heart never imagined that the likeness which his diversified knowledge saw would rise up [in it] through recollection, I mean those things which God has prepared to show the pure of heart (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9) by reason of their deadness to the world. This is not corporeal vision received by means of the eyes of flesh through gross distinctions, nor phantasies which they (i.e. the pure of heart) themselves form in their minds in an unreal manner. But this is the simplicity of theoria concerning noetic things and the things of faith (which is contrary to partition and divisions that exhibit images composed of elements). Gaze upon the sphere of the sun according to your visual power and only so as to delight in its rays, but not so as to investigate the course of its orb, lest you be deprived of your limited visual faculty as well]].


'When you find honey, partake of it with measure, lest becoming satiated, you vomit it up' (Cf. Proverbs 25:16). The nature of the soul is light and imponderable.

Hence, she sometimes leaps, desiring to ascend to great heights and learn things which surpass her nature; for often she grasps something from the reading of the Scriptures and

the divine vision of created things. But when it is permitted, and she compares herself with those things she has grasped, she finds herself much inferior and meaner as regards the measure of her constitution (The Syriac can also mean way of life. The Syriac printed text has; knowledge). For her knowledge has entered into such things that she is clothed with fear and trembling in her thoughts, and she hastens under the constraint of timidity to return to her lowly life upon the earth, being ashamed, as it were, that she dared to approach spiritual matters which surpass her. Because of the fear which these things inspire, a certain timidity is born in her, and discretion beckons to the soul's mind to practice silence and refrain from shamelessness, lest she perish; and it bids her not to seek things which far surpass her, or search out what is more lofty than she. When you are given the power to understand—understand; do not act shamelessly with regard to mysteries, but worship, silently give glory, and confess [[what surpasses comprehension]]. Just as 'it is not good to eat much honey' (Proverbs 25:27), so it is also not a good thing to probe into glorious utterances, lest, desiring to behold things far distant when we have not yet attained to them, due to the ruggedness of the way, our faculty of vision should grow feeble and be injured. For sometimes, indeed, phantasms are seen instead of the truth. And when the intellect grows weary from its searching, it loses its focus. Thus, the wise Solomon has said well that, 'A man without patience is like a city without walls' (Cf. Proverbs 25:28). [[There is no need for us to roam about heaven and earth in quest of God, or to send forth our intellects into diverse places in search of Him.]] Therefore, purify your soul, O man, and drive away from you all cares which concern things outside your nature, and shroud your soul's perceptions and movements with the veil of chastity and humility: by this means you will discover Him that is within you, since 'mysteries are revealed to the humble' (Ecclesiasticus [or Sirach] 3:19).

If you intend to dedicate your soul to the work of prayer, which purifies the mind, and to night vigil in order to acquire an illumined intellect, betake yourself far from the sight of the world, sever all intercourse, and, even on seemingly good pretexts, do not allow friends to visit you in your cell, as is the custom, but only those who think and live as you do and are your fellow initiates. If you fear the confusion of [[hidden]] unspiritual converse which is wont to spring up [[in the soul]] involuntarily, cut off and loose yourself from outward converse. Yoke mercy to your prayer (Syriac; the virtues to your prayers), and your soul will see the light of truth. For in so far as the heart ceases to be disturbed by [[recollections of]] external


things, to such an extent can the mind receive the astonishment which arises from understanding the meanings [[of the verses of Scripture]]. For it is an easy matter for the soul to exchange one converse for another, if we strive to show even a little diligence

[[and patience]]. To exchange one converse for another, occupy yourself with reading books which will make plain to you the subtle pathways of [[ascetical discipline]], of divine vision, and of the lives of the saints, although you may not sense the sweetness of this at once, due to darkness caused by [[recollections of]] things close at hand.

And when you stand up to pray and to say your rule of prayer, instead of thinking of what you have seen and heard in the world, you will find yourself pondering the divine Scriptures you have read, and this meditation will make you forget worldly things. In this manner your mind will come to purity. And herein lies the meaning of the following:

'Reading assists the soul when she stands in prayer'; and also: 'From reading the soul is enlightened in prayer' (Greek; from prayer the soul is enlightened in reading. This is a

copyist's error, but a true statement). Instead of confusion from without, reading provides

[the soul] with material for the different kinds of prayer. [[This material is the veracious intuitions which suddenly enter the mind by reason of wondrous recollections of what was read. For how many times has the power of theoria, [aroused] by [reading] the Scriptures, astonished and stupefied the mind, even during prayer, and left it standing motionless! This power is also wont to cut off prayer itself by its sweetness, as I have said, to embrace the heart with stillness and to silence the thoughts of the heart by arresting the members of both body and soul. What I say is known by those who have experienced this very thing in their souls, who have entered into its mysteries, and who have not learned of it from others or stolen it from writings which so often can falsify the truth.]] Thus, as was said, by reading the soul is enlightened anew and helped always to pray assiduously and without confusion (This sentence is found only in the Greek).

It is just as shameful for lovers of the flesh and the belly to search out spiritual things as it is for a harlot to discourse on chastity. A body suffering grave illness shuns fatty foods and abhors them; and likewise, a mind occupied with worldly affairs cannot approach the inquiry into the things of God. A fire cannot be ignited with wet wood, nor can the divine fervor be kindled in a heart which loves ease. The harlot does not limit her affections to one man, nor does the soul that is pinioned by many affairs remain faithful to divine teachings. As a man who cannot see the sun because of the feebleness of his eyes is unable to describe to another (For to describe to another, the Syriac has instead, to imagine) its light, its rays and brilliance, since he himself has not beheld it but knows only from hearsay, so it is with the man whose soul has not tasted the sweetness of spiritual works [[and whose way of life has never brought him to


the experience of these mysteries, so as to be able to grasp with his mind a likeness that embraces the truth. This man can never find real conviction in his soul or attain to the exact truth of things through human instruction and exercise in copying books]].

If you have something above your daily needs, give it to the poor, and then go with boldness to offer your prayers, that is, to converse with God as a son with his Father.

Nothing can bring the heart so near to God as almsgiving, and nothing brings such serenity to the mind as voluntary poverty. It is better for you to be called an ignoramus by the many because of the generosity of your hands and your measureless liberality because of your fear of God, than to be called wise and sound of mind by reason of your niggardliness (this is the Syriac reading). If someone on horseback should stretch out his hand and ask alms of you, do not refuse him, for at that moment he is certainly in need, just as one of the destitute. When you give, give generously, with a joyous countenance, and give more than you are asked for, since it is said: 'Send forth thy morsel of bread toward the face of the poor man, and soon you will find your recompense' (Cf.

Ecclesiastes 11:1). Do not separate the rich from the poor, nor try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all men be equal in your eyes for a good deed. In this way you can draw even the unworthy toward the good (Syriac; draw them toward the truth) since the soul is easily led to the fear of God by means of bodily things. The Lord ate at table with publicans and harlots and did not alienate the unworthy, that He might in this way bring all to the fear of God, and that through bodily things they would approach the spiritual. For this reason, and especially because they are your brethren, of your very nature, and have erred from the truth unwittingly, deem every man equally worthy of benefaction and honor, be he a Jew, an unbeliever, or a murderer.

When you do good to someone, do not await a recompense from him, and you will receive repayment from God on both accounts; and if you are able, neither do good so as to receive reward in the future age [[but rather, practice virtue because of the love of God. The rank of love is more initiated than the rank of labor for God; nay, it is more initiated in its mystery than the soul surpasses the body in initiation]]. If you make poverty a rule four your soul and, by God's grace, you are freed from cares, and by your poverty you are exalted above this world, then beware, lest you become enamored of possessions under the pretext of almsgiving due to your love for the poor, and thus, by taking from one man in order to give to another, you put your soul in turmoil, and efface your honor by subjection to men while begging from them, and lose the freedom and nobility of your mind through your concern for matters of this life. For your station is higher than that of the almsgiver. Do not, I beseech you, do not accept such subjection (Syriac; do not be mocked). Almsgiving is like


the rearing of children, but stillness is the summit of perfection (Syriac; Almsgiving is the stage of rearing children, but stillness is the path of perfection). If you have possessions, distribute them at once; but if you have none, do not desire any. Sweep your cell clean of every delicacy and superfluous article, and this will lead you to abstinence even against your will. Scarcity in all things teaches a man patience; but whenever we enjoy possessions, we are unable to control ourselves.

Those who have gained the victory in the exterior war have acquired confidence against interior fear and there is nothing that can vexedly compel them; they are harassed by warfare, either from in front or from behind. By [[exterior]] warfare, I mean that which a man heedlessly brings upon himself through the senses, that is, through giving out and receiving (i.e. worldly dealings) through hearing [[and seeing]], and through speech [[taking food, and a gradual, persistent increase of one's affairs]]. When such things overlie the soul, they blind her, and because of turmoil from without, she is unable to give heed to herself during the onslaught of hidden warfare and, because of her serenity, to conquer that which suddenly attacks her from within. For when a man has barred the city gates, that is, the senses, he fights within [[face to face]] and does not fear those devising evil outside the city.

Blessed is the man who, knowing this and abiding in stillness, does not trouble himself with a multitude of works, but has translated all his physical activity into the work of prayer [[and as he proceeds from divine service to divine service, does not join anything else to the work of God that consists in prayer and reading]], being confident that insomuch as he toils in company with God and has Him as his only concern both night and day, he will never be in want of any necessity. For it is on His account that he shuns distraction and works. But if a man cannot persevere in stillness without some manual pursuit, let him work, using this as an auxiliary, but not for gain's sake, satisfying greed. Such occupation is allocated for the weak, but it is a source of tribulation for the more perfect. The Fathers have declared that the needy and the slothful should work, but they did not make handwork compulsory.

At whatever time God should grant compunction to your heart (Syriac; should open up your thinking) from within, give yourself over to unremitting bows and prostrations, and when the demons try to persuade you to do something else, do not allow your heart to be concerned about any matter, and then behold, and wonder at what is born within you from this. There is nothing greater and more laborious in ascetical struggles,

and nothing more excites envy in the demons, than if a man prostrates himself before the Cross of Christ, praying night and day, and is like a convict whose hands are bound behind him. Do you wish that your fervor should never be cooled, and your tears never impoverished? Govern yourself in this way, and you


will be blessed O man, making what has been told you your only care both night and day, and seeking nothing else. Then light will dawn within you, and your righteousness will quickly shine forth, and you will be like a paradise of burgeoning flowers and an unfailing fountain of waters.

Behold, what good things are born in a man from struggle! It often happens that when a man bends his knees in prayer and stretches forth his hands to the heavens, fixing his eyes upon the Cross of Christ and concentrating all his thoughts on God during his prayer, beseeching God all the while with tears and compunction, suddenly and without warning a fountain springs up in his heart gushing forth sweetness: his members grow feeble, his eyesight is veiled, he bows his head to the earth, and his thoughts are altered so that because of the joy which surges throughout his entire body he cannot make prostrations. Therefore, O man, pay attention to what you read here. [[Indeed can these things be known from [writings of] ink? Or can the taste of honey pass over the palate by reading books?]] For if you do not strive, you will not find, and if you do not knock at the door with vehemence and keep constant vigil before it, you will not be heard.

Who is the man that, hearing this, will desire outward righteousness (i.e. the active virtues), save only he that is unable to persevere in stillness (Syriac; to endure the bonds of his cell)? Yet if there be someone who cannot practice stillness, since it is the grace of God that brings a man within the door, let him not forsake the other way, lest by so doing he have no share in either of the paths of life.

Until the outer man dies to all the doings of the world, not only to sin, but also to every bodily activity, and likewise until the inner man dies to evil thoughts and the natural stirrings of the body weaken [[and the body dies a little by means of labors]], so that the sweetness of sin no longer arises in the heart: until such a time the sweetness of the Divine Spirit will most certainly not arise in a man, his members will not open themselves to life (Greek; be rendered chaste in life), and divine intuitions will not be seen. And until in his heart a man has stilled every concern for the affairs of this life, except for the indispensable needs of his nature, and he entrusts this care to God, spiritual inebriation will not overwhelm him, nor will he experience that madness whereof the Apostle was accused. [['Much learning', he said, 'hath made him mad' (Cf. Acts 26:24).]]

But when I say these things, I do not mean to banish hope, as though only those who have attained to the most sublime perfection can be accounted worthy of God's grace and find consolation. For in very truth, when a man disdains evil actions and separates himself from them entirely and clings to the good, he will quickly sense divine aid. And if he struggle a little, he will find comfort for his soul, he will gain the remission of his sins, he


will be deemed worthy of grace and will receive a multitude of blessings. Yet such a one is found inferior when compared to the perfection of the man who has banished himself from the world and has found within his soul the mystery of that blessedness which is of the future age, and has laid hold of that thing for which Christ came, to Whom be glory

together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 5.

On Keeping Oneself Remote From the World and From All Things That Disquiet the Intellect.

God has conferred much honor upon men with the two fold instruction (i.e. nature and Scripture) which He has given them. And from every quarter He has opened a door to enable them to enter into saving knowledge. Ask from nature a true witness concerning yourself, and you will not go astray. Yet even if you turn aside from thence, learn from that second witness (i.e. Scripture) and it will place you on the path from which you wandered (For these last two sentences the Greek reads; But if you wish a true witness of the aforesaid, be one to yourself, and you will never be lost. But if you wish to know this from without, you have a second teacher and witness who will guide you unerringly toward the way of truth).

A muddled intellect cannot avoid forgetfulness (The Syriac reads here; A distracted heart cannot avoid forgetfulness. The word forgetfulness in Syriac also means, going astray) and wisdom does not open her door before it. He who is enabled to understand with exact knowledge what degree of equality the end of all [men] brings, needs no other teacher for renouncing life's affairs. The first book given by God to rational beings was the nature of created things (The Greek reads here; The natural law, given by God to men in the beginning, is the divine vision of His creatures. This is certainly Saint Isaac's meaning, but it is not a literal translation). But the instruction (Greek; law) set down in writing was added after the transgression.

Whoever does not voluntarily withdraw himself from the causes of the passions is involuntarily drawn away by sin. These are the causes of sin: wine, women ((or for women—men; that is, Saint Isaac is presumably referring in this context to someone of the opposite gender)), riches, and robust health of body. Not that by their nature these things are sins, but that nature readily inclines toward the sinful passions on their account, and for this reason man must guard


himself against them with great care. If you bear your weakness constantly in mind, you will not overstep the bounds of caution. With men, poverty is something loathsome; but with God, much more so is a soul whose heart is proud and whose mind is scornful. With men, wealth is honored; but with God, the soul that has come to humility.

Whenever you wish to make a beginning in some good work, first prepare yourself for the temptations that will come upon you, and do not doubt the truth. For it is the enemy's custom, whenever he sees a man beginning a good mode of life with fervent faith, to confront him with diverse and fearful temptations, so that he should be afraid, his good intention should be chilled, and he should lack the fervor to undertake that God-pleasing work. It is not that our adversary has such power (for then no one could ever do good), but God concedes it to him, as we have learned with the righteous Job. Therefore prepare yourself manfully to encounter the temptations which are brought against the virtues, and then begin to practice them. For if you have not prepared yourself beforehand

to meet temptations, then refrain from practicing the virtues.

The man who doubts that God is his Helper in good work is put to flight by his own shadow; he starves at a time of prosperity and plenty, and in a period of calm he will be tempest-tossed (Syriac; his shipwreck will be severe). But a man whose confidence is in God is stout of heart; his worth is made manifest to all men, and his praise is before the face of his enemies.

God's commandments excel all the treasures of the world. A man who has gained inward possession of them finds the Lord in them. The man who always goes to bed with rumination upon God has gained Him as his Chamberlain; and he who desires the fulfillment of God's will, will have the angels of heaven as his guides. A man who fears sins will traverse a terrible passage without stumbling, and at a time of darkness he will find light before him and within himself. The Lord carefully watches the steps of the man who fears sins, and God's mercy forestalls him when he slips. A man who considers his transgressions to be slight, falls into worse sins than he formerly committed and he will pay his penalty sevenfold. Sow your alms in humility, and you will reap mercy at the judgment.

By those means whereby you have lost goods, you will gain them back again.

You owe a penny to God and He will not accept a pearl from you in its place [[because the former is needed]], (from this point to the end of the paragraph we have followed Bedjan's Syriac text). Having lost chastity, do not allow fornication to remain in its place and give alms because of it: God will not accept them, for in place of sanctification He requires sanctification. Although you wrong not the poor, do not allow an unjust possession to remain in its place. You fast from bread: do not leave iniquity in its place and struggle with some other thing. Greed is uprooted by mercy and privation. You have left the plant in its place, and do you struggle with something else?


Saint Ephraim said, 'In summertime, do not struggle against the scorching heat in winter clothing.' Let each man reap by means which oppose the iniquity he has sown.

Every disease is cured with its own remedies. And you, who are overcome by envy, why do you battle against sleep? While the transgression is still small and blossoming, pluck it up, before it spreads and covers the field. Do not be negligent, when your fault seems slight to you, for later you will find it an inhuman master, and will be running before it like a shackled slave. But a man who fights against a passion from the start will soon subdue it.

He who is able to suffer wrong with joy, though having means at hand to rebuff it, has [[consciously]] received from God the consolation of his faith. The man who endures accusations against himself with humility has arrived at perfection, and he is marveled at by the holy angels, for there is no other virtue so great and so hard to achieve.

Do not believe yourself to be strong, until you are tempted and find yourself superior to change. In this manner test yourself in everything. Acquire a right faith in yourself (Syriac; Acquire exultation [or boasting] in the faith of your heart) so that you may trample down your enemies; keep your mind lowly, and place no confidence in your strength, lest you be given over to the frailty of your nature, and then, from your own fall you will learn your own weakness. Nor should you trust your knowledge, lest you be found amid subtle snares and you become entangled (Many Greek MSS read; lest the enemy come into the midst and trap you in his subtle snares). Have a meek tongue, and dishonor will never encounter you. Acquire sweet lips, and you will have all men as your

friends. Never boast of your labors with your tongue, lest you be put to shame (Instead of; lest you be put to shame, the Syriac reads; lest, there being nothing in creation that is free of change, your shame be rendered double when you are found in the contrary

[state]). In each matter about which a man boasts himself, God permits that he change, so that he should be humbled, and learn humility. This is why you must surrender all things to God's foreknowledge, and not believe that there is anything in this life unchanging.

Acting in this manner, your eye will be always lifted to God. For God's protection and providence encircle all men, yet they are not seen except by those who have cleansed themselves from sin and who continually keep their attention on God, and on Him alone.

But God's providence is especially apparent to them when they enter into a great trial on behalf of the truth; for then they perceive it as if seeing it with their bodily eyes, each man in proportion to the magnitude of the temptation which befalls him and according to the cause thereof. This is the case in order that providence might anoint its champions to have courage in this manner, as with Jacob, and Jesus of Navi, and the Three Children, and Peter, and the rest of the saints, to whom it appeared in a human form (i.e. the angels sent by God's providence), giving them confidence and confirming them in godliness (Syriac; and consoling their faith). But if you say that these things were


granted to the saints from God by way of oeconomy, and that it was for special reasons that they were deemed worthy of such visions, then let the holy martyrs be examples to encourage you. The martyrs, often many together, but sometimes one alone, in places both many and diverse, contested for Christ's sake, and with the [[secret]] strength that came to them they courageously endured in bodies of clay the lacerations of iron and torments of every kind, which things surpassed nature. But also, to such as these, the holy angels would manifestly appear, so that every man might learn that Divine providence is very near to those who in every manner endure both every temptation and every affliction for the Lord's sake, for their encouragement and for the shaming of their enemies. For insomuch as the saints were roused to manliness by visions of this kind, to just such a degree did their adversaries rage and become frenzied with wrath at their unyielding patience (Syriac; were their adversaries tormented by their unyielding patience).

But what need is there to speak of the ascetics, those strangers to the world, and of the anchorites, who made the desert a city and a dwelling-place and hostelry of angels?

For the angels would continually visit these men because their modes of life were so similar; and as being troops of a single Sovereign, at [[all]] times they would keep company with their comrades-in-arms, that is to say, those who embraced the desert all the days of their life, and took up their abode in mountains and caves and dens of the earth because of their love for God. And since, having abandoned things earthly, they loved the heavenly and were become imitators of the angels, rightly did those very same holy angels not conceal the sight of themselves from them and they fulfilled their every wish. Moreover, from time to time they would appear to them to teach them how they ought to lead their lives. Sometimes they would clarify certain perplexities for them; or sometimes the saints themselves would ask them for what was needed. And sometimes they would guide them when they had strayed along the way; or sometimes they would come to their rescue when they fell into temptations. Sometimes they snatched them from unexpected mishap and peril that overtook them, such as a snake, or a ledge, or a splinter of wood, or a blow from a stone. Or sometimes, when the enemy was openly waging war on the saints, they showed themselves visibly to their eyes and said that they were sent to

their aid, and would bring them confidence, daring, and refreshment [[by their words]].

At other times they would perform healings through them; or at times they would cure the saints themselves when they fell into certain ailments. Sometimes, when their bodies succumbed from lack of food, with a touch of the hand, or with words, they would fortify and strengthen them above nature; or sometimes, they would bring them food, loaves of bread (which were oftentimes even hot) and other things for their nourishment. To some of them they would


foretell their departure; and to others, the very manner of their departing. But why should we count up the many things that prove the holy angels' love for us, and their special care for the righteous? For just as big brothers do for their little ones, so do they look after us.

All these things come to pass so as to assure every man how 'nigh the Lord is unto all that call upon Him in truth' (Cf. Psalms 144:18), and how much provision He manifests toward those who have devoted themselves to pleasing Him, and who follow Him with pure hearts.

If you believe that God makes provision for you, why be anxious and concerned about temporal affairs and the needs of your flesh? But if you do not believe that God makes provision for you, and for this reason you take pains to provide for your need separately from Him, then you are the most wretched of all men. Why even be alive or go on living in such a case? 'Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He will nourish thee' (Psalms 54:22), and you shall never be dismayed at any terror that overtakes you (Cf. Proverbs 3:25).

A man who has dedicated himself once and for all to God goes through life with a restful mind. Without non-possessiveness the soul cannot be freed from the turmoil of thoughts; and without stillness of the senses she will not perceive peace of mind. Without entering into temptations, no man will ever gain the wisdom of the Spirit; and without assiduous reading, he will know no refinement of thoughts. Without tranquility of thoughts the intellect will not be moved in hidden mysteries; and without the confidence that comes through faith, the soul cannot dare to withstand temptations with boldness.

Moreover, without actual experience of God's protection, the heart cannot hope in Him; and if the soul does not taste Christ's sufferings (Syriac; sufferings for Christ's sake) consciously, she will never have communion with Him.

Deem him to be a man of God who by reason of much compassion has mortified himself even with regard to necessary wants; for he who gives alms to a poor man has God to take care of him. And a man who has become poor for His sake has found inexhaustible treasures.

God has no need of anything. But He is gladdened whenever He sees a man comforting His image and honoring it for His sake. When someone asks you for something you have, do not say in your heart, 'I shall keep this for myself, that I may be comforted by it, and God will supply him with his need from elsewhere'; for these are the words of the unrighteous and of those who do not know God. A righteous and kindly man does not give his honor to another, nor does he permit an occasion for charity to pass him by unused. The poor and indigent man is provided for by God (because God abandons no one); but as for you, you have shunned the honor given you by God and have estranged His grace


from you by turning a beggar away. So, whenever you give, be glad and say, 'Glory be unto Thee, O God, for Thou hast deemed me worthy to find a man to comfort!' but if you do not have anything to give, rejoice the more and say, offering great thanks to God, 'I thank Thee, my God, that Thou hast granted me this grace and honor, to go in want for Thy Name's sake, and hast deemed me worthy to taste the affliction that is set in the path of Thy commandments, with sickness and want, such as Thy saints who walked this path did also taste.'

And whenever you are ill, say, 'Blessed are those who discover the object which God as placed in what He brings upon us to profit us!', (Greek; blessed is the man whom God deems worthy to be tried in matters whereby we inherit life! ). For God administers sicknesses for the health of our soul. For one of the saints said, 'I have taken note of the following, that a monk who does not serve the Lord in a God-pleasing manner, who does not strive earnestly for his soul's salvation, but remains heedless regarding the exercise of virtues, is most assuredly allowed by God to fall prey to temptations so that he be not idle, and from his excessive idleness lapse into a worse state.' This indeed is why God inflicts temptations upon the lazy and heedless, that they may be preoccupied with these and not with frivolous things. This God always does with those who love Him [[but if He sees that they begin to disregard His works, He sends a great trial upon them]], that He may chasten them, make them wise, and teach them His will. And whenever they pray to Him, He does not quickly hearken to them, but waits until they grow weary and have learned in no uncertain manner that these things befell them because of their slothfulness and negligence. For it is written, 'When ye spread forth your hands unto Me, I will turn Mine eyes from you; and if you multiply your prayer, I will not hearken unto you' (Isaiah 1:15). For even if this was said of others also, nonetheless it is written especially about those who have abandoned the way of the Lord.

But since we say that God is plenteous in mercy, why is it that when amidst temptations we unceasingly knock and pray, we are not heard and He disregards our prayer? This we are clearly taught by the Prophet when he says, 'The Lord's hand is not little, that it cannot save; nor is He heavy of hearing, that He cannot hear: but our sins have separated us from Him, and our iniquities have turned His face away, that He doth not hearken' (Isaiah 59:1, 2). Remember God at all times, and He will remember you whenever you fall into evils.

Your nature has become receptive to accidental occurrences, the temptations of the present world have multiplied, and evils are not far from you, but well up inside you when He gives a sign, and from under your feet and from the place where you are standing. As the eyelids come close to each other, even so are temptations close to men.


But God has ordered these things with wisdom for your profit, so that you would knock persistently at His door, and that by your fear of what oppresses you the remembrance of Him would be sown in your mind, and you would draw near to Him through your entreaties, and your heart would be sanctified by constant remembrance of Him. When you pray, He will hearken to you. And you will learn that God is the one that delivers you; and you will perceive Him Who fashioned you, provides for you, protects you, and Who has for your sake created two worlds: one as a teacher (Syriac; school), and for a while your chastiser; but the other as your ancestral home and your eternal inheritance.

God did not make you immune to things that are grievous, lest in aspiring to divinity (Syriac; the rank of divinity) you should fall heir to what he that was formerly the

'Bringer-of-Dawn', but afterwards became Satan because of his self-exaltation, came to inherit. But likewise, neither has He created you undeviating and fixed, lest you be like the nature of creatures not endued with [rational] souls, and the good things within you be of no profit to you, and bring you no recompense (as is the case with irrational beasts, since their natural animal merits profit them nothing), (For this sentence the Syriac reads; Nor has He made you incapable of aberration, lest you be like the natures that are bound and you should possess your good and bad [qualities] without any profit or recompense, like the other fleshly creatures upon the earth). For how much benefit, thanksgiving, and humility is produced by the incursion of these spurs is an easy matter for all to learn for themselves.

Now it is clear that to strive after good and to turn away from evil is within our power; thus, the honor and disgrace which come of these are to be ascribed to us. When we are put to shame by disgrace, we are afraid; but receiving honor, we offer thanks to God and stretch ourselves out toward virtue. God has made these instructors plentiful for you, lest being free from them, and immune to and having no part in tribulations, and feeling yourself superior to every fear, you should forget the Lord your God and turn away from Him, and fall to believing in many gods, just as many have done. For although these men had a passible nature like your own, were subject to want, and were scourged with these very griefs, yet in a brief space of time, because of paltry [[riches]], fleeting power, and [[ephemeral]] health, they not only fell into polytheism, but in their madness they had the audacity to declare themselves gods by nature. For this reason, then, He allows you to be amidst afflictions; but sometimes it is in order that you should not by turning away provoke Him to wrath, and He with the meting out of punishment destroy you utterly from before His face. I shall not speak of ungodliness and the other blasphemies which are bred of a life led in prosperity and in the absence of fear, even though what was mentioned above should not come to pass (i.e. that one should fall into polytheism or think oneself a god. The last phrase is rendered from the Syriac). For this reason, then, He has made His


remembrance abound in your heart by means of sufferings and griefs, and He has spurred you toward the gate of His mercy with the fear of hostile forces. And by means of deliverance from these things, He has implanted in you seeds of love for Him. And when you lay hold of love, He brings you to the honor of sonship, shows you how abundant is His grace [[and how constant is His care for you. Then He will cause you to perceive both the holiness of His glory and the secret mysteries of His nature's grandeur]]. Whence could you have known these things, if adversities had never befallen you? Since it is especially owing to these that the love of God can be augmented in your soul, owing, that is, to the perception of His graces and memory of the many acts of His providence. All these good things are born to you from grievous circumstances so that you might learn (The Syriac printed text reads; if you know) to give thanks.

Remember God, that He too might always remember you; and when He has kept you in His memory and preserved you safe to the end, you will receive every blessing from Him. Do not forget Him, your mind being distracted with futile concerns, lest He forget you in the time of your warfare. When you enjoy abundance, be obedient to Him, so that in the time of your afflictions you may have boldness before Him through the heart's persevering prayer to Him.

Seat (The Greek has; cleanse, which the Syriac shows to be a copyist's error for

seat) yourself before the Lord continually, keeping the memory of Him in your heart, lest having lingered outside His memory, you are unable to speak boldly when you enter in before Him, because boldness with God comes from constant conversing with Him and from much prayer. Our connexion and continuance with men is through the body; but our connexion and continuance with God is through the soul's recollection (Syriac; meditation) and the vigilance and [sacred] offering of frequent prayer. From long continuance in His recollection, a man is transported at times to astonishment and wonder. For, 'The heart of them that seek the Lord shall rejoice.' 'Seek ye the lord', ye condemned, and 'be strengthened' with hope; 'seek His face' (Psalms 104:3, 4) through repentance, and sanctify yourselves by the holiness of His face, and you will be thoroughly purged from your sins. Run to the Lord, all you that are guilty of sin, to Him that has the power to pardon sins and overlook transgressions. For He has spoken to His Prophet an oath, saying, 'As I live, saith the Lord, I wish not the death of a sinner, but that he return and live' (Ezekiel 33:11). And again, 'I have spread out My hands all the day, unto a rebellious and gainsaying people' (Isaiah 65:2). And again 'Wherefore do ye die the death, O house of Israel?' (Cf. Ezekiel 33:11). And again, 'Return to Me, and I will return unto you' (Malachi 3:7). And again, 'In what day soever the sinner shall return from his way, and return unto the Lord, and execute judgment and righteousness, I will not remember


his iniquities; but living he shall live, saith the Lord. And if the righteous shall forsake his righteousness, and if sinning he do wrong, I will not remember his righteousness, but it will lay a stumbling-block before him; and he shall die in the darkness of his works, because He abode in them' (Ezekiel 33:14-15). Why so? Because the sinner will not stumble over his sin when he returns to the Lord. And the righteousness of the just will not redeem him when he sins, if he persists in such sinning. But God spoke this also to Jeremias, 'Take thee a parchment, and write all things that I have spoken unto thee from the days of Josias the king of Judah unto this day, all the evil things that I spake unto thee, saying that I would bring them upon this people: that when he hath heard it and been afraid, a man might forsake his wicked way; and returning they may repent, and I may take away their sins' (Cf. Jeremiah 43 (36): 2-3). And Wisdom has said, 'He that covereth his sin shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth his sins, and leaveth the same behind him, shall bring down mercy from God' (Proverbs 28:13). And Esaias says: 'Seek ye the Lord, and when you have found Him, call upon Him: and when He shall draw nigh, let the sinner forsake his privy way, and the man of iniquity his thoughts, and return unto Me, and I will have mercy upon you. For My thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are My ways as your ways' (Isaiah 55:6-9). 'If then ye hear Me, ye shall eat the good of the land' (Isaiah 1:19). Come unto Me and obey Me, and with your soul ye shall live! Whenever you keep the ways of the Lord and do His will, then put your hope in the Lord and call on Him; and 'as soon as you cry out, He will say to you: "Behold, I am here!"' (Isaiah 58:9).

When temptation overtakes the iniquitous man, he has no confidence wherewith to call upon God, nor to expect salvation from Him, since in the days of his ease he stood aloof from God's will. Before the war begins, seek after your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your Physician; and before grievous things come upon you, pray, and in the time of your tribulations you will find Him, and He will hearken to you. Before you stumble, call out and make supplication; and before you make a vow, have ready what things you

promise, for they are your provisions afterwards. The ark of Noe was built in the time of peace, and its timbers were planted by him a hundred years beforehand. In the time of wrath the iniquitous perished (Syriac; the iniquitous who lived calmly in their iniquity, were perturbed) but the ark became the shelter for the righteous man.

The iniquitous mouth is stopped during prayer, for the condemnation of the conscience deprives a man of his boldness. A good (Syriac; steadfast) heart joyously sheds tears in prayer. [[Voluntary and steadfast endurance of injustice purifies the heart.

Patient endurance of injustice springs from disdain for the world; and a man endures calumny cheerfully because his heart has begun to behold the truth. Joy arising from voluntary endurance of


calumny and injustice exalts the heart.]] They for whom the world is dead submit to contumelies with joy. But they for whom the world still lives cannot submit to injustice: either -moved by vainglory- they are provoked to anger and are troubled, being stirred up in the manner of brutes, or else they are overcome by grief. O how difficult it is to attain this virtue (i.e. to be forbearing while being wronged), and how much glory it procures from God! He who would attain to this virtue must depart from his kinsmen and live the life of a stranger, for he cannot attain it in his homeland. Only such as are great and mighty are fit to endure the anguish of this virtue among their kindred; to these this world has died, and they have no hope of consolation from this present age.

As grace accompanies humility, so do painful incidents accompany pride. The eyes (Syriac; heart) of the Lord are upon the humble to make them glad; but the face of the Lord is against the proud to make them humble. Humility always receives mercy from God; but hardness of heart and littleness of faith contend with fearful encounters

[[until suddenly and unexpectedly disaster rises up against them and surrenders them to speedy destruction]]. In all respects belittle yourself before all men, and you will be raised above the princes of this age. Anticipate every person with your greeting and your bow, and you will be more highly prized than those who bring the gold of Souphir as a gift ( Vide 3 Kings 10:11).

Be contemptible in your own eyes, and you will see the glory of God in yourself.

For where humility burgeons, there God's glory wells forth. If you strive to be slighted openly by all men, God will cause you to be glorified. If you have humility in your heart, then in your heart God will show you His glory. Be disdained in your greatness, and not great in your insignificance. Endeavor to be despised, and you will be filled with the honor of God. Seek not to be honored while within you are filled with wounds. Deprecate honor, that you may be honored; and do not love it, that you be not dishonored. Honor flees away from before the man that runs after it; but he who flees from it, the same will it hunt down, and to all men become a herald of his humility. If you treat yourself with contempt so as to be honored, God will expose you publicly; yet if you disparage yourself for the sake of the truth, God will move all His creatures to hymn your praise. They will open up before you the door of your Creator's glory, and they will praise you [[like the Creator]] because you are truly in His image and after His likeness.

Who has seen a man shining throughout with the virtues, but vile-seeming to men: radiant in his life, wise in knowledge, and humble in his spirit? Blessed is he who humbles himself in all things, for he will be exalted in all. For a man who for God's sake humbles himself, and thinks meanly of himself, is glorified by God. The man who hungers and


thirsts for God's sake, God will make drunk with His good things (Syriac; with that wine whose inebriation never passes from those who drink it). And he who goes naked for God's sake is clad by Him in a robe of incorruption and glory. And he who becomes poor for His sake is consoled with His true riches. Set yourself at naught for God's sake, and without your knowing it, your glory will be multiplied all through your life. Hold yourself a sinner, that you may be righteous throughout your life. [[Be scorned when you are wise and do not be a fool in your wisdom.]] [In Syriac; be a fool (from shta) is a play on scorned ( shita; from shat)]. Be unlearned in your wisdom, and do not seem wise, being unlearned. And if humility exalts the simple and ignorant, consider how much honor it will procure for the great and highly esteemed!

Flee vainglory, and you will be glorified; fear pride, and you will be magnified.

For pomposity has not been assigned to the sons of men, nor haughtiness to the offspring of women. If you have voluntarily renounced all things in this life, by no means quarrel with any man over anything at all. If you have come to detest praise, avoid those who chase after glory. Avoid the acquisitive even as you would acquisition. Keep yourself away from the wanton even as you would from wantonness. Avoid the intemperate even as you would intemperance. For if even the memory of the people mentioned troubles our thought, how much more will the sight of them and the life conducted by them? Draw nigh to the righteous, and through them you will come near to God. Associate with those who have humility, and you will learn their ways. For if the mere sight of those here mentioned is beneficial, how much more the [[example of their lives and]] instruction of their mouths?

Love the poor, that through them you may also find mercy. Do not keep company with the disputatious, lest you be forced to take leave of your calm. Bear the noisome smells of the sick without disgust, and especially of the poor, since you too are wrapped about with a body. Do not rebuke those who are afflicted in heart, lest you be scourged with the selfsame rod as theirs: then you will seek consolation and will find none. Do not disdain those who are deformed from birth, because all of us will go to the grave equally privileged. Love sinners, but hate their works; and do not despise them for their faults, lest you be tempted by the same. Remember that you share the earthly nature of Adam and that you are clothed with his infirmity (The Greek reads; and do good to all). Do not reprove those who are in need of your prayer, and do not withhold tender words of comfort from them, lest they perish and their souls be required of you; but do as the physicians, who cure the diseases which are more feverish with cooling remedies, and the more chilling with their opposites.

When you meet your fellow man, constrain yourself to pay him more honor than is his due. Kiss his hands and feet, often take his hands with deep respect, put them over your eyes, and praise him for what he does not even possess. And when he parts from you,


say every good thing about him, and whatever it may be that commands respect. For by these and similar acts, you draw him to good and make him feel ashamed because of the gracious names by which you have called him, and you sow the seeds of virtue in him.

From behavior such as this, to which you accustom yourself, a good pattern is also imprinted in you; and you gain much humility for yourself, and achieve great things

without toil (Syriac; and you will be freed from great and arduous conflicts, from which others have been preserved by many labors). And not only this, but if he has any faults

[[or voluntary imperfections]], he will readily accept correction from you when he is honored by you, being ashamed because of the respect which you have shown him [[and the proof of love he continually sees in you]]. Let this always be the aim of your conduct: to be courteous and respectful to all. And do not provoke any man or vie zealously with him, either for the sake of the Faith, or on account of his evil deeds; but watch over yourself not to blame or accuse any man in any matter. For we have a Judge in the heavens Who is impartial. But if you would have that man return to the truth, be grieved over him and, with tears and love, say a word or two unto him; but do not be inflamed with anger against him, lest he see within you signs of hostility. For love does not know how to be angry, or provoked, or passionately to reproach anyone. The proof of love and knowledge is profound humility, which is born of a good conscience in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and dominion, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, even unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 6.

That to Our Profit God Has Permitted the Soul to Be Susceptible to Accidents, and on Ascetical Activities.

The fact that a man slips into accidental sins demonstrates the weakness of his nature; for to our profit God has permitted our nature to be susceptible to sinful occurrences (The Greek can mean both accidents, occurrences [i.e. things one undergoes]

and passions). For He has not thought it good to make the soul superior to these occurrences before the second regeneration. It is profitable for the soul to be susceptible to accidental sins because this pricks the conscience. To persist in them is, however, audacious and shameful. There are three ways by which every rational soul can draw nigh to God: by fervency of faith, by fear, and by the Lord's chastisement. No man can draw nigh to the love of God if one of these three does not lead the way.

Just as turbulence of the thoughts is born of gluttony, so ignorance and frivolousness of the intellect are born of talkativeness and unruly conversations. Concern for the affairs of this life disturbs the soul, and the distraction of works confuses the intellect and casts out its serenity.

The monk who has given himself over to a celestial husbandry must always and continuously be without any care for the things of this life, so that when he enters inside himself, he will find nothing at all of the present age there [[nor thought concerning anything visible]]. For when he is unengaged with these things, he will be able without distraction to study the law of the Lord both day and night. Bodily labors unaccompanied by purity of mind are like a barren womb and withered breasts, for they cannot bring a man


to the knowledge of God. They greatly belabor the body, yet they take no pains to uproot the passions from the mind. For this reason bodily labors reap no harvest. Like a man who sows in a brier patch and then is unable to reap, such is the man who corrupts his thinking with anxiety, remembrance of wrongs, and covetousness, and then groans upon

his bed because of his many vigils and great abstinence (this is the Syriac reading).

Scripture testifies concerning this, saying: 'As a people that had done righteousness and had not forsaken the commandments of the Lord, they now ask of Me righteousness and truth and wish to draw nigh to Me, their God, saying Why have we fasted and Thou regardest not? Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou didst not know it? Nay, in the day of your fasts ye do your own wills' (Isaiah 58:2, 3), that is, your wicked desires. Ye offer them as whole burnt offerings unto idols; and unto the wretched thoughts, that ye reckon in yourselves as gods, ye daily sacrifice your free will, a thing more precious than all incense, which ye ought rather to consecrate unto Me by your good works and your purity of conscience.

Good soil which gladdens its husbandman by bringing forth fruit an hundredfold is a soul that is made radiant by the remembrance of God and unsleeping vigil both day and night. The Lord establishes on her steadfastness a cloud that overshadows her by day and with a flaming light He illumines her by night. Within her darkness a light shines.

As a cloud veils the light of the moon, so the vapors of the belly banish the wisdom of God from the soul. What the flame of fire is to dry wood, this also is bodily lust to a full belly. As combustible matter added to combustible matter increases the flames of a fire, so succulence of foods increases the lustful movements of the body. The knowledge of God does not dwell in a pleasure-loving body, and the man who loves his own body will not obtain divine gifts. Just as from labor-pangs a fruit is born that delights its mother, so from toil there is born in the soul the knowledge of the mysteries of God; but slothful and pleasure-loving men reap the fruit of shame. As a father cares for his child, so Christ also cares for the body enduring hardship for His sake and He is near to its mouth at all times. Priceless is the possession of labor wrought with wisdom.

A stranger is he whose mind is estranged from all things of life. A mourner (in Syriac this also means monk) is he who passes all the days of his life in hunger and thirst for the sake of his hope in future good things. A monk is he who remains outside the world and is ever supplicating God to receive future blessings (Syriac; who making his dwelling far from the world's spectacles, has the desire of the world to come as the only entreaty of his prayer). A monk's wealth is the comfort that comes of mourning and the joy that comes of faith, which shines in the secret places of his mind. A merciful man is he who does not distinguish mentally between men, but has mercy on all alike. A virgin is not merely one who keeps his body undefiled by intercourse, but one who feels shame


before himself even when he is alone. If you love chastity, banish shameful thoughts by exercising yourself in reading and prolonged prayer; then you will be [[inwardly]] armed against their natural causes. But without reading and prayer purity cannot be present in the soul. If you wish to acquire mercifulness and almsgiving, first accustom yourself to disdain all things, lest by their oppressiveness your mind be drawn away from its self-imposed aim. For the exactness (Syriac; limpidity) of mercy is shown in patiently enduring injustice. The perfection of humility is to bear false accusations with joy. If you are truly merciful, do not grieve inwardly when you are unjustly deprived of something you possess, and do not tell others of your loss. Nay rather, let the loss you suffer from others be swallowed up by your mercy, as the sharp edge of wine is swallowed up by much water. Show the fullness (Syriac; limpidity) of your mercy by the good with which you repay those who have done you injustice, as did the blessed Elisseus with his enemies who intended to take him captive ( Vide 4 Kings 6:13-23). For when he prayed

and their eyes were blinded by mist, he manifested the power that was in him [[and if he had wished, they would have been annihilated before him]]; and when he gave them to eat and drink and permitted them to depart, he manifested the mercy that was in him.

A man who is truly humble is not troubled when he is wronged and he says nothing to justify himself against the injustice, but he accepts slander as truth; he does not attempt to persuade men that he is calumniated, but he begs forgiveness. Some have voluntarily drawn upon themselves the repute of being licentious, while they are not such; others have endured the charge of adultery, being far from it (Saint Makarios the Great. The Alphabetical Patericon, s.v. 'Makarios', 1), and proclaimed by their tears that they bear the fruit of the sin they had not committed, and have wept, asking their offenders' forgiveness for the iniquity they had not done, their souls all the while being crowned with all purity and chastity; others, lest they be glorified because of the virtuous state which they have hidden within them, have pretended to be lunatics, while in truth they were permeated with divine salt and securely fixed in serenity, so that, because of their uttermost perfection, they had holy angels as heralds of their deeds of valor (Saint Symeon of Emesa, the fool for Christ [+End of 6th century.] He is celebrated on July 21).

You think that you possess humility. Other men accuse themselves; but while you cannot even bear to be accused by others, you reckon yourself humble. If you are humble, by these things try yourself: whether or not you are troubled when you suffer injustice.

The Saviour calls the many mansions of His Father's house ( Vide John 14:2) the noetic levels of those who dwell in that land, that is, the distinctions of the gifts and the spiritual degrees which they noetically take delight in, as well as the diversity of the ranks of the gifts. But by this He did not mean that each person [yonder] will be confined in his existence by a separate


special dwelling and by the manifest, distinguishing mark of the diverse placement of each man's abode. Rather, it resembles how each one of us derives a unique benefit from this visible sun through a single enjoyment of it common to all, each according to the clarity of his eyesight and the ability of his pupils to contain the sun's constant effusion of light. And again, it is just as a lamp placed in a house diversely distributes the illumination of its light, although by the diversity of its appearance the lamp is not substantially divided up into many, losing the simplicity of its radiance. For, in the same manner, those who at the appointed time will be deemed worthy of that realm will dwell in one abode which will not be divided into a multitude of separate parts. And according to the rank of his discipline each man draws delight for himself from one noetic Sun in one air, one place, one dwelling, one vision, and one outward appearance. He whose measure is less will not see the great measure of his neighbor's rank, lest [he should think that] this arises from the multitude of his neighbor's gifts and the fewness of his own, and this very thing should become for him a cause of sadness and mental anguish. Far be it that one should suppose such a thing to occur in that realm of delights! Each man inwardly takes delight in the gift and the lofty rank whereof he has been deemed worthy.

The vision (i.e. that which is seen) however, that is outside them all is one, and the place is one (From the beginning of the paragraph until this point, the Syriac is rendered because the Greek has somewhat abbreviated the passage). [[And what is truly greater, their dwelling will be like that of the angelic host in the unity of an ethereal place, in the uniformity of the clear vision and the secret knowledge which belongs to their own ranks, through the revelations of divine vision which differ according to their orders. If, indeed,

eternal beings possess, beyond the operation of sense perception, intellections of the mind, then no one will be so bold as to declare by his words that in the world to come there will be an order of things differing from this one, that is, from [the order of] the intellect, and what is beyond, though indeed, on account of the perfection of nature

[then], this is very evident. True, therefore, is the word spoken by the Fathers that, on the one hand, ignorance will exist for an undetermined time and, on the other hand, there is a time reserved for the revelation of its (i.e. ignorance's) abolition ( Vide 1 Corinthians 13:12) and also [for the revelation] of the rest of those special mysteries regarding the Supreme Being which are delimited by silence.]] Besides the state that is completely on high and the state that is absolutely below, in the future separation there will be no middle realm between them. A man will either belong entirely to those [who dwell] on high, or entirely to those below; but within both one state and the other there are diverse degrees of recompenses (The Greek abbreviates this sentence).

If this is true, which it most certainly is, what is more senseless and foolish than those


who say that 'It is sufficient for me to escape Gehenna, but I do not seek to enter into the Kingdom'! For to escape Gehenna means precisely to enter the Kingdom, even as to fall away from the Kingdom is to enter Gehenna. Scripture has not taught us the existence of three realms, but, 'When the Son of man shall come in His glory, He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left' (Matthew 25:31, 33). He did not speak of three orders, but two: one on the right and one on the left. And He definitely separated the distinctions of their dwelling places, saying, 'The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43), but sinners shall depart into everlasting fire' (Cf. Matthew 25:41). And again, 'Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth' (Matthew 8:11, 12), a thing more dreadful than any fire. Have you not understood by these things that falling short of (Greek; the opposite of. The Syriac uses a rare word here which, perhaps, the Greek translators did not know) the order on high is, namely, the Gehenna of torment?

It is an excellent thing to teach men that which is good and by constant care to draw them away from delusion and into the knowledge of life. This is the path of Christ and the apostles and it is very lofty. But if a man perceives in himself that through such a way of life and continual communion with men his conscience is weakened by seeing external things, his serenity is disturbed, and his knowledge is darkened (since his mind must still be guarded and his senses must still be held in submission) and that while he seeks to heal others he loses his own health, and departing from the [[chaste]] freedom of his will his intellect is shaken; than let him remember the apostolic exhortation which says, 'Strong food belongeth to them that are more perfect' (Hebrews 5:14). Let him turn back, lest he hear from the Lord the words of the proverb, 'Physician, heal thy self' (Luke 4:23), let him condemn himself, let him watch over his own good health. Instead of audible words let his excellent manner of life serve for edification, and instead of the sounds of his mouth let his works teach others, and when he keeps his soul healthy, let him profit others and heal them by his own good health. For when he is far from men he can benefit them even more by the zeal of his good works than by his words, since he himself is sickly and is in greater need of healing than they. For, 'If the blind lead the

blind, both shall fall into the ditch' (Matthew 15:14). Strong food belongs to those who are healthy, whose senses are trained, who are able to take every kind of nourishment, that is, the invasions of all the senses, and to those who by reason of their training in perfection are able to endure every encounter without their heart being harmed.


When the devil wishes to defile the [[noble]] mind by recollections of fornication, he first tests its constancy by the love of vainglory, since the inception of this thought has no appearance of passion. He constantly acts thus with men who guard their mind and in whom he cannot readily introduce an unseemly thought. But when a man departs from his fortress through converse with the first thought and moves away from his refuge, the devil immediately confronts him with something pertaining to fornication and turns his mind to licentious subjects. At first the man is troubled by this sudden onslaught, since his thoughts were formerly chaste, and his chastity had forestalled those things from the sight of which his governing intellect was separated. Yet even though he was not completely defiled, the devil has succeeded in debasing him from his former dignity. But if he does not turn back and swiftly seize upon his first thoughts [of vainglory]] -which are the cause of the second- when he often encounters these things, then through the frequency of their occurrence this habit will blind his soul's faculty of discernment (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek printed text and many Greek MSS read, But if he recoils and thwarts the first assault of the thoughts [of vainglory], which is the cause of the invasion of the second, then with God's help he can easily subdue the passion). [[Thus the greater the magnitude and extent of the first passion, the greater is the subjugation to the second.]]

It is better to elude the passions by the recollection of the virtues than by resisting and disputing with them. For when the passions leave their place and arise for battle, they imprint on the mind images and idols, and this warfare has great force, able to weaken the mind and violently to perturb and confuse a man's thinking. But if a man acts by the first rule we have mentioned, when the passions are repulsed they leave no trace in the mind.

Bodily toil and study of the divine Scriptures guard purity; hope and fear make toil steadfast; and withdrawal from men and unceasing prayer establish hope and fear in a man's mind. Until a man has received the Comforter, he requires the divine Scriptures (Syriac; inscriptions in ink, i.e. the written word in general) to imprint the memory of good in his heart, to keep his striving for good constantly renewed by continual reading, and to preserve his soul from the subtleties of the ways of sin; for he has not yet acquired the power of the Spirit that drives away that delusion which takes soul-profiting recollections captive and makes a man cold through the distraction of his intellect. When the power of the Spirit has penetrated the [[noetic]] powers of the active soul, then in place of the law of the Scriptures (Syriac; laws [written] in ink) the commandments of the Spirit take root in his heart and a man is secretly taught by the Spirit and needs no help from sensory matter. For, so long as it is from matter that the heart has its teaching, error and forgetfulness straightway follow the lesson; but when teaching comes from the Spirit, its memory is kept inviolate (Syriac; But when teaching is from things infallible, then its recollection does not fail, as standing firmly upon their perspicuity).


There are good thoughts and good volitions; there are evil thoughts and an evil heart. [[The first without the second are little accounted for a recompense.]] The first

level (i.e. the thoughts) is a movement that passes through the mind like a sea wind that stirs up the waves; but the second level (i.e. the volition and the heart) is a groundwork and a foundation. In proportion to the extent of the foundation, but not according to the movement of the thoughts, the recompense for good and evil is meted out. The soul does not have rest from the movement of changing thoughts; and if you were to mete out a recompense for each thought, though it has no foundation in the heart, nearly ten thousand times a day you would change your good [recompenses] and determine your judgment (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek; change your good and the opposite, is obscure).

The intellect that has newly come forth from the intricate bonds of the passions by repentance, and strives to rise above earthly matters at the time of prayer, is like an unfledged bird; and since it is still unable to take flight, it hops upon the face of the earth

[[where the serpent slithers]]. Yet with the help of reading, labor, fear, and care for the many virtues, it gathers together its deliberations, for it is incapable of knowing anything else except these. And for a short time this keeps the intellect unperturbed and undefiled; but later, memories arise, and these trouble and defile the heart. For the man has not yet sensed the still air of freedom which gathers the intellect for a long span of time by forgetting all earthly things. For the intellect has acquired only physical feathers, that is, virtues performed outwardly, but has not yet beheld the divine vision belonging to the virtues it practices, and it has not perceived that this is the wing of the intellect wherewith it draws nigh to celestial things and takes leave of terrestrial ones.

So long as a man serves the Lord through palpable things, images of these things imprint themselves in his thoughts, and he reflects upon the Divine in material images.

But whenever he receives perception of that which lies within things, immediately, according to the measure of that perception, his mind will be exalted above the images of things at diverse times.

'The eyes of the Lord are upon the humble of heart, and His ears are opened unto their supplication' (Cf. Psalms 33:15). The prayer of a humble man is like a word spoken from the mouth into an ear: 'O Lord my God, Thou wilt enlighten my darkness' (Psalms 17:28).

When you dwell in stillness and possess the work of humility, this will be a sign for you that your soul is nigh to emerging from darkness: your heart is aflame and hot like fire both day and night, such that all the world is for you refuse and ashes, and you have no desire even for food by reason of the sweetness of the new and flaming thoughts constantly arising in your soul. Suddenly like a freely flowing torrent you are given fountains


of tears mingled with all your works: with your reading, your prayer, your psalmody, your reflection, your eating and drinking, and to your every work your tears are joined.

When you see this in your soul, be of good courage, for you have crossed the sea. And so add to your labors, stand watchfully on guard, that grace may increase in you day by day.

But if you have not experienced this, you have not yet completed your journey to reach the mountain of God. If, however, after you have found and received the gift of tears, they cease, and your fervency should cool, though there be no other change, as for instance bodily infirmity (Syriac; without there being hereafter a change to something else. The words, as for instance bodily infirmity, found in the Greek, were probably added by a copyist), then woe to you! What you have lost! For you have fallen into self-

esteem, or heedlessness, or sloth. But what follows upon tears once a man has received them, and what he afterwards encounters, we shall describe in another place, in the chapters on the successive order of [monastic] disciplines (See Homily 18. This is the Syriac reading. The phrase might also be translated, on the course of the [monastic] way of life, or, on the course of the governance [of the world]. Taking this latter sense the Greek has, on providence) even as we have been enlightened by the Scriptures and the Fathers, to whom these mysteries have been entrusted.

If you have no works, do not speak on virtues. Afflictions suffered for the Lord's sake (Syriac; for righteousness) are more precious to Him than every vow and sacrifice; and the odor of their sweat surpasses every fragrance [[and choice incense]]. Regard every virtue performed without bodily toil as premature, stillborn fruit of the womb. The offering of the righteous is the tears of their eyes; and their acceptable sacrifice is their sighings during vigil. The righteous, burdened by the weight of their body, cry out dolefully to the Lord and send forth their supplications to God with pain; and at the cry of their voice the angelic orders stand close at hand to aid them, to encourage them with hope, and to comfort them. For the holy angels are partakers of the sufferings and the tribulations of the saints through their nearness to them.

Rightly directed labors and humility make a man a god upon earth. Faith and mercy speed him on the way to limpid purity. Fervency and contrition of heart cannot dwell simultaneously in one soul, even as drunken men cannot have control of their thinking. For when the soul is given this fervor, the contrition of mourning is taken away.

Wine has been given for gladness, and fervor for the rejoicing of the soul. The former warms the body, and the word of God the understanding. Those who are inflamed by fervor are ravished by hope's meditations and their mind is caught away to the future age.

Just as men drunken with wine imagine diverse hallucinations, even so men drunken and made fervent by hope are conscious neither of affliction nor of anything worldly. This, and other like things that are prepared for those who journey the path of successive disciplines (Greek; the path of the virtues)


after they have practiced the prolonged labors of purification, occur in the very beginning of the way to the simpler of heart and more fervent in hope, and this is by reason of the soul's faith alone. All that the Lord wishes, He does.

Blessed are those who for the sake of their love of God have girded their loins with simplicity and an unquestioning disposition to meet the sea of afflictions, and who do not turn their backs! Such men speedily find refuge in the promised haven (Literally; the haven of promises. The Greek has; the Kingdom's haven), and find rest in the tents of those who have toiled well; their souls are led out of their tribulations and they exult in the joy of their hope. Those who hasten onward with hope do not turn their gaze toward the perils of the way, nor do they stop to examine it, but only when they have crossed the sea they look back upon the treacherous path and give thanks unto God for how He delivered them from gorges, precipices, and the craggy way, while they knew it not.

Those, however, who ponder over many deliberations, who strongly desire to be prudent and who give themselves over to intricate and quailing thoughts, who are ever making ready and striving to foresee every peril, are (for the most part) always to be found sitting on the doorstep of their houses.

'When the sluggard is sent in the way, he says, There is a lion in the way and murderers in the streets' (Proverbs 22:13). And those who say, like the sons of Israel,

'There we saw the sons of giants, and we were before them as grasshoppers' (Numbers 13:33) are those who will be found still journeying on the way at the time of their death, who always desire to be very prudent, but who never wish at all to make a beginning. The simple and unlearned man who sets out swimming passes through the waters retaining his first ardor, having no care at all for his body, nor deliberating in himself as to whether or not his endeavor will in any wise succeed. Let not much wisdom become a stumblingblock to your soul and a snare before you; but trusting in God, manfully make a beginning upon the way that is filled with blood, lest always you be found wanting and naked of the knowledge of God. For he who is fearful or watches the winds, sows not (Cf. Ecclesiastes 11:4). Death [[in battle]] for God's sake is better than a shameful and sluggish life. When you wish to begin one of the works of God, first make a testament, like one who is no longer to live in this life, like a man who is prepared for death and has despaired of his present life, and as though you have reached your fore-appointed time (Syriac; as though it is the end of your days without your seeing any more). Hold this unwaveringly in your mind, that hope for this present life may not hinder you from struggling and being victorious. For the hope of this present life enfeebles the thinking.

Therefore do not be overly wise, but rather give place in your mind to faith, and remember the days after your death, and slackness will never enter in


upon you, according to the word of the wise man who said, 'A thousand years of the present age are not like one day in the age of the righteous' (Cf. Psalms 89:4). Begin every good work with fortitude, and do not undertake such labors with a divided soul; and let not your heart waver in its hope in [[the grace of]] God, lest your toil be profitless and the work of your husbandry be burdensome. Believe with your heart that the Lord is merciful and gives grace to those who seek Him, not in proportion to our works, but according to the ardent love of our souls and our faith in Him. For He says, 'As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee' (Matthew 8:13).

The diverse works of those who live according to God are the following: one man strikes his head all the day long, and does this instead of the hours of his services.

Another joins together the set number of his prayers by persevering in continual prostrations. Another replaces the services by copious tears and this suffices him

[[because it seems better to him than anything else]]. Another is zealous in the intellect's meditation and limits his appointed rule to this. Another torments his soul with hunger to the extent that he cannot perform the services. Another's recitation of the Psalms is unceasing due to the fervor of his mind (Greek; Another makes his service unceasing by continuing in ardent study of the Psalms). Another passes his time in reading, and so kindles his heart. Another is taken captive as he comprehends the divine meaning of the divine Scriptures. Another's oral recitation is restrained from its customary course by his astonishment at the verses (Greek; Another is restrained from his customary study and is held by silence due to his astonishment at the wonders of the verses). But another, having tasted but a little of these things, became puffed up and fell into error. Another is prevented from keeping to his rule by grievous illness and weakness; yet another by the predominance of some habit, or desire, or ambition, or vainglory, or covetousness, or the desire to amass wealth. And another made progress, stood firmly, and did not turn back until he received the pearl of great price. Always make a beginning, therefore, in God's work with joy and earnestness. And if you are pure from the passions and a doubting heart, God Himself will raise you up to the summit, help you, and make you wise

according to His will, and in a wondrous way you will receive perfection. To Him be glory and dominion [[and adoration and majesty]] both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 7.

On the Kinds of Hope in God; and on Who Should Put His Hope in God, and Who It Is That Foolishly and Imprudently Entertains Such Hope.

There is a hope (The Syriac word has the further sense of; trust, confidence) in God that comes through the faith of the heart, which is good, and which one possesses with discernment and knowledge. And there is another, a false hope, which is distorted and which derives its existence from folly (The Greek text has; iniquity, which is a copyist's error for folly). The man who pays no heed at all to that which perishes, but devotes himself entirely to the Lord both night and day, who gives thought to nothing worldly because of his great assiduity in the virtues, and occupies his every leisure moment with divine things, and who for this reason neglects to procure food and clothing for himself, and the preparation of a place of shelter for his body, and all the rest: this man rightly and knowingly hopes in the Lord, for He will prepare his necessities for him.

This truly is the hope which is both true and most wise. It is right for such a man to put his hope in God, inasmuch as he is His servant, and is diligent in His work, being free of any negligence due to whatever cause. To a man such as this, it is meet that God manifest His special attention, because he has kept His commandment which says, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you'

(Matthew 6:33) and, 'Make no provision for the flesh' (Romans 13:14). Whenever we manage ourselves in this way, the world, like some servant, will prepare all things for us, and will unhesitatingly submit to our words as to her masters, and will never set herself against our will. For it is so as not to desist from his constant standing before God that such a man


does not allow himself to give thought to the necessities of his body. And because he takes no thought for anything else, and he is [[equally]] void of all care for things small or great which produce comfort or diversion [[or departure]] from the fear of God, he will be marvelously furnished even with these things (i.e. the needs of the body) having neither given them thought nor labored for them.

Very different, however, is the case with the man whose heart is completely buried in earthly concerns, who constantly eats dust with the serpent ( Vide Genesis 3:14), who gives no thought at all to what is pleasing to God, who expends all his labors on corporeal things, who is lax, who is continually engaged in concerns and the diversion of wantonness, and who grasps at every pretext for this. Because such a man has fallen away from virtue through his sloth and indolence, it is a different case with him whenever he suffers affliction, or is deprived of some needful thing, or the fruits of his foolish deeds cause him distress (From the beginning of the paragraph until this point we have followed the Syriac), and he says, 'I shall put my hope in God, and He will relieve me of my worry, and bring me comfort.' O fool, until the present hour you would not remember God, but have insulted Him with your dissolute practices, and His name is blasphemed

among the heathen through you, even as it is written (Romans 2:24), and now you dare to say with mouth open wide, 'In Him shall I hope, and He will help me, and take care for my concern'? Well has God said by His prophet to the shame of such persons, 'They seek Me daily, and would learn My ways, as they that do righteousness and do not forsake the ordinances of their God; they ask of Me judgment and righteousness', Isaiah 58:2). He is a fool, therefore, who even mentally does not draw nigh to God, and yet, when he is surrounded by tribulations, lifts his hands to Him with confidence. This man must be seared with hot iron many times over so that somehow he might be instructed. He possesses no work deserving of confidence in God. Rather, with his grievous practices, and his negligence of his duties, he has rendered himself deserving of chastisement; yet for His mercy's sake, God, Who is longsuffering, endures him. Therefore let not such a one deceive himself, and forget the level of his conduct, and say that he hopes in God; for he will be chastised. When he does not possess the works of faith, let him not stretch out his feet in idleness and say, 'I trust God will provide me with my necessities', as though he were living in the labors of God. If, on account of his own foolishness, such a one falls into a well while he is walking, he says immediately (although formerly God had never entered his mind at all), (Greek; let not such a man cast himself into a well (while in no wise having God in remembrance], and after his fall, say), 'And as for what happens now, I shall hope in God, and He will deliver me.' Err not, O fool! Toil for God's sake and sweat


in His husbandry precede hope in Him. If you believe in God, you do well, but faith has need of labors also ( Vide James 2:19 ff), and confidence in God is the good witness of the conscience born of undergoing hardship (Greek; is shown by undergoing hardship) for the virtues. Do you believe that God provides for His creatures, and is able to do all things? Let suitable labor, therefore, follow on your faith, and then He will hear you.

Think not to grasp the winds in your fist (Cf. Proverbs 30:4) that is, faith without works.

Often it happens that a man unwittingly travels a road where there lies a wild beast, or murderers, or something of the kind. But the universal providence of God delivers him from injury, either by delaying him on his way for some reason until the dangerous beast has gone off, or by an encounter with someone, to make him turn aside from the road. And again, sometimes a venomous serpent is found lying in the road yet out of sight, but God, not willing to surrender the man to this trial, suddenly makes the serpent hiss and withdraw from the place, or slither out in front of him, and the wayfarer when he sees it is put on his guard, and is saved from it, even though he is undeserving on account of his secret sins, which only he knows; yet God still rescues him, for His mercy's sake. And again, it often happens that a house, or a wall, or a stone is about to fall, and it slips from its place with a splintering sound, but people are found sitting there, and in His love for men God commands an angel to hold it back, and to keep it from falling until they rise up from thence; or else, under a certain pretext, He leads them out, so that no one is found underneath. But as soon as they go out, He straightway lets it fall.

And even if it happens that someone is caught, He works the matter so that they are in no way hurt. By this God wishes to show the infinite magnitude of His power.

All these things and their like, therefore, belong to God's universal and catholic providence, and this [[grace]] the righteous man has inseparably with him. For God has bidden other men to manage their affairs with discretion, and to combine their own knowledge with God's providence. But the righteous man has no need to manage his

affairs through that knowledge, because instead of that knowledge he possesses faith, by means of which he 'casteth down every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God' (2 Corinthians 10:5). And he will fear none of the things here enumerated, as it is written, 'The righteous man is bold as a lion' (Proverbs 28:1), daring all things through faith, not as one who tempts the Lord, but as one who has confidence in Him (Greek; as one who sees Him), and as one who is armed and arrayed in the power of the Holy Spirit. And because God is his constant concern, God will also say concerning him, 'I am with him in affliction, and I will rescue him and glorify him, with length of


days will I satisfy him, and I will show him My salvation' (Psalms 90:15-16). The man who is lax, on the other hand, and who is indolent in his labor, cannot have that hope.

This, then, belongs only to him who uninterruptedly abides in God in all things, who draws near Him through the beauty of his works, and strains the gaze of his heart unceasingly toward His grace, as the divine David has said, 'from my hoping in my God, mine eyes have failed me' (Psalms 68:4). For unto Him is due glory, honor, and worship unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 8.

On What Helps a Man to Approach God in His Heart, and What Is the Real Cause That Secretly Brings Help Near Him; and Again, What Is the Cause That Leads a Man to Humility.

Blessed is the man who knows his own weakness, because this knowledge becomes to him the foundation, the root, and the beginning of all goodness. For whenever a man learns and truly perceives his own weakness, at that moment he contracts his soul on every side from the laxity that dims knowledge, and he treasures up watchfulness in himself. But no one can perceive his own infirmity if he is not allowed to be tempted a little, either by things that oppress his body, or his soul. For then, comparing his own weakness with God's help, he will straightway understand the greatness of the latter. And again, whenever he looks over the multitude of his devisings, and his wakefulness, his abstinence, the sheltering, and the hedging about of his soul by which he hopes to find assurance for her, and yet sees that he has not obtained it, or again, if his heart has no calm because of his fear and trembling: then at that moment let him understand, and let him know that this fear of his heart shows and reflects that he is altogether in need of some other help. For the heart testifies inwardly, and reflects the lack of something by the fear which strikes and wrestles within it. And because of this, it is confounded, since it is not able to abide in a state of surety; for God's help he says, is the help that saves (Cf.

Psalms 59:13; 107:13). When a man knows that he is in need of Divine help, he makes many prayers. And by as much as he multiplies them, his heart is humbled, for there is no man who will not be humbled when he is making


supplication and entreaty. 'A heart that is broken and humbled, God will not despise'

(Psalms 50:17). Therefore, as long as the heart is not humbled, it cannot cease from

wandering; for humility collects the heart.

But when a man becomes humble, at once mercy encircles him, and then his heart is aware of Divine help, because it finds a certain power and assurance moving in itself.

And when a man perceives [[the coming of]] Divine help, and that it is this which aids him, then at once his heart is filled with faith, and he understands from this that prayer is the refuge of help, a source of salvation, a treasury of assurance, a haven that rescues from the tempest, a light to those who are in darkness, a staff of the infirm, a shelter in time of temptations, a medicine at the height of sickness, a shield of deliverance in war, an arrow sharpened against the face of his enemies, and, to speak simply: the entire multitude of these good things is found to have its entrance through prayer. From this time forward he revels in the prayer of faith, his heart glistens with clear assurance, and does not continue in its former blindness and the mere speech of the tongue. When he thus perceives these things, he will acquire prayer in his soul, like some treasure. And from his great gladness the form of prayer is turned into shouts of thanksgiving. This is the very thing pronounced by one who has defined the form proper to each of our actions:

'Prayer is joy that sends up thanksgiving' (Saint Nilos of Sinai. On Prayer, 15. The Greek original has, Prayer is the fruit of joy and thanksgiving). Here he speaks of the prayer that is achieved through the knowledge of God, that is, prayer that has been sent from God (Syriac; the prayer that offers up [thanksgiving]). For at that moment a man does not pray with labor and weariness (as in the rest of his prayer, which is prayed before the experiencing of this grace) and because his heart is full of joy and wonder, it continually wells up [[motions of confession and]] gratitude while he silently bows the knee. Nay,

[[from his vehement inner ardor,]] since he is very greatly moved by astonishment at this comprehension of God's graces, he suddenly raises his voice in praise and glorification of Him, and sends up thanksgiving; and he moves his tongue while being held with great awe.

If any man has reached this in truth and not in fancy, and has made many observations of this reality in himself, and has come to know its many differences by reason of his great experience, he knows what I say, for there is nothing here contrary to the truth. And from this time forward let him cease from pondering vanities, and let him remain with God by means of unbroken prayer, while being in anxiety and trepidation lest he be deprived of the magnitude of God's succor (Syriac; the stream of its [prayer's]


All these good things are born to a man from the recognition of his own weakness. For out of his craving for God's help, he presses on toward God by the petitions of his


prayer. And to the extent that he draws near to God in his intention, God also draws near to him through His gifts, and will not take His grace away from him, on account of his great humility; for just like the widow before the judge, he cries out to be avenged of his adversary ( Vide Luke 18:3). But for this very reason the compassionate God defers in granting a man's requests, even so that this may become a cause for him to draw near Him, and for his need's sake to stay close to Him Who is the brimming fount of succor.

Some of his petitions God grants him promptly (I mean those without which no one can be saved), but some He withholds from him. And on certain occasions He restrains and dispels from him the scorching assault of the enemy, while on others, He permits him to be tempted, that this trial may become to him a cause for drawing near to God (as I said

before), and also that he may be instructed, and have the experience of temptations. And such is the word of Scripture: "The Lord left many nations, without driving them out; neither delivered He them into the hands of Jesus, the son of Navi, to chastise the sons of Israel by them, and that the tribes of the sons of Israel might be taught, and learn war'

(Judges 2:23 ff). For the righteous man who has no consciousness of his own weakness walks on a razor's edge, and is never far from falling, nor from the ravening lion; I mean the demon of pride. And again, a man who does not know his own weakness falls short of humility; and he who falls short of this, also falls short of perfection; and he who falls short of perfection is forever held by dread, because his city is not founded on pillars of iron, neither upon lintels of brass, that is, humility. No man can acquire humility save by humility's own means whereby the heart is made contrite and the deliberations of conceit are brought to naught. This is why the enemy often finds himself a slight cause whereby he can deflect a man from the path. Without humility the work of man cannot be perfected, and the charter of his liberty does not yet bear the seal of the Spirit, but rather, until now he is a slave, and his work does not rise above fear. For a man cannot correct his work without humility, and he is not instructed except through temptations, and without wisdom he does not acquire humility.

Therefore the Lord looses upon the saints the causes of humility, of a contrite heart, and of ardent [[undistracted]] prayer, so that those who love Him might draw nigh Him through humility. Often He jolts them with the passions of their nature, and the intrusions of shameful and polluted thoughts; and often too by rebukes, insults, and the buffetings of men; but sometimes with diseases and bodily ailments; and at other times with poverty, and the utter lack of necessaries. And sometimes with the torment of excessive fear which He permits to fall upon them in the open warfare of the demons so as to trouble them strongly; but at times with dire variations, one more oppressive, grievous, and difficult


than the next (the Greek abbreviates this sentence). All these things occur so that they may have causes to be humbled, and that they do not become immersed in the sleep of negligence, either as regards those things from which the ascetic is wont to fall ill, or as regards the fear of things to come. Therefore temptations are necessarily profitable to men. But I do not say this with the intent that a man should voluntarily allow himself to be made lax by shameful thoughts, that this may become to him a pretext of humility in his remembrance of them, nor do I mean that he should be assiduous to enter into further temptations, but rather that in cultivating good, he must be sober at all times, and watch over his soul, and reflect that he is a created being, and therefore very liable to sudden change (Syriac; clad with aberration). For every created being is in need of God's (Syriac; of another's) power for assistance, and by his need of another's assistance every man reveals his natural weakness. But the man who knows his own weakness must of necessity humble himself, so that his need may be supplied by Him Who has the power to give it. And if he had known it from the beginning, and had looked upon his weakness, he would not have grown negligent; and if he had not grown negligent, he would not have slumbered, and been given over to the hands of those who afflict him in order to wake him up.

Therefore, whoever is walking upon the path of God must give thanks to Him for all the things that come upon him, and revile and blame his own soul, and know that he would not have been delivered over by his Provider except for the sake of negligence, in

order that his mind might be awakened, or else because he has become puffed up. But he should not be overly disturbed on this account, nor quit the arena and the fight, nor leave himself free of self-reproach, lest his evil grow twofold. For with God, Who abundantly pours forth righteousness, there is no injustice. Far be it! Unto Him be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 9.

On Voluntary and Involuntary Sins, and on Those Which Are Committed Because of Some Accidental Circumstance.

There are sins which a man commits from weakness, being drawn into them against his will, and there are sins which a man commits voluntarily, and ones from ignorance. Also, it happens that a man will sin due to an accidental circumstance, or again, because of his long continuance in evil, or from habit. Although all these modes and kinds of sins are blameworthy, yet with respect to the punishment to be exacted for each, one is found to be comparatively greater than the other. The blame of one sin is very great and its repentance is only accepted with difficulty, but another is more easily forgiven. Just as Adam, Eve, and the serpent all received from God the recompense of their sin, yet the curse which each one received differed greatly, so it was also with the sons of Adam and Eve. The severity of the punishment for a sin accords with a man's intention and his desire of sin. If a man does not wish to follow the way of sin, but notwithstanding, he is drawn toward it on account of his negligence regarding virtue (since he does not practice it), even though it is grievous to him to be joined with sin, then his punishment will be severe. But if someone who is diligent in virtue should be tempted in some sin, then mercy is undoubtedly near him to cleanse him.

It is one thing when a man is carefully diligent in virtue, constant in its works, and passes the night meditating upon it, lest he fall short in any of its duties (Greek; in anything he is concerned with). But although he should carry his burden around with him by day and all his care is for virtue, still while he is engaged in such concerns, the scale of his balance sinks a little to the left and he is


drawn down by the flesh's weakness into one form of sin, either by reason of a certain ignorance, or because of things that oppose him on his path (that is, the path of virtue) and the billows that rise up in his members at every hour, or because of the aberration (i.e. the propensity toward aberration) that is allowed to remain in him so that his free will might be tried. This causes him grief and anguish and, because of the misery that contrary things inflict upon him, he sighs painfully over his soul.

But it is a very different thing when a man is found to be lax and heedless in the work of virtue, when he has utterly abandoned the path and hastens slavishly to be subservient to every pleasure of sin, showing his zeal to invent means whereby he might enjoy it perfectly, and being ready like a slave assiduously to do the will of his enemy, and to make his members weapons for the devil in complete obedience to him; he wishes not at all to give heed to repentance, neither to draw nigh to virtue, nor to put an end to and return from the path of his destruction.

Diverse are the slips (Greek; One thing is the sin resulting from slips) and the falls

which can occur on the path of virtue and the way of righteousness, as the Fathers write, saying that on the path of virtue and the way of righteousness there are falls, oppositions, compulsions, and the like.

But something quite different is the death (Greek; fall) of the soul, complete destruction and utter abandonment. By this it is evident that whenever a man falls, he should not forget the love of his Father. And if it happens that he fall into many diverse transgressions, he should not be negligent concerning the good, nor should he stop his onward course, but even though he was vanquished, he should rise up again to struggle against his adversaries and each day begin to lay a foundation for his ruined dwelling, having the words of the Prophet in his mouth until his departure from this world, 'Rejoice not against me, mine enemy, that I have fallen; for I will rise again; for though I should sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me' (Micah 7:8). May he never cease from making war until his death, and as long as there is breath in him may he not surrender his soul to defeat, even at the very moment of his defeat! But if each day his ship be broken up and his cargo perish in the deep, let him not cease from acquiring new possessions, trading, and also from borrowing; let him set out in other ships, sailing in hope, until beholding his struggle and taking compassion on his ruin, the Lord sends down upon him His mercy and gives him powerful motivations to enable him to undergo and resist the flaming darts of the enemy. This is the wisdom which is granted by God, and this is the wise invalid who has not cut off his hope (Syriac; this is the wise invalid. Despair,

[ Literally; cutting off hope], gives no profit). It is more expedient for us to be condemned on account of particular deeds than on account of


our abandoning all. For this reason Abba Martinian admonished us not to become weary in the face of the many struggles and the diverse kinds of warfare that are met continually on the path of righteousness and not to turn back so as to give the enemy victory over us in some shameful manner. As a loving father he enjoins these things in an orderly fashion, point by point.

The Admonition of Saint Martinian.

My children, if you are truly strugglers, men who pay heed to virtue and care for your souls, and you earnestly desire your mind to be limpidly pure before Christ and to do that which is pleasing to Him, then it surely behooves you to accept for His sake every warfare kindled by our nature's passions, the attractions of this world, the duration and persistence of the demons' wickedness with which they are accustomed to confront you, and all their snares. Do not grow faint-hearted because of the continuing and obdurate fierceness of the battle; do not become hesitant because of the long duration of your struggle; do not grow lax, neither be afraid of the hosts of your enemies; and if for a season you should perhaps stumble and sin, do not fall into the pit of despair. But if something should befall you in this great war and you should even be wounded upon your face, let this in no wise hinder you from attaining your goal. Rather, persevere in the pursuit that you have chosen, and you will achieve that thing most desirable and praiseworthy, to prove steadfast and unmoving in war, reddened by the blood of your wounds. Never cease therefore, from wrestling with your adversaries.

Such are the admonitions of the great elder. Hence, you should not grow weak or lax because of what we have said. But woe to that monk who has proven false to his vow,

who, trampling upon his conscience, stretches forth his hand to the devil to enable the latter to exult over him because of one of the small or great modes of sin, and who can no longer withstand his enemies since one part of his soul has been devastated! With what countenance will he meet the Judge (Syriac; will he look on) when his companions who have attained purity will greet one another for he has parted ways with them and walked the path of perdition; he has lost the boldness before God that the righteous possess, and the prayer that ascends from a pure heart, which is borne up above the angelic hosts and is not arrested until it has obtained its request and returned with joy to the mouth that sent it forth. But what is more terrible, just as he has separated his path from theirs, so Christ will separate him from them in that day when the shining cloud will bear upon its back their bodies made resplendent by purity and carry them through the gates of Heaven. For this reason 'the ungodly shall not stand up in judgment', since their works have been judged here already, 'nor sinners in the council of the righteous' (Psalms 1:5) in the resurrection of judgment.


Homily 10.

On the Words of the Divine Writings Which Urge Men to Repentance, and That They Were Said With a View to Men's Weakness, Lest They Perish From the Living God, But That One Must Not Employ Them As An Excuse for Sinning.

The encouragement which the Fathers give in their divine writings and the help for repentance which is found in the writings of the apostles and the prophets must not be employed by us as an aid for sinning and for breaking the Lord's inviolable decrees (Syriac; as an aid for spurning the menaces made by the divine judgments and the punishment for transgressing the inviolable decrees). For by the power of God these things were decreed from ancient times through the mouth of all the saints in all their writings and legislations in order to abolish sin. But the fact that repentance furnishes hope should not be taken by us as a means to rob ourselves of the feeling of fear, so that one might more freely and fearlessly commit sin (This sentence has been rendered according to the Syriac. The Greek MSS have widely divergent readings here). For behold how God in every wise preached fear in all the Scriptures and showed Himself to be a hater of sin (Instead of this sentence the Syriac reads; Now of those things which through a decree with all kinds of threats the Lord confirmed by the seals of the word of God in all the Scriptures of our salvation, some He has partially revealed by means of many men or by a few through the punishments that He brought upon them in order to show that He is a hater of sin). Why indeed was the generation of men in the days of Noe drowned in the deluge? Was it not because of their lasciviousness when they raved over the beauty of the daughters of Cain?, ( Vide Genesis 6:2 ff). At that time there was no avarice, no idolatry, no sorcery, no wars. Why were the cities of the Sodomites consumed by fire? Was it not because they gave their


members over to lust and impurity, such that it dominated over all of them in every abominable and unnatural act, even as they willed?, ( Vide Genesis 18:20 ff). Was it not because of the fornication of one man that in one instant five and twenty thousand of the sons of Israel, the firstborn of God, fell and died?, ( Vide Numbers 24:9). Why was the mighty man Samson rejected by God, he who was set apart and consecrated to God while

still in the womb; whose birth was announced by an angel, like John, the son of Zacharias; who was granted great power and worked great wonders [[and who by the supernatural strength which God poured into his body smote a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass and became a saviour and judge unto Israel]]? Was it not because he defiled his holy members by union with a harlot? For this reason God departed from him and surrendered him to his enemies ( Vide Judges 16:4 ff). And David, who was a man after God's own heart, who because of his virtues was found worthy to generate from his seed the promise of the Fathers, and to have Christ shine forth from himself for the salvation of all the world, was he not punished because of adultery with a woman, when he beheld her beauty with his eyes and was pierced in his soul by that arrow? For it was because of this that God raised up a war against him from within his own household, and he who came forth from his loins pursued him. These things befell him even after he had repented with many tears, such that he moistened his couch with his weeping, and after God had said to him through the prophet, 'The Lord hath forgiven thy sin' (2 Kings 12:13).

I wish also to bring to mind certain men before David. For what reason did wrath and death come upon the house of the priest Eli, the righteous elder who was eminent for forty years in his priesthood? Was it not because of the iniquity of his sons Ophni and Phinees? For neither did he sin, nor did they with his assent, but it was because he did not have the zeal to demand from them the Lord's vindication (i.e. to punish them. Vide 1

Kings 3:13) and he loved them more than the statutes of the Lord. Lest someone surmise that the Lord manifests His wrath only upon those who pass all the days of their life in iniquities, behold how for this unseemly sin He manifests His zeal against His genuine servants, against priests, judges, rulers, men consecrated to Him, to whom He entrusted the working of miracles, and He in no wise overlooks their transgression of His statutes, as it is written in Ezekiel, 'I said to the man who I commanded to go into Jerusalem with an invisible sword: Begin at My sanctuary, and have no mercy upon the old man and the youth' (Cf. Ezekiel 9:5, 6). Thus he showed that His true servants and friends are those who walk before Him in fear and reverence and do His will, since virtuous deeds and purity of conscience are things holy [[and beloved]] of God. But when men repudiate His paths, the Lord repudiates them, casts them away


from His face, and takes from them His grace. For why was the sentence against Baltasar issued so swiftly and why did it strike him down, as it were, by the form of a hand? Was it not because he acted with audacity toward the untouchable vessels of offering which he seized from Jerusalem, drinking out of them, both he and his concubines?, ( Vide Daniel 5:1 ff). In the same manner, those who have consecrated their members to God, but are so audacious as to use them once more for worldly deeds, the same perish, being smitten by an invisible blow.

Therefore, let us not disregard the oracles and threats of God by reason of our confidence in repentance and the good courage given us by the divine Writings, and so to make Him wrothful by our wicket deeds and defile our members that have been consecrated once and for all for the service of God. For lo, we have consecrated ourselves to Him, as Elias, Elisseus, the sons of the prophets, and all the other saints and virgins, who worked great wonders and spoke to God face to face. And further, as all those who came after them: John the Virgin, the holy Peter, and the other heralds and preachers of the New Testament, who consecrated themselves to the Lord, from Whom they received

the knowledge of mysteries—some from His very mouth, others through revelation—and who became intercessors between God and men [[and receptacles of His revelations]], and preachers of the Kingdom to the whole world.


Homily 11.

On How the Beauty of Monastic Life Is Preserved and On How It Can Be a Means for God to Be Glorified.

The monk (or solitary) ought to be in his appearance and all his actions an exemplar of profit (Syriac; a sight of stimulation) to those who see him, so that by reason of his many virtues which shine forth like sunbeams, the enemies of truth, when they look upon him, will involuntarily confess that the hope of salvation which the Christians have is firm and unshakable, and from every side will run to him as a refuge. And so the horn of the Church will be exalted over Her enemies, and many will be moved to emulation of his virtue, and will come forth from out of the world; and he will be venerable among all because of the beauty of his life [[so that on his account the mouth of the sons of the Church will be opened and their head will be exalted above all religions]]. For the boast of the Church of Christ is the monastic way of life.

In every aspect, therefore, the beauties of a monk's life should shine forth, namely: in elevation above the visible world; scrupulous non-possessiveness; perfect contempt of the flesh; sublime fasting; constancy in silence; orderly discipline of the senses; careful watch over the sight; the cutting off of all contention with any man over anything pertaining to this age; brevity in speech; purity from the remembrance of wrongs; simplicity with discernment; sincerity and ingenuousness of the heart coupled with sound judgment, alertness, and acumen. And further, the following is proper to him: to know that the present life is unavailing and fleeting, and that the true and spiritual life is near at hand; not to be known or observed by men; not to fetter himself by companionship and union


with any man; to have a quiet dwelling-place [[a cramped abode, paltry and mean possessions]]; to flee men always like a wild ass, and unflaggingly to persevere in prayers and readings; not to love honor, nor to rejoice in guests; not to bind himself with this life; courageously to endure temptations; to divorce himself from worldly rumors and from inquiries into worldly affairs; continually to take thought for and to keep in mind his true country; to have a sad and furrowed countenance; to weep without pause day and night; and more than all these, in things both small and great to keep guard over his chastity and to cleanse himself from gluttony. For these are a monk's manifest beauties (Greek; virtues) stated in brief, and they bear witness to his dying utterly to the world and his nearness to God.

We ought at all times, therefore, to give thought to these virtues and acquire them for ourselves. But if someone should ask what need have I to state these things separately and not speak about them generally and in brief, I answer that it is done of necessity, in order that when a man, who takes care for his life, looks for one of the aforesaid things in his soul to find whether he is lacking in one of them, he may learn his deficiency in each virtue from these [[distinctions]], and this list will serve as a reminder to him. And should

he acquire in himself all the virtues stated, then knowledge of others also, which I have not mentioned, will be granted to him. And he will be, for men and the holy angels, a cause for ascribing glory to God. Thus from here, before he departs from this life, he will prepare for his soul a place of repose. To our God be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 12.

That the Servant of God Who Has Divested Himself of Worldly Goods, and Is Come Forth in Quest of Him, Must Never, Because He Has Not Attained to a Sure Apprehension of the Truth, Cease From His Quest for Fear of This, and Grow Cold in That Ardor Which Is Born of Love for Things Divine and of Searching out Their Mysteries; and on How the Mind Is Confounded By the Memory of the Passions.

The stages through which man advances are three: the beginner's stage, the intermediate, and that of the perfect. In the first stage all a man's thinking [[and recollection]] is held within the passions, even if his mind is directed toward good. The second is a kind of midway laid between passion and dispassion: (Syriac; and the spiritual state) both thoughts from the right hand and those from the left move equally within him (Syriac; it, i.e. the second stage) and light and darkness never cease from welling forth, as has already been said. But if he should desist for a little from continuous reading of spiritual writings and from the forming of vivid conceptions of divine subjects (which, when he muses upon them, set him aflame by their modes of truth, [Syriac; by their aim which strikes the truth, i.e. by their truthfulness], according to his capacity), and should he cease as well from his outward watchfulness (from which come both inner watchfulness and proficient work) then he is certain to be swept away into the passions.

He should, therefore, feed his natural ardor in ways I have said, and should not leave his quest and search and yearning after those things which are afar off, even though he has never seen them, but only the indications of them found in his reading of the divine Scriptures. By these things he should nourish his thoughts, holding them close lest they incline to the left. He should be careful not to accept some devilish seed


[[of phantasy]] in the guise of truth, and should ardently watch over his soul. Then, if he does these things and if he asks God with arduous prayer and patience, He will grant him his petition and open His door to him, but chiefly for his humility's sake. For 'mysteries are revealed to the humble' (Ecclesiasticus 3:19). But if he dies in this hope, even if he has nowhere seen that land from close at hand, nevertheless it seems to me that his inheritance will be with those righteous men of old, who hoped to reach perfection even though they never saw it, as the Apostolic utterance says, 'For they labored in hope all their days, and they slept' (Cf. Hebrews 11:13). Otherwise, what should we say if such a man were not to gain entry to the land of promise, which is the stage (The Syriac employs here the Greek word. The Greek printed text has, place. Some Greek MSS have, type.

The context which follows demands the Syriac reading) of perfection, that is, lucid comprehension of the truth according to the measure of his natural capacity? Is he then barred from it on that account, and does he remain in the lowest stage, where the entire disposition is inclined toward things of the left? Or because he has not apprehended the whole truth, shall he then continue in the ignobleness of the lowest stage, which has no

cognizance of, nor any desire for, these things? Or is it fitting that he should be raised to that middle stage which I have mentioned? For even though he has never beheld it, not even 'through a mirror' (1 Corinthians 13:12) still he hoped from afar, and through this hope was added to his Fathers. And although he was not deemed worthy of perfect grace while here, nevertheless, because he was always conversant with it, and with all his intellect he always absorbed himself in it, and because his desire was fixed upon it as long as he was alive, he was able to cut off evil thoughts. And so, his heart being filled with God, he departed from life with this hope.

Anything whatsoever possessing humility is of its nature comely. For the intellect's incorporeal rumination on the love of God (which meditation is guided by the understanding of the divine Scriptures) screens the soul from within against evil thoughts.

And further it holds the mind in the remembrance of good things to come, lest the mind in its idleness should be diffused amid recollections of worldly things, and by these the fervor of its movements should be chilled, and it should descend into desires. But to our God be glory. Amen.


Homily 13.

On the Alteration and Change That Takes Place in Those Who Are Making Their Way on the Path of Stillness, Which Has Been Laid out by God; for Sometimes Melancholy and Strangulation of Soul Occur, Sometimes Sudden Joy and Unaccustomed Fervor, Glory Be to Him Who Orders Our Paths Aright! Amen.

Once a man has made up his mind to live his life in stillness, let him set himself in order and pass the rest of his days in the cultivation and regular practice of stillness.

Whenever it happens to you (as is usual in the regular practice of stillness which is determined by divine grace) that your soul is enshrouded by thick darkness from within and, as with the sun's rays when they are hidden from the earth by the mist of clouds, for a brief time she is deprived of spiritual comfort and the light of grace on account of the cloud of passions that overshadows her; and further, that the joy-producing power in your soul is curtailed for a little, and your mind is overshadowed by an unwonted mist: then do not be troubled in mind, do not lend a hand to despondency (or faint-heartedness,

[Literally; littleness of soul]. This is the Syriac reading. Greek; ignorance of soul). But be patient, be engaged in reading the books of the Doctors of the Church, compel yourself in prayer, and expect to receive help. Then straightway help will come unawares. For just as by the rays of the sun the face of the earth is unveiled from the darkness of the atmosphere that enshrouds it, even so is prayer able to dissolve and scatter the clouds of passions from our soul, and make our mind transparent to the light of gladness and comfort which, indeed, it customarily produces in our thoughts, but especially when it possesses material [[of succor]] from the divine Scriptures and vigilance, which burnish the mind. For continual study in the writings of the saints fills the soul with incomprehensible wonder and divine gladness. To our God be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 14.

Concerning Hesychasts: On When they Begin to Understand What Place They Have

Attained With Their Labors in the Boundless Sea That Is the Life of Stillness; and on When They Can Have a Little Hope That Their Toils Have Begun to Yield Them Fruit.

I shall tell you something, and do not laugh, for I speak the truth; neither doubt my words, for they who have handed them down to me are true. Though you should suspend yourself by your eyelids [[before God]], do not think you have attained to anything by the manner of life which you lead until you have attained to tears. For until then, your hidden self is in the service of the world; that is, you are leading the life of those who dwell in the world, and do the work of God with the outward man. But the inward man is still without fruit, for his fruit begins with tears.

When you attain to the region of tears, then know that your mind has left the prison of this world and has set its foot on the roadway of the new age, and has begun to breathe that other air, new and wonderful. And at the same moment it begins to shed tears, since the birth pangs of the spiritual infant are at hand. For grace, the common mother of all, makes haste mystically to give birth in the soul to the Divine image for the light of the age to come. But when the time of its delivery is arrived, simultaneously the mind begins to be stirred by something of that other age, just like the subtle breath the babe draws inside the body wherein it is nurtured. And since the mind cannot bear what is not usual


for it, it suddenly begins to set the body to wail, a wailing mingled with the sweetness of honey. And as much as the inward babe is raised, by just so much is there an increase in tears (Some Syriac MSS continue with the following sentence; This stream of tears begins when the mind becomes clear and serene). But this order of tears, the one of which I have been speaking, is not the one that also at intervals comes over hesychasts.

Because this consolation, which appears from time to time, is every man's who dwells in stillness with God. Sometimes it comes to him when he finds himself in the divine vision of his mind, and sometimes through the words of the Scriptures, and sometimes in the converse of prayer. But I am rather speaking of that order which belongs to him who sheds tears unceasingly both night and day.

Whoever has found the reality of these things truly and accurately has found it in stillness. The eyes of such a man become like fountains of water for two years' time or even more [[that is, during the time of transition: I mean, of mystical transition]]. But afterwards he enters into peace of thought; and from this peace of thought he enters into the rest of which Saint Paul has spoken ( Vide Hebrews 4:3) only in part, however, and to the extent that nature can contain it. From that peaceful rest his intellect begins to behold mysteries. And thereupon the Holy Spirit begins to reveal heavenly things to him, and God dwells within him, and raises up the fruit of the Spirit in him. And from this he perceives, dimly somehow, and in a figure (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12) as it were, the change nature is going to receive at the renewal of all things.

These things I have written down as a reminder and source of profit for myself, and for every man who comes upon this book, according to what I have understood from both the divine vision of the Scriptures and from true mouths, and a little from experience itself, in order that they might be a help to me through the prayers of those who are profited by them. For I have taken no little trouble to set these things down.

But again, hear also what I am about to tell you; it is something I learned from a mouth that does not lie. When you enter into that region which is peace of the thoughts,

then the multitude of tears is taken away from you, and afterwards tears come to you in due measure and at the appropriate time. This is, in all exactness, the truth of the matter as told in brief, and it is believed by the whole Church [[and by Her eminent men and front-line warriors]].


Homily 15.

On Guarding Oneself and Keeping Oneself From Lax and Negligent Men, and on How, by Drawing Near to Them, Heedlessness and Laxity Rule Over a Man and He Is Filled With Every Passion. And on Guarding Oneself From Proximity to Youths, Lest the Intellect Should Be Defiled by Licentious Thoughts.

He who restrains his mouth from speech guards his heart from the passions. The man who cleanses his heart from the passions beholds the Lord at every moment; and he whose meditation is always upon God drives away the demons from himself and uproots the seed of their wickedness. The heart of the man who oversees his soul at all times is made joyous by revelations. He who gathers within himself the vision of his intellect beholds therein (i.e. in his intellect) the Radiance of the Father. The man who despises every distraction beholds his Master within his heart. If you love purity, in which the Master of all can be seen, do not speak disparagingly of any man or listen to another who maligns his brother. If some quarrel in your presence and you hear words of wrath, close your ears and flee from that place, lest your soul perish from life. A wrathful heart is entirely devoid of the mysteries of God, but the meek and humble man is a well-spring of the mysteries of the new age.

Lo, Heaven is within you (if indeed you are pure) and within it you will see both the angels in their light and their Master with them and in them. The man who is justly praised is not harmed thereby; but if praise seems sweet to him, he labors without recompense. The treasure of the humble is within him, and this is the Lord. He who guards his tongue will never be plundered by it unto the ages. A silent mouth interprets God's


mysteries, but the garrulous man is distant from his Creator. The good man's soul shines more brightly than the sun and is gladdened at every moment by the theoria of divine mysteries. He who follows a lover of God will be enriched by God's mysteries, but he who follows an unrighteous and proud man will be estranged from God and abhorred by His friends. The man whose tongue is inclined to silence will acquire a humble discipline in all his habits and will thus gain control over his passions without toil. The passions are uprooted and driven away by unceasing study of God and this is the sword that slays them. Just as the dolphin stirs and swims about when the visible sea is still and calm, so also, when the sea of the heart is tranquil and still from wrath and anger, mysteries and divine revelations are stirred in her at all times to delight her.

He who wishes to see the Lord within himself devises means to cleanse his heart by continuous remembrance of God, and thus through the clearness (Syriac; purification) of the eyes of his mind he will behold the Lord at all times. That which befalls a fish out of water, befalls the mind that has come out of the remembrance of God and wanders in the remembrance of the world. The more a man withdraws from the converse of men, the

more he is deemed worthy of boldness before God in his intellect. And insomuch as he denies himself the comforts of this world, by so much does he become worthy of the joy of God in the Holy Spirit. Just as fish perish from lack of water, so the noetic movements that God causes to blossom forth vanish from the heart of the monk who loves to dwell and pass his life in company with worldly men.

A man of the world who endures tribulation in worldly affairs and hardship in this life is superior to the monk who suffers hardships and dwells with worldly men (Syriac; who wearies his heart with commerce and lodging with worldly men). Dreadful to the demons and greatly beloved of God and His angels is the man who (Some Greek MSS

and the Greek printed text add here; both day and night seeks God in his heart and who) with ardent zeal uproots from his heart the assaults (Syriac; seeds) sown by the enemy.

The country (Greek; realm) of the man who is pure in soul is within him. The sun that shines within him is the light of the Holy Trinity. The air that the denizens of this realm breathe is the comforting and All-holy Spirit. And those who make their abode with him are the holy and incorporeal natures (i.e. the angels). Christ, the Light of the Father's light, is their life, joy, and happiness. Such a man is gladdened at all times by the divine vision of his soul, and he is enthralled by his own beauty which is truly a hundredfold more resplendent than the brilliance of the sun itself. This is Jerusalem and the Kingdom of God which is hidden within us, as the Lord says ( Vide Luke 17:21). This realm is a cloud of God's glory into which only the pure of heart may enter to behold the


countenance of their Master (Cf. Matthew 5:8) and to have their intellects illumined by the ray of His light.

But the angry and wrathful man, the vainglorious, the avaricious, the glutton, and he who mixes with worldly men, he who wishes to have his own way, the irascible, and he who is filled with every passion, these are like men who wage war in the night; they grope in the dark because they are outside the realm of life and light, for that realm has been alotted to the godly, the humble, and to those who have purified their hearts. A man cannot behold the beauty that lies within himself until he dishonors and detests every beautiful thing that is outside of him, and he cannot genuinely set his gaze upon God until he has utterly renounced the world. He who reviles and belittles himself will be made wise by the Lord, but he who considers himself wise will fall away from divine wisdom.

The more a man's tongue flees talkativeness, the more his intellect is illumined so as to be able to discern deep thoughts; for the rational intellect is bemuddled by talkativeness.

The man who becomes destitute of the things of this world will be rich in God, and the friend of rich men will become destitute of God. I believe that if a man is sober in mind, humble, abhors boldness, and expels anger from his heart, he certainly sees the light of the Holy Spirit in his soul whenever he stands up (Syriac; fixes his gaze within him) in prayer, and he exults in the illuminations of His light's resplendence, and is made joyous by the divine vision of His glory and by the soul's change according to His likeness. There is no other activity that can so disperse the onslaught of the unclean demons as divine vision in God.

A certain father related to me the following: 'One day as I was sitting, my intellect was taken captive in divine vision, and when I came to myself, I sighed heavily. But when the demon who was standing opposite me heard this he was terrified, and consumed as it were by lightning, and compelled to wail aloud, he took to flight as though he were pursued by someone.'

Blessed is the man who remembers his departure from this life and severs his ties with this world's delights, for many times over he will receive blessedness at his departure and this blessedness will he not lack. This is the man who is born of God and whose Nurse is the Holy Spirit; he suckles the life-giving nourishment from the Spirit's breast and delights in the odor of His fragrance. But the man who is enchained by worldly affairs, and by the world, and by its consolations, and who loves its intercourse, is bereft of life and I know not what to say concerning him, except to weep with inconsolable cries of lamentation, the sound of which breaks the hearts of those who hear it.

You who are in darkness, raise up your heads that your countenances may shine in the light. Come forth from the passions of the world so that the Light that originates from the Father may come forth to meet you and command the ministers of His mysteries to loose you from your bonds, that you may walk in His footsteps toward the Father. Alas,


how we are bound, and from Whom we are set apart, that we should not behold His glory! Would that our bonds were severed so that we might search for and find our God!

If you wish to understand the mysteries within men but you have not yet come to learn this from the Spirit, then from each man's words, manner of life, and discipline you may learn it, if only you are wise. He who is pure of soul and chaste in life always speaks the words of the Spirit discreetly, and he converses concerning divine things and what lies within him in accord with his own measure. But when a man's heart is crushed by the passions, his tongue is moved by them; and even though he speak of spiritual matters, yet he discourses passionately, to the end that he might be victorious by unjust means. The wise man will mark such a man at his first encounter with him, and the pure man will smell his evil stench.

The man who is found continually in idle speech and distraction of soul and body is a fornicator; he who approves of such a man and keeps his company is an adulterer; and he who intimately communes with him is an idolater. Special affection for youths is abominable licentiousness before God and there is no plaster that can heal such a man's fall; but the man who loves all men equally and indiscriminately with compassion has attained perfection. The young man who follows after a youth causes discerning men to weep and lament over the two; but an old man who follows after youths has a passion more foul-smelling than the former, and even though he should converse with them about virtue, his heart is grievously injured. A young man who is humble of thought and silent, whose heart is pure of envy and anger, who withdraws from every man and pays heed to himself, will quickly comprehend the passions of a negligent elder. In no wise hold company with an elder who is not equally disposed to an old man and to a youth, but with all your strength avoid his company, nay rather, flee from him.

Woe to the heedless who feign purity in order to nourish their passions! But the man who has reached old age abiding in purity of thoughts, in disciplined life, and the holding of his tongue, in this life takes delight in the sweetness of the fruit of knowledge, and at his departure from his body he receives God's glory. Nothing so quenches the fire that the Holy Spirit breathes into a monk's heart for the sanctification of his soul, as familiar intercourse, much speaking, and association, except it be with the initiates of God's mysteries for the nurturing and amplification of his knowledge; for such intercourse as this awakens the soul to life, uproots the passions and, more than all the virtues, makes shameful thoughts vanish. Have none but such men for your friends and

the sharers of your secrets, lest you place a stumbling-block for your soul and stray from the way of the Lord. Magnify in your heart the love that unites and joins you to God (Some Syriac MSS have the variant; the love for him who unites you to God. The context makes this seem very likely to be the meaning of the passage), lest the love of the


world take you captive, for this is the beginning and end of corruption. Habitation and familiar intercourse with ascetics is a cause for each to be enriched with divine mysteries; but affection for slothful and indolent men leads to insatiable filling of the belly in banqueting with one another. It is an odious thing for such a man to partake of food without his companion, and he says, 'Woe to the man who eats his bread alone!', for it will not seem sweet to him, these invite one another to banquets and like hirelings repay each other's courtesies. Away with this accursed love, this unseemly and obscene conduct! Flee, O my brother, those who have become accustomed to do such things and never desire to eat with them, even if necessity should constrain you. For their table is accursed and is waited upon by the demons. The friends of Christ the Bridegroom do not partake of it.

The monk who is ever preparing banquets is a laborer for the demon of lust and he defiles the soul of the humble man. The frugal bread of a chaste man's table makes the soul of him who eats it chaste of every passion. The smell of a glutton's table is the abundance of dishes and fried foods; the foolish and senseless will be drawn to it like a dog to the butcher's shop. But the table of a man who continually perseveres in prayer is sweeter than the scent of musk and the fragrance of perfumes, and the lover of God yearns for this as for a priceless treasure.

Take for yourself the remedy of life from the table of those who fast, keep vigil, and labor in the Lord, and so raise up the dead man in your soul. For the Beloved reclines in their midst bestowing sanctification and He transforms the bitterness of their hardship into His ineffable sweetness. His spiritual and heavenly ministers overshadow both them and their holy foods. I know one of the brethren who has seen this with his own eyes.

Blessed is the man who makes himself deaf to every pleasure that separates him from his Creator, [[for he eats only one delectable food from the table of the Most High, even that by which the powers of Heaven are nourished]]. Blessed is he who has as nourishment the Bread which came down from Heaven and gave life to the world, [[for the ages of the new world are sustained thereby]]. Blessed is the man who in his drink (Greek; field) beholds the irrigating Watercourse of life that mercifully pours forth from the Father's bosom. For when he drinks thereof his eye is fixed on Him (i.e. the Watercourse, Christ) and his heart will be made glad, blossom anew and be filled with joy and exultation. The man who has seen his Lord in his nourishment steals away and partakes of it alone, sharing nothing with the unworthy, lest he partake of it when it is bereaved of His splendor. But he whose food is mingled with death's poison cannot partake of it gladly without the company of his companions. The man who has friends in order to satisfy his belly is a wolf devouring corpses. How great is your


insatiability, O fool, for you wish to fill your belly at the table of the heedless, whereby your soul is filled with every passion! These admonitions will be sufficient for those who are able to rule over their bellies.

The odor of a faster is most fragrant and by meeting him the hearts of discerning

men are made joyous; but the glutton is stricken with fear when he associates with the faster and devises excuses not to eat with him.

An abstinent man's way of life is dearly beloved of God, but his proximity is most oppressive to the greedy. Christ exceedingly praises the silent man, but his presence will not seem sweet to those whom the demons take captive through amusements and distractions. Who does not love a humble and meek man? Only proud men and slanderers, who are foreign to his work.

A Narration of a Certain Holy Man.

Someone related the following to me from his own experience: 'On days that I keep company with men I eat three or four small loaves of dried bread, and when I compel myself to pray, my intellect possesses no boldness before God and I cannot set my gaze upon Him. When, however, I separate myself from them by practicing stillness, the first day with difficulty I eat only one and one half loaves, and on the second day, one. But once my intellect is anchored in stillness, I struggle to eat one loaf and yet I cannot. Without effort my intellect ceaselessly converses boldly with God, and His radiance constantly illumines me and induces me to behold and take delight in the beauty of His divine light. But if, while I am practicing stillness, someone comes and converses with me, be it for an hour only, then it is impossible for me not to increase my meal, not to fall short of my rule, and for my intellect not to grow slack in the divine vision of that light.'

Behold, my brethren, how good and profitable are patience and solitude, and what power and facility they give to ascetics. Blessed is he who is patient in stillness for the sake of God (Syriac; the One, in reference to solitude) and eats his bread alone, since he converses with God (Syriac; the One, in reference to solitude) always, to Whom be glory and dominion both now and ever and unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 16.

On Renouncing the World and Refraining From Familiarity With Men.

When we wish to flee the world and become strangers to worldly affairs, there is nothing which so separates us from the world, or that so mortifies the passions in us and rouses and brings us to life in spiritual things, as do mourning and the pain of heart that is joined with discernment. The face of a modest and reverent man imitates the humility of the Beloved. And again, there is nothing that makes us associate with the world and those in the world, and even those given over to drunkenness and prodigality, and nothing that separates us from the treasures of wisdom and the knowledge of God's mysteries, so much as do facetiousness and wanton frivolity (Syriac; the unrestraint of wanton pleasure). This, too, is the business of the demon of fornication. But since I have made proof of your love of wisdom, beloved, it is with love that I entreat you: be on your guard against the spiteful abuse of the enemy, lest by the trumpery of his words he chill your soul from the fervor of Christ's love, Who for your sake tasted gall on the Tree of the Cross, and lest, instead of that sweet study and boldness (Syriac; gaze fixed toward) before God, he fill your soul with many imaginings even while you are awake and, asleep, he make her captive to unseemly dreams, the stench of which the holy angels of

God cannot endure. Thus to others you will be the cause of slips and falls, and to yourself, a stake of impalement. Force yourself, then, to imitate the humility of Christ, so that the fire which He sent down upon you may blaze up all the more; by this fire all stirrings of the world, which slay the new man and defile the courts of the Lord, the Holy and Mighty, are exterminated. For I make bold to say, along with Saint Paul, 'We are the temple of


God' (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16). Let us then purify His temple, as He is pure, that He may wish to settle in it. Let us hallow it, as He is holy. And let us adorn it with all good and honorable works. Let us cense it with the frankincense that gives rest to His will, with the pure and heart-felt prayer that is impossible to acquire by association with constant worldly activities, and thus the cloud of His glory will overshadow our souls, and the light of His majesty will dawn inside our hearts; and all those who dwell in the tabernacle of God will be filled with joy and gladness, but the unabashed and shameless will vanish in the flame of the Holy Spirit.

So continually upbraid yourself, O brother, and say: Woe to you, wretched soul, your separation from the body is at hand. Why do you rejoice in what today you will leave behind, the very sight of which you will be deprived of forever? Take heed to what lies before you, stop and consider what things you have done, in what way, and what sort of things they are, and with whom you have passed the days of your life, or who has accepted the toil of your husbandry, and whom you have gladdened with your wrestling, that he will come forth to meet you at the time of your departure. But whom did you gladden and gratify during your course, that you might find rest in his haven? And for whose sake did you endure hardships as you toiled, that you might reach him with joy?

And whom will you have as a friend in the age to come, that he might now welcome you in the moment of your departure? In which field did you hire yourself out, and who will pay you your wages at the sunset of your separation?

Examine yourself, O soul, and see in what land your portion lies; and if you have crossed over to that field which bears a harvest of bitterness for those who till it, wail and cry aloud, with groaning and great affliction, those words which give rest to your God more than sacrifices and whole burnt offerings. Let your mouth pour forth anguished laments, at which the holy angels are made glad. Drench your cheeks with the weeping of your eyes, that the Holy Spirit may rest upon you, and wash you from the filth of your wickedness. Appease your Lord with tears, that He may come to your aid. Appeal to Mary and Martha to teach you mournful cries. Call out to the Lord.

A Prayer.

O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Thou that didst weep over Lazarus, and shed tears of sorrow and compassion for him, accept the tears of my bitterness. By Thy Passion, cure my passions. By Thy Wounds, heal my wounds. By Thy Blood, purge my blood; mingle the fragrance of Thy life-creating Body with my body. Let the gall Thou didst drink at enemies' hands sweeten my soul from the bitterness which the foe hath given me to drink. Let Thy Body, O Lover of men, which was stretched on the Tree of the Cross, extend toward Thee mine intellect which is dragged evilly downward by


demons. Let Thy Head, which Thou didst bow on the Cross, raise up my head, which is buffeted by mine adversaries. Let Thine all-holy Hands, which were nailed to the Cross by the unbelieving Jews, lead me out of the abyss of perdition to Thee, as Thine all-holy Mouth hath promised. Let Thy Countenance, which received blows and spittings from accursed men, brighten my countenance, which is stained with iniquities. Let Thy Soul, which on the Cross Thou didst commend to Thy Father, guide me to Thee by Thy grace. I have not a mournful heart wherewith to seek Thee, I have no repentance, I have no compunction, which bring the children into their proper inheritance. O Master, I have not a comforting tear. My mind is darkened by the affairs of this life, and hath no strength to look steadfastly toward Thee with groaning. My heart is grown cold from the multitude of temptations (Syriac; evils) and cannot warm herself with tears of love for Thee. But Thou, my Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Treasury of good gifts, grant me thorough repentance and a sorrowing heart, that with all my soul I may go forth to seek Thee. For without Thee, I am a stranger to all that is good. Therefore, O Good One, freely grant me Thy grace. Let the Father, Who hath timelessly and everlastingly brought Thee forth from His bosom, renew in me the features of Thine image. I have forsaken Thee, do not forsake me. I have gone out from Thee, come out to seek me, and lead me up to Thy pasture, and number me among the sheep of Thy chosen flock, and nourish me with them on the verdure of Thy Divine Mysteries; for their pure heart is Thy lodging-place, and therein is the illumination of Thy revelations clearly beheld, which is the comfort and refreshment of those who for Thy sake have travailed in afflictions and every kind of outrage. May we also be deemed worthy of this illumination by Thy grace and love for man, O our Saviour Jesus Christ, unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 17.

On a Rule for Beginners and Their State and the Matters That Pertain to Them.

This is the rule of life that is chaste and pleasing to God: to refrain from glancing here and there with your eyes, but always to gaze steadily on what lies before you; to refrain from speaking idly and to say only what is necessary; to regard mean attire as sufficient for your body's need and, in like manner, to make use of foods that sustain the body, and not those that satisfy gluttony; to take a little from all foods, and not disdain some and select others and choose to fill your belly with these. Discretion is greater than all the other virtues. Without companions (when not ill or infirm) do not partake of wine.

Do not interrupt the words of one who is talking, and contradict him like someone uncouth; but like a wise man, be patient. And wherever you find yourself, consider yourself the inferior, and the servant of your brethren. Do not expose any part of your body in front of any man; and do not touch the body of another, except for some necessary reason, nor permit anyone to touch your body without good cause, as I have said. Shun familiarity as death. Acquire a chaste rule for your sleep, lest the power that guards you (i.e.: the guardian angel) remove itself far from you. If a fit of coughing comes over you while seated at table, turn your face to your back, and cough in this manner. Eat and drink with moderation, as befits the children of God.

Do not brashly stretch out your hand to take something from in front of your companions. But if a stranger should sit with you, urge him once or twice to eat, and set the table neatly, not helter-skelter. Sit with a neat and not a sprawling posture, exposing



of your limbs. When you yawn, cover your mouth so as not to be seen; but if you hold your breath it will pass. Should you go into your superior's cell, or your friend's or disciple's, restrain your eyes so as not to see anything therein. And if compelled by a thought to do so, take good care lest you obey it and do this. For anyone brazenly disposed in these matters is a stranger to the monastic schema (or habit) and to Christ, Who has bestowed this schema upon us. Take no notice of the places where the articles of your friend's cell are kept. Open and shut your door quietly, and your companion's also, do not burst in suddenly on anyone, but when you have knocked outside and been invited in, then discreetly enter.

Do not rush when you walk, unless compelled by some urgent need. Be obedient to all in every good work; but do not follow after the covetous, the avaricious, or the worldly, lest a diabolical work be done. Speak to all with meekness, look upon all with chastity, and do not satiate your eyes with looking on another's face. When you are journeying on the road, do not get ahead of your seniors; but if your companion gets ahead of you, hurry a little to catch up with him. For whoever does not do so is foolish, and little better than a swine that has no manners. If your companion should talk with any people he meets, wait for him and do not press him to go. Before the usual time, let him that is healthy say to him that is ill: 'Let us fulfill the body's need' (A monastic expression meaning, Let us eat).

Do not chide anyone for any trespass, but think of yourself as accountable in all things and guilty of his fall. Do not refuse to do any lowly chore with humility, and in no wise decline from doing it. If you are compelled to laugh, do not show your teeth. If you are forced to speak with women, turn your face from the sight of them, and talk with them thus ((or for women—men; that is, Saint Isaac is presumably referring in this context to someone of the opposite gender)). But as from fire, and as from the snare of the devil, keep yourself from nuns; from meetings with them, and conversations, and the sight of them; lest your heart be chilled from the love of God, and you pollute your heart with the mire of the passions. Even if they are your sisters after the flesh, withhold yourself from them as from strangers. Be on your guard against mingling with your kindred, lest your heart be chilled from the love of God. Avoid familiarities and conversations with youths as friendship with the devil. But have one confidant and sharer of your secrets: a man who fears God, and who always pays heed to himself; one who is poor in his place of dwelling, but rich in the mysteries of God. Hide your secrets, your doings, and your warfare from all. Do not sit without a head covering (or cowl) before anyone else, except in case of necessity. Go forth to satisfy your need with chastity, as reverencing the angel which watches over you, and do it with the fear of God. Constrain yourself till death, even if your heart is displeased thereby.


It is better for you to eat deadly poison than to eat with a woman ((or for a woman—to eat with a man; Saint Isaac is presumably referring to someone of the opposite gender)) even if it should be your mother or your sister. It is better for you to live with a dragon than to sleep with a youth and share the same covers, even if it should be your brother after the flesh. When you are journeying on the road, if one of your

seniors tells you, 'Come, let us chant,' do not disobey him. But if he does not say so, then be silent with your tongue, but with your heart give glory to God. Oppose no man in anything; do not quarrel, and do not lie, and do not swear by the name of the Lord your God. Be despised, and do not despise. Be wronged, and do not wrong. It is better for the things of the body to perish with the body than for something pertaining to the soul to be hurt. Go to court with no man, but endure to be condemned, being uncondemned. Have no love in your soul for anything which is connected with those in the world; submit to rulers and princes, but refrain from mingling with them, for such company is a trap which catches the more heedless to their perdition.

O glutton, bent on the worship of your own belly! It is better for you to cast a live coal into your stomach than the fried foods of rulers and princes. Pour your mercy out on all, and be moderate in all things. Keep yourself from much talk, for it is this that extinguishes the noetic movements produced in our heart by God. Flee from discussions of dogma as from an unruly lion; and never embark upon them yourself, either with those raised in the Church, or with strangers. Do not pass through the streets of the hot-tempered and quarrelsome, lest your heart be filled with anger, and the darkness of delusion dominate your soul. Do not dwell with a proud man, lest the energy of the Holy Spirit be taken from your soul and she become the dwelling of every evil passion. If you keep these observances, O man, and occupy yourself continuously with the study of God, in truth your soul will see the light of Christ in herself, and will never be darkened unto all eternity. To Him be glory and dominion to the ages. Amen.


Homily 18.

On the [[Successive]] Stages of the Monastic Life, Briefly and Distinctly Noted; and How and in What Way Its Virtues Are Born From Each Other.

From activity that demands violence (i.e. fasting, vigil, prostrations, and the like) there is born fervor beyond measure, fired in the heart by glowing thoughts which newly rise to the surface of our mind. This work, and watchfulness, refine the intellect by their fervor and grant it vision. And this vision gives birth to glowing thoughts (those I have just mentioned) by means of the profundity of the soul's vision, which is called theoria ('divine vision'). But this same divine vision gives birth to fervor, and of this fervor that follows upon the grace of divine vision (Syriac; the vision that is from grace) there is born the flow of tears. At first only to a small degree: that is, repeatedly during the course of a single day tears come over a man, and then leave him again. But from this there comes weeping without cease, and from her unceasing tears the soul receives peace in her thoughts. And from peace of thoughts she is raised to limpid purity (or clearness, see page 22, Homily Three, sub-title On the Senses, and on Temptations Also) of the intellect.

And through this limpidity of the intellect a man comes to see the mysteries of God, because of the purity that is laid up in peace from warfare. But after these things, the intellect comes to behold that which in Ezekiel the Prophet is indicated by the apparition of the torrent, which depicts the figure of the three stages of soul that draw nigh to things divine, and beyond the third there is no passage ( Vide Ezekiel 47:3-5. The Greek reads here; to behold revelations and signs, like those Ezekiel the Prophet saw depicting the three stages in which the soul draws nigh to God). The beginning of all these things is a


good purpose directed toward God, the manifold labors of stillness, and the straightforwardness (Literally; undeviousness, unpervertedness) that is born of prolonged separation from the world (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek has numerous variants here). There is no great need to speak of the diverse kinds of labors since they are familiar to all. However, as stating them will do my readers no harm, but rather may be to their profit, I must not (as it seems to me, at least) shirk the task of setting them down.

They are: hunger; reading; all-night and sober vigil, according to a man's strength; and the numerous prostrations we are obliged to make both during the hours of the day and also frequently at night. Some make thirty prostrations at a time, and afterward kiss the precious Cross, and then withdraw from it. There are those who add to this number according to their own capacity. And there are others who stay three hours in one prayer and without effort possess a vigilant intellect and no wandering of thoughts while they cast themselves upon their faces. Both these kinds of prayer, [[whether it be multiplicity, when one increases the number of prayers in his flaming ardor, or tranquility, which is received by the soul, and which confines into a single prayer the multiplicity of the aforesaid prayers]], display the great riches of goodness -I mean of grace- which is apportioned to each man according to his own measure. But as to what is the cause (The Greek word usually means; manner, way; but the Greek translators have occasionally used it to render the Syriac word; cause) of this second [kind of] prayer and how one continues in it free [of the employment] of all violent effort, this I have not thought it right to reveal, either by divulging its method through word of mouth or by writing, lest the reader, if he finds himself not understanding what he reads, should think what is written to be senseless; or, if he is knowledgeable in these things, should be led to look with disdain on one ignorant of this level of activity. So there will be reproach from one side and laughter from the other; and I shall be found gibbering like a barbarian when I speak of such matters, even as the word of the Apostle says, when he spoke of one prophesying ( Vide 1 Corinthians 14:11). Whoever, therefore, desires to learn these things, lo, their successive order is indicated above: (Greek; let him make his way on the path indicated above) [[by the grace of our Lord]], let his doing of them follow up his consideration of them! And when in actuality he has come to these things, he himself will learn by himself, and will need no one else to teach him. For, 'Sit in thy cell', it is said,

'and of itself it will teach thee all' (Saint Moses the Ethiopian. See E.A.W. Budge, The Sayings of the Holy Fathers 1:62). And to our God be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 19.

That Abstention From Concerns Is Profitable for Hesychasts, and That Going out and Coming in Are Harmful, and Concerning Distraction.

The man of many concerns can never be meek and quiet, because the necessary demands of his affairs (on which he expends his efforts) compel him to be involuntarily and unwillingly disturbed, and completely disperse his calm and stillness (The Syriac printed text adds: but without distractions the devil has no means of entering the soul).

Therefore the monk must stand himself directly before the face of God and always fix his eye unyieldingly upon Him, if he really wishes to guard his intellect, to purify and transform (The Vatican Syriac MS has simply, to purify. The Syriac printed text has, to

comprehend. In Syriac the two words are similar in appearance) the slight movements which creep within him, and with tranquility of thoughts to learn to distinguish what enters into and what comes out [from him]. For the many occupations of monks are a clear proof of their slackness with respect to readiness for the practice of Christ's commandments and betrays their failings in regard to divine matters.

Without freedom from concerns do not seek for light within your soul, nor for calm and stillness when your senses are lax, nor for collected senses amid engaging affairs. Do not multiply your occupations, and you will not find turmoil in your intellect, or in your prayer. Without unceasing prayer you cannot draw near to God; and to introduce some other concern into your mind during the toil of prayer is to cause dispersion in your heart. [[If fiery thoughts arise in you when through the consuming flame of divine things you enjoy a taste of God, but when you seek to find them again, you discover them to be tasteless and cold in your soul, [then know that this is because]

carefree converse with men


has rushed upon you from some quarter, or it is because you have esteemed bodily labors above these things, and on this account the fervor of your thoughts has been chilled.]]

Tears, striking the head in prayer with the hand, and casting oneself upon the earth with fervor, waken the warmth of their sweetness inside the heart, and with a laudable ecstasy the heart soars up toward God and cries out: 'My soul thirsted for Thee, the mighty, the living God! When shall I come and appear before Thy face, O Lord?' (Psalms 41:2). Only the man who drinks deeply of this wine, and afterward is deprived of it, only he knows to what misery he has been abandoned, and what has been taken away from him because of his laxity.

O, how evil is the sight of men and intercourse with them for hesychasts! And in very truth, my brethren, association with those who have relaxed stillness is especially harmful. For just as the sudden blast of ice, falling on the buds of the fruit-trees, nips and destroys them, so too, contacts with men, even though they be quite brief and (to all appearance) made for good purpose, wither the bloom of virtue; newly flowering due to the temperate air of stillness (Literally; the intermingled air. This is the Syriac reading.

The Greek has; the intermingling of stillness); which covers with softness and delicacy the fruit-tree of the soul planted beside the channels of the waters of repentance. And just as the bitterness of the frost, seizing upon new shoots, consumes them, so too does conversation with men seize upon the root of a mind that has begun to sprout the tender blades of the virtues. And if the talk of those who have controlled themselves in one particular, but who in another have minor faults, is apt to harm the soul, how much more will the chatter and sight of ignoramuses and fools (not to say of laymen)? For just as a highborn and honorable person, when he is drunk, forgets his own high birth and disgraces his station, and his honor is mocked by the untoward notions that suddenly come over him from the influence of the wine, so too the soul's chastity is made turbid by the sight and conversation of men, she forgets her habit of keeping watch, the object of her desire is blotted out from her mind, and the entire foundation of a laudable estate is ripped up from her.

Now if even when a man is silent and is merely found in the presence of such men and is content only to see and to hear, and nevertheless that which enters through a man's gates of sight and hearing is sufficient to produce in him turbidness and a chilling of his mind from things divine, and if a brief moment can cause so much injury in a monk with

self-control, then what shall we say of continuous encounters, and prolonged involvement in these things? For the exhalation which comes up from the stomach does not permit the intellect to receive divine knowledge, but darkens it in the way that fog rising from the dampness of the land obscures the air. Pride does not perceive that it walks in darkness


and, as being darkened, it does not know the insight of wisdom. For this reason in its own murky thoughts it elevates itself above all, whereas it is more vile and more feeble than any, and it is incapable of learning the ways of the Lord. And the Lord conceals His will from it, because it did not choose to walk in the path of the humble. But to our God be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 20.

On the Paths Which Bring a Man Nigh to God, and Which Are Revealed to Him by the Sweet Works of Night Vigil, and That Those Who Labor in This Practice Are Fed With Honey All the Days of Their Life.

Do not imagine, O man, that among all the works of monastics there is any practice greater than night vigil. In very truth, my brother, if throughout the hours of the day an ascetic is free from the distraction and agitation of physical occupations and of concern for transitory things, and if he keeps himself to some degree from the world and watches over himself while practicing vigil, then [[I can easily tell you that]] his mind will be quick to take flight as it were on wings, and rise up toward God with delight; it will readily behold His glory and, because of its lightness and buoyancy, it will swim in knowledge which transcends human conception. A monk who perseveres in vigil with a discerning intellect will not seem to be clad with flesh, for this is truly the work of the angelic estate. It is impossible that those who pass their lives in the constant practice of night vigil should be left by God without great gifts on account of their vigilance, their wakefulness (Syriac; lucidity) of heart, and the careful conducting of their thoughts toward Him. A soul which labors in the practice of vigil and excels therein will have the eyes of Cherubim, that she may at all times gaze upon and espy celestial visions.

I deem it impossible that a man who has chosen for himself this great and divine labor with forethought and discretion, who has elected to take up this burden and to struggle earnestly in the glorious part which he has chosen, should not guard himself by 102]

day from the disturbance of encounters and the cares of occupations, lest he be found destitute of the wondrous fruit and the great delight which he looks to enjoy from his vigil. And I dare say that whosoever neglects this does not know why he toils and refrains from sleep, suffers hardship in his prolonged psalmody, in the weariness of his tongue, and in night-long standing, since his intellect is not in his psalmody nor in his prayer, and being drawn along by custom, as it were, he labors without discernment. And if this were not as I say, then why does he not reap from the seeds he continually sows with toil an abundant harvest of benefactions? But if, instead of these cares, he exercised himself in the reading of the divine Scriptures, which fortifies the intellect, especially irrigates prayer (or is a watercourse for prayer), is a helper and yoke-mate of vigil, and a light to

the mind, he would then discover reading to be a guide in the straight path, and the sower of the seed of divine vision during prayer. He would find that reading binds fast his thoughts, keeping them from dispersion and wandering and from grazing amid vain things; that it unceasingly sows in his soul the remembrance of God, and of the pathways of the saints who have pleased Him; and that reading causes the intellect to acquire fineness and wisdom. In a word, he would eat the ripe fruit of his works.

Why, O man, do you govern your life with such a lack of discernment? You stand the whole night through and suffer travail in psalmody, hymns, and supplications, and does a little heedfulness during the day seem to you to be so great and arduous a task, if thereby you are deemed worthy of God's grace granted to you on account of your diligence in other works? Why do you belabor yourself, when at night you sow, but during the day you dissipate your toil which is thus rendered unfruitful, when you scatter the wakefulness, sobriety, and fervor which you have gained [[through night vigil]], and without a reasonable excuse you vainly undo your labor by your disturbing intercourse with men and with things? If, however, you had made your cultivation and the fervor of your heart's converse during the day to conform to your night's meditation, and you had placed no wall of separation between them, then in a short time you would have embraced Jesus' bosom. From this it is evident that you lead your life without discernment and that you do not know why it is necessary for monks to keep vigil. You suppose that these things were ordained simply to oblige you to labor, and not because of something else which is born of them. But the man who has been deemed worthy to learn by divine grace what is that hope for the sake of which ascetics withstand sleep, constrain their nature, and offer up their supplications by night through the wakefulness of their bodies and their reflections, this man will also know: the strength which comes from guarding oneself by day, what help in vigil this gives the mind during the still of night, what dominion it receives


over its thoughts, what purity and concentration is granted to it without great effort or conflict, and how its watchfulness by day permits it freely to espy the loftiness of the Scriptures (Literally; the words. This could also refer to the words pronounced during prayer). Hence I say also that if a man's body be enfeebled by illness and he cannot fast, vigil alone can gain for the intellect steadfastness in prayer (The Greek has; soul, which is a copyist's error for prayer) and bestow upon his heart noetic insight to understand [the nature of] spiritual power, provided only that confusion [Greek; destruction. Here the Greek translators read btilutha for blilutha [confusion]) does not come over him by reason of laxity resulting from the day's affairs.

Therefore I entreat you, O man, you that wish to acquire a watchful intellect in God and knowledge of the new life: throughout your whole life never neglect the discipline of vigil. For by vigil your eyes are opened to behold all the glory of the monastic life and the strength of the way of righteousness. But if -far be it!- the thought of laxity should assail you once again and, perchance, nestle within you as a trial from Him that helps you, and is wont to permit the state of your soul to vary (as, for example, in fervency or in coldness) or because of a certain reason, or because of bodily infirmity, or because you cannot endure the habitual labor of your long psalmody, your vigorous prayer, and the many prostrations you are accustomed to make: then I lovingly entreat you, that if these works depart from you and you cannot perform them, at least remain wakeful in a sitting position, pray within your heart, and make every effort to pass the

night without sleeping, sitting and pondering over good thoughts. And if you do not harden your heart and darken it with sleep, then by grace that first fervor, lightness, and strength will return to you, and you will leap with joy, giving thanks unto God. God permits coldness and heaviness to come upon a man in order to train and make trial of him. But if he zealously rouses himself and compels himself a little to shake off these things, then grace will immediately draw nigh to him, as it was formerly, and a different power will come upon him, bearing hidden within it all that is good, and every manner of succor (Syriac; in which there are hidden ten thousand good things and helpful transformations). He will marvel then with great astonishment, bringing to mind that former heaviness and the lightness and strength which has now overtaken him, and considering the difference, and his present state, and how such a great change so suddenly found him. Henceforth he will be wise, and if again there should come upon him such heaviness, he will know concerning it from his former experience. If at the first assault, however, a man does not struggle, he cannot gain this knowledge. Do you see how a man becomes wise when he rouses himself a little, and perseveres with fortitude in the hour of warfare? But I do not here speak of the circumstance where the body's nature itself has grown feeble, not from warfare, but from the compulsion of illness; in such a case it is not profitable for you to wage war against your nature. In


every other instance, however, it is profitable for a man to compel himself in everything.

Continual stillness conjoined with reading, moderation in food, and vigil, speedily rouse the mind to awestruck wonder, unless there is some cause that shatters stillness.

The intuitions which in stillness arise spontaneously and unexpectedly [[due to a man's labors]] make his eyes become two fonts of baptism by the flow of his tears which wash his cheeks in their abundance.

When your body is tamed by abstinence and vigil, and by the attentiveness of stillness, and yet you sense in your body piercing darts of the passion of fornication which do not result from a motion of nature (Syriac; from the usual turbid motion of nature), then know that you have been tempted by thoughts of pride. Straightway mix ashes with your food, O man, prostrate your belly upon the earth, and search out your proud thought. Study the variation of your nature and your contranatural deeds (The Syriac reads here; and your labor which is above nature. In context, the Greek seems to have the more logical reading. But it is also possible that the saint means something like; Study your nature's weakness and contrast it to the sublimity of your way of life [i.e. the monastic life]. In such a case the Greek would be a copyist's error) and perhaps God will have mercy on you and will shed His light upon you, so that you may learn humility and your wickedness may not increase. Therefore, let us not cease to struggle and compel ourselves, until within ourselves we behold repentance and find humility, and our heart be brought to rest in God, to Whom be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 21.

A Narration Concerning Saintly Men and the All-holy Words I Heard From Them, and on Their Wondrous Way of Life.

One day I went to the cell of a holy brother and, because of an illness, I lay myself

down in one part of his cell, so that he could take care of me for God's sake, for I had no acquaintance in that region. And so I saw this brother's custom of rising at night before the other brethren to begin his prayer rule. He would recite the psalms until suddenly he would leave off his rule, and falling upon his face he would strike his head upon the ground a hundred times or more with fervor that was kindled in his heart by grace. Then he would stand up, kiss the cross of the Master, again make a prostration, again kiss the same cross, and again throw himself upon his face. Such was his customary discipline, so that it was impossible for me to count the number of his prostrations. Indeed, who could number the prostrations which that brother made every night? He would kiss the cross some twenty times with fear and ardor, with love mingled with reverence, and then begin again to recite the psalms; but all at once, from the mighty flame of the thoughts which kindled him by their fervor, he cried out, being overcome by joy and not able to endure the heat of the flame, for he could not contain himself. And I was greatly astonished at the grace of that brother, his struggle, and the sobriety he showed in the work of God. In the morning after the first hour when he sat to read, he became like a man taken captive.

With every chapter he read, he would fall many times upon his face, and at many of the verses he would raise his hands toward heaven and glorify God. He was about forty years of age, his food was very meager and very dry, and because he often constrained his body beyond measure, he looked like a shadow. I pitied him because of the feebleness of his


face which, from great abstinence, had wasted away and was scarcely two fingers in width. Many times I said to him: 'Take pity on yourself, brother, in your manner of life and spare this good discipline which you have acquired; do not confuse and cut short your rule of life which is like a spiritual chain, lest for the sake of the addition of a little toil you should stop in your course and leave it uncompleted. Eat with moderation, that you retain the ability to eat; do not stretch out your foot beyond your strength, lest you should entirely lose the ability to work.' He was chaste by nature, easily entreated (Syriac; very modest and tender-hearted), wise according to God, and because of his cheerfulness and purity he was loved by all. When his help was needed, for he was skilled in every task, he worked with the brethren (Syriac; in their cells with the clay.

Perhaps this refers to plastering the walls with clay), often for three or four days at a time, returning to his cell only in the evening. Whenever he obtained something, he was unable to say that he did not have it (even if he had great need of it) because of his profound modesty before both great and small. Moreover, when he worked with the brethren, he did so because of his modesty, and he forced himself, since he did not like to leave his cell. Such was the discipline and life of that truly marvelous brother.

On an Aged Elder.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

On another occasion I went to a certain aged elder, an excellent and virtuous man who had great love for me. His speech was very simple, but his knowledge was illumined, his heart profound, and he spoke those things which grace gave unto him. He did not often leave his cell, but only for the Holy Mysteries; he was very attentive to himself and preserved stillness. Once I said to this man, 'Father, the thought comes to me to go early to the portico of the church on Sunday and to sit down there and eat, so that everyone who enters or departs would see and scorn me.' In answer to this the elder

replied, 'It is written that every man who causes scandal for those of the world shall not see light. No one knows you in this region, nor does anyone know your life (Syriac; what your fame is) and so they will say, "The monks eat from the morning hours." But there is a greater reason: there are here novices who are still weak in their thoughts; many of them have faith in you and are profited by you, and when they see you do this thing, they will be harmed. The fathers of old did such things because of the many miracles which they worked and the honor and great name they possessed among men. They did this, that they might be dishonored, to


hide the glory of their way of life, and to drive away from themselves the causes of pride.

But what necessity obliges you to do such a thing? Do you not know that every discipline has its rule and time? Your way of life is not singular, nor your name famous, for your discipline is that of the brethren; this thing would not be profitable to you and you would harm others. Further, such things are done by way of dispensation and are not beneficial for every man, but only the great and perfect, because herein there is unrestraint of the senses. They are detrimental to those in the middle state and to beginners, since these are in need of much watchfulness and submission of the senses. The elders, however, have passed through the period of watchfulness, and in all things which they choose they find profit. Unexperienced merchants suffer great losses in great ventures, but they quickly become successful through less significant transactions. And again, as I said, there is an order for every work, and for every discipline there is a fixed time. Every man that before the time begins things that are beyond his measure makes his harm twofold, and he gains nothing. If you truly desire that which you seek, patiently endure with joy the involuntary dishonor that providentially comes upon you, and do not be troubled, nor hate the man who dishonors you.'

Once I conversed with this goodly elder, who had tasted of the tree of life through the sweat of his soul from the early dawn of his youth to the evening of his old age, and after he taught me many things concerning virtue, he said to me, 'Reckon every prayer, wherein the body does not toil and the heart is not afflicted, to be a miscarriage, for this prayer has no soul.' Again he said to me, 'Neither give nor receive anything from a man who is quarrelsome, who seeks always to maintain his opinion, whose mind is guileful and whose senses are shameless, lest there should withdraw from you the limpid purity which you have gained with great toil, and your heart be filled with darkness and turmoil.'

On Another Elder.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

Once I went to the cell of one of the fathers. This saint very seldom opened to anyone, but as soon as he saw from his window that it was me, he said, 'Do you wish to enter?' and I replied, 'Yea, reverend father.' After I had come in and prayed, and sat down and we had conversed a long time, finally I asked him, 'Father, what should I do? Certain people come to me and I neither gain nor profit from intercourse with them, but I am ashamed to tell them not to come. Often they hinder me from performing my usual rule of prayer, and this causes me grief.' That blessed elder answered in reply to these things with the following words.


'Whenever men who love idleness come to you, allow them to sit a little while, then make as though you wish to stand up to pray. Say, bowing to the guest: "Brother, let us pray, for the time of my prayer rule has already come and I cannot let it pass, since if I try to perform it at another hour, this becomes a cause of turmoil and oppression for me.

Except for dire necessity I cannot omit it, but now there is no necessity that I set aside my prayer." Do not let him excuse himself from praying with you. If he says, "You pray and I shall go my way," bow before him and say, "For love's sake, make but one prayer with me, that I be benefited by your supplication." Then, when you stand up, make your prayer longer than usual. If you do this each time they visit you, they will learn that you are not of like mind with them, nor do you love idleness, and they will in no wise approach the place where they hear that you are to be found.

'Take heed, lest being a respecter of persons, you annul the work of God. If, however, your visitor be one of the fathers or a wearied stranger, reckon his company in the place of your longest prayers. But if the stranger should prove to be one of the lovers of idle chatter, comfort him as much as you can and dismiss him in peace' (The Syriac has the variant reading; quickly).

One of the fathers said, 'I was amazed when I heard of monks who do handwork in their cells and are able to perform their rule of prayer without omissions and remain free of turbulence.' That man also said this marvelous thing, 'I tell you in very truth, that if I go out to pass water, I am shaken from my habit [of mind] and its order (or from the order of my habitual practice) and I am impeded from the accomplishment of my deeds of excellence.'

On the Question of a Certain Brother.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

That same elder was asked by a certain brother: 'What should I do? Many times I obtain a thing I have need of because of illness, or because of my work, or for some other reason, and without this I cannot remain in my discipline of stillness, but when I see that someone has need of this object, I am overcome by mercy and I give it to him. Often it also occurs that being asked by someone, I give away that which I need, for I am constrained by love and the commandment to do so. Afterward, however, my need of the object causes me to fall into cares and turbulent thoughts, and thus my mind is distracted from solicitude for stillness. Often I am obliged to depart from my solitude and to go in search of that thing. But if I persevere and do not go out, I suffer much affliction and


turmoil in my thoughts. I do not know which of the two alternatives I should choose: to interrupt and disperse my stillness for the sake of my brother, or to disregard his request and continue in stillness.'

The elder said in reply to this: 'May that righteousness perish and every form of mercy, love, compassion, or whatever is thought to be for God's sake, which hinders you from the practice of stillness; which fixes your eye upon the world; draws you into cares; shakes you from the memory of God; arrests your prayers; brings your thoughts to a state of turbulence and unrest; stops you from study of the divine readings (which is a weapon that rescues a man from wandering thoughts); disperses your watchfulness; causes you to walk about freely, though formerly you were bound, and to associate with men, though

formerly you lived in solitude; awakens in you the mortified passions; abolishes the abstinence of your senses; resurrects your corpse which was dead to the world; causes you to fall from the angelic husbandry, whose labor has but one concern; and which places you in the portion of men who live in the world! For the fulfilling of the duty of love with respect to providing for physical well-being is the work of men in the world, or even of monks, but only those who are imperfect, who do not dwell in stillness, or who combine stillness with brotherly concord and continually come and go. For such men this thing is good and worthy of admiration.

'Those, however, who have chosen to withdraw from the world in body and in mind so that they might establish their intellect in solitary prayer by deadness to what is transitory [[to concern over all affairs]] and to the sight and recollection of worldly things, should not serve in the husbandry of physical things and visible righteousness (so as to be justified for Christ thereby). Rather, by the mortification of their members which are upon the earth (Cf. Colossians 3:5) -after the apostolic utterance- they should offer Him the pure and blameless sacrifice of their thoughts, the first-fruits of their husbandry, and also the affliction of their bodies through their patient endurance of perils for their future hope. For the monastic discipline rivals that of the angels. It is not right for us to abandon this celestial husbandry and to cleave to material things.'

On the reproach of a Certain Brother.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

Once a certain brother was reproached for not giving alms, but unabashed he replied boldly to him that found fault: 'Monks are not obliged to give alms, for it is the monk who can say to Christ with an unveiled face as it is written, "Behold we have forsaken all


and followed Thee," (Matthew 19:27). He it is that possesses nothing upon the earth, who earns nothing for himself among material things, who in his mind clings to nothing visible, nor endeavors to acquire anything; if someone should give him something, he takes only what he has need of, but he seeks nothing beyond this and he is like a bird in his way of life. Such a man is not obliged to give alms [[because he has a work superior to almsgiving]]. Indeed, how could he give to another that of which he has been liberated? The man, however, who is distracted with matters of this life, who works with his own hands and receives from others, should give alms. To neglect this is a manifest opposition to the Lord's commandment. If a man does not draw near to God in hidden ways, and he neither knows how to serve God in spirit, nor does he concern himself with manifest actions which are within his power, on what does he place his hope to gain life?

Such a man is foolish' (The Syriac printed text has anathema, but the Sinai Syriac MS has foolish, as does the Greek).

Another elder said: 'I am astonished by men who disquiet themselves in their stillness by toiling so as to provide others with things pertaining to the body.' and again he said: 'We should not mix the work of stillness with care for anything at all [[except that which stillness itself facilitates]]. Let every discipline be honored in its own place, lest we become confused in our disciplines. The man who has many cares is the slave of many; but he who has forsaken all and cares only for the state of his soul, the same is a friend of God. Consider that there are many men in the world who give alms and fulfill

[the commandment of] love of neighbor in matters pertaining to the body, but toilers in complete and beautiful stillness, and men entirely devoted to God, are scarcely to be found and are exceedingly few. Who among men in the world, who give alms or accomplish another form of righteousness through material things, has attained to one of the gifts which those who remain in stillness receive from God?' Again he said: 'If you live in the world, practice virtuous disciplines suitable to laymen; but if you are a monk, distinguish yourself in the works wherein monks excel. If, however, you wish to practice both, you will quickly fall from the one and the other alike. These are the works of monks: freedom from worldly things, bodily toil in prayer, and unceasing recollection of God in the heart. But judge for yourself whether without these things the worldly virtues will suffice you.'

Question: Is it really true that a monk who endures hardship in stillness cannot acquire the two modes of virtue, [[the outward and the inward]], I mean, to keep in his heart both care for God and solicitude for other men?

Answer: I am of the opinion that even though a man who wishes to dwell in stillness abandons all things, takes concern for his soul alone and is without any care for the things of this life, he will still be unable perfectly to perform the work of stillness; therefore, how much more so if he has solicitude for others? The Lord has reserved for Himself


men in the world who serve Him and take concern for His children, and He has chosen for Himself those who serve before Him. For a difference in rank is not only to be seen in the affairs of earthly kings, where those who stand always before the king and are confidants in his secrets enjoy greater glory than those who are engaged in external matters. But the same can also be seen in what pertains to the heavenly King: how much greater boldness is acquired by those who are unceasingly initiated into His mysteries by conversing with Him in prayer, of how much greater heavenly and earthly wealth they are accounted worthy, and how much more apparent is their mastership over all creation

[[which does not gainsay their words, and clearly how much greater is their glory than all things rational and irrational and]] than those who serve God by means of the possessions and the things of this life and please Him by their good deeds, though this be very great and most beautiful. Therefore, we should not take example from men who are deficient in the works of God, but from the holy athletes and strugglers who splendidly ran the course of their life, who upon earth cultivated the celestial Kingdom, who renounced earthly things once and for all and stretched out their hands toward the gates of Heaven.

'By what means did the saints of old please God, those who journeyed before us on the path of our discipline? Did Saint John of Thebes (Sometimes also known as John of Lycus, or Lykopolis. See Budge, The Paradise of the Holy Fathers, Hieronymus 2), the treasury of virtues, the well-spring of prophecies, please God as he remained secluded in his cell by comforting the brethren with things pertaining to the body, or was it by his prayer and stillness? I do not contend the point that many have proved well-pleasing to God through outward actions, but these are fewer than those who have done so through prayer and the abandonment of all. For the help given by those who live in stillness, who are held in great honor by their fellow brethren, is well known; I mean, how they help us by a word in the time of necessity or offer up a prayer in our behalf. If any recollection of

care with respect to this life apart from these two activities (i.e. to help by a word, and to offer up a prayer) should settle in the heart of men who dwell in stillness, it will not belong to spiritual wisdom. For "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21), that is, render to a neighbor that which is his, and to God that which is due to Him, was not said for dwellers in stillness, but for those who walk without. Those who persevere in the angelic labor, I mean in the soul's meditation, have not been commanded to please God in matters pertaining to this life, that is, to take concern for handwork or to receive from one man and give to another.

[[His labor, indeed, is in Heaven.]] A monk should not have any care which disturbs and draws his mind away from its stand before the face of God.


'But if someone should object and make mention of the divine Apostle Paul, how he worked with his own hands and gave alms, we answer him that only Paul could do all things, and we know of no other Paul ever existing, a man like unto him capable of all.

Show me another man like Paul, and you will persuade me! Do not, therefore, bring forth things that come to pass by a Divine oeconomy as a rule for ordinary actions. The work of preaching the Gospel is one thing; the activity of stillness, another. If you wish to hold fast to stillness, become like the Cherubim, who take no thought for anything of this life, and fix in your mind that no one else exists on the earth save you yourself and God Whom you heed, even as you have been taught by your fathers who lived before you.

Unless a monk hardens his heart and forcibly restrains his compassion so as to become distant from solicitude for all other men (Greek; for all that are beneath; i.e. upon the earth), either for God's sake or for some material need, and he perseveres only in prayer during the times which he has appointed [[without having affection and concern for others enter his heart]], he will be unable to attain freedom from turbulence and cares and to live in stillness.

'Whenever, therefore, you should have a thought to care for someone for virtue's sake, such that the tranquility in your heart is dispelled, say to the thought, "The path of love and mercy for God's sake is excellent, but for God's sake I do not wish it." "Wait for me, father," a monk once said, "because I am running after you for God's sake;" but the other replied, "And I for God's sake am fleeing you," (See Budge, The Paradise of the Holy Fathers, Palladius 2:16). Abba Arsenios for God's sake conversed with no one, neither for spiritual profit nor for any other reason. Another man for God's sake spoke all the day long and received every stranger (Abba Moses the Ethiopian), but he, on the contrary, chose silence and stillness. For this cause he conversed with the Spirit of God in the midst of the sea of the present life and passed over it with sublime tranquility in the ship of stillness, even as it was clearly revealed to certain ascetics who inquired of God concerning this (See Budge, The Sayings of the Holy Fathers, 1:21). And this is the definition of stillness: silence (Syriac; quietness, calmness, quiescence) to all things. If in stillness you are found full of turbulence, and you disturb your body by the work of your hands and your soul with cares, then judge for yourself what sort of stillness you are practicing, being concerned over many things in order to please God! For it is ridiculous for us to speak of achieving stillness if we do not abandon all things and separate ourselves from every care. But to our God be glory. Amen.'


Homily 22.

On the Diverse Noetic Powers of the Intellect Employed in the Action of Revelations and Spiritual Visions.

(This homily is found only in Syriac).

Divine Vision (i.e. vision pertaining to the Divinity) is a non-sensible revelation of the intellect. Divine revelation consists in the mind's being moved by spiritual intuitions concerning the Divinity. Yet the power to be moved at will [by intuitions concerning] the Divinity, without having received a revelation from divine grace, is not even implanted in the nature of angels. It is one thing to be moved by revelations concerning God's operations, and another to be moved by revelations concerning the nature of His being. The first naturally comes to us through an occasion furnished by perceptible things. But the second does not take occasion from the intellect or from anything else. For, they say, this is the threefold and principal purity of the parts [of the soul], and it is not possible that even one in a thousand righteous men should be accounted worthy of this lofty [noetic] perception. And indeed, the theoria concerning our Lord's incarnation and His manifestation in the flesh is also said to arise from theoria concerning the Divinity (Literally; divine theoria).

Our veracious vision of the angels consists in our being moved by spiritual intuitions concerning those things which pertain to them. It is, indeed, impossible for us to behold the spiritual powers outside the domain of our intellect. When a man is deemed worthy to behold them in their very nature and in their own realm and as it were in their spiritual created state (Literally; in the created state of their spirituality) grace moves his intellect by the revelation of spiritual intuitions concerning


them. When the soul is purified and has been accounted worthy of beholding her fellow servants, the vision of them is not received with these physical eyes. For the angels are not corporeal [so as to be seen] without the soul's faculty of vision, which is true theoria, whereby they are seen as they are, without alteration; that is to say, they do not condescend from their nature in the visions [men have] of them. A man cannot receive this veracious vision without the second purification of the intellect.

But when angels appear to men in certain forms, this is not true vision, but on the order of a dispensation the angels confer these things in their ministry. Or they manifest themselves through a vision involving the senses for the comfort and encouragement of the simple. Indeed, such visions are even seen by impure men. The first order [of visions], however, belongs to illumined and wise men who have been exalted by the glorious discipline of stillness to the rank of purity.

On That Which During Prayer Occurs Within Stillness.

(In the Bedjan Syriac printed text this short passage is a new homily bearing this title).

Who is the man that knows that delightful bending of the knees, when the tongue is still and the heart silently utters some doxology in the unbroken sweetness of its rumination and the body is still, resting upon the knees? Blessed is he who partakes of these things continually! Yet such things do not happen at will, nor when a man seeks for them. This is the particular delight that is granted as a consolation to those who

guilelessly walk before God in the discipline of stillness. Now if a man perseveres in this discipline with all simplicity, diligently caring for the purity of his monastic labor, and if his way of life is worthy, then after some time he will be vouchsafed also those things mentioned above. But as for beginners in this discipline whose aim is set straight ahead, grace gives them to taste these things and their like during their reading and it draws their thoughts to itself, carrying them away from all meditation on earthly matters. Then they will labor, keep vigil, and pray, and they will not grow weary. But to those who are but a little trained (or instructed, practiced) in the mysteries of stillness, [noetic] perception is given in both their prayer and their liturgy.


Homily 23.

On Various Differentiations in Prayer (The Greek and the Sinai Syriac MS have, 'in stillness', but the printed Syriac text has, 'in prayer', which in context seems to be the correct reading) and the Dominion of the Intellect, and to What Extent This Dominion Is Empowered to Initiate Its Own Movements in the Different Forms of Prayer; and What the Natural Limit of Prayer Is, and to What Extent You Are Empowered to Pray Therein, and That When Prayer Exceeds This Limit, It Is No Longer Prayer, Although This Activity Is Called Prayer.

Glory be to him who richly pours forth His gifts upon men! For although they are clad with flesh, He has made men to minister unto Himself in the order of the incorporeal natures; He has deemed the earthly nature, and even sinful men like us, who are unworthy even to hear such words, worthy to speak concerning these mysteries. But by His grace He has dispelled the hardness of our hearts, that we might gain understanding by means of the divine vision of the Scriptures and the instruction of the sublime Fathers.

For by my own struggles I have not been vouchsafed to experience even one thousandth part of what I have written with my hands, and especially in this homily which I now compose for the kindling and enlightenment of our souls, and of those who come across it, with the hope that, perchance, some might rouse themselves by reason of their desire for what I speak of, and endeavor to practice it.

The sweetness of prayer is one thing, and the divine vision of prayer is another; and the second is more honorable than the first, as a mature man is more perfect than an immature child. Sometimes verses become sweet in a man's mouth, and during prayer one


verse is chanted numberless times and does not permit him to continue to the next, for he can find no satiety therein. But sometimes a certain divine vision is born of prayer, and the prayer of a man's lips is cut short, and stricken with awe by this vision he becomes as it were a body bereft of breath. This (and the like) we call the divine vision of prayer (Syriac; in, or during prayer) and not, as fools affirm it to be, some image and form, or a representation of the imagination. And further, in the divine vision of prayer there exist measures and distinctions of gifts. Till this point it is still prayer, for the mind has not yet passed to where there is no prayer: that state is above prayer. The movements of the tongue and the heart in prayer are keys; what comes after them, however, is the entrance into secret chambers. Here let every mouth, every tongue become silent, and let the heart

(the treasury of the thoughts), and the intellect (the ruler of the senses), and the mind (that swift-winged and most shameless bird), and their every device be still. Here let those who seek tarry, for the Master of the house has come (Syriac; and their every device, their employment, and [all] supplications here be still, for the Master of the house has come).

On Pure Prayer.

(This title is found in the Greek as the beginning of a new homily).

Even as the whole force of the laws and the commandments given by God to men terminate in the purity of the heart, according to the word of the Fathers, so all the modes and forms of prayer which men pray to God terminate in pure prayer. For sighs, prostrations, heart-felt supplications, sweet cries of lamentation, and all the other forms of prayer have, as I have said, their boundary and the extent of their domain in pure prayer. But once the mind crosses this boundary, from the purity of prayer even to that which is within, it no longer possesses prayer, or movement, or weeping, or dominion, or free will, or supplication, or desire, or fervent longing for things hoped for in this life or in the age to come. Therefore, there exists no prayer beyond pure prayer. Every movement and every form of prayer lead the mind this far by the authority of the free will; for this reason there is a struggle in prayer. But beyond this boundary there is awestruck wonder and not prayer. For what pertains to prayer has ceased, while a certain divine vision remains, and the mind does not pray a prayer. Every mode of prayer originates from a motion (The Syriac adds; of the soul. The words; motion, or movement; used here have the secondary meaning of; a thought, i.e. a mental motion) but once the intellect enters into spiritual movements, there is no longer prayer. Prayer is one


thing, and the divine vision of (Syriac; during) prayer is another, even though each takes its inception from the other. For prayer is the seed, and the divine vision is the harvesting of the sheaves. Whence the reaper stands in ecstasy before the unutterable sight, how from the mean and naked seed which he sowed, such rich ears of wheat have suddenly burst forth before his eyes; then he remains entirely motionless in his divine vision. Every prayer is a supplication, or a request, or a thanksgiving, or an offering of praise.

Diligently seek out whether there exists one of these modes of prayer, or a request for something, when the intellect crosses that boundary and enters into that realm. This I ask of men who know the truth, because not everyone possesses this degree of discernment, but it belongs only to those who have beheld and ministered unto this mystery, or who have been taught by such Fathers [as have attained to this], and have learned the truth from their mouths, and have passed their lives in these inquiries and the like.

Just as among ten thousand men scarcely one will be found who has fulfilled the commandments and what pertains to the Law with but a small deficiency, and who has attained to limpid purity of soul, so only one man among thousands will be found who after much vigilance has been accounted worthy to attain to pure prayer, and to break through that boundary, and gain experience of that mystery. Indeed, the majority of men have in no wise been deemed worthy of pure prayer, but only a very few. But as to that mystery which is after pure prayer and lies beyond it, there is scarcely to be found a single man from generation to generation who by God's grace has attained thereto (Syriac; to this knowledge).

Prayer is a supplication, a care, and a desire of something: of deliverance from

trials here, or in the age to come, or a desire of the inheritance of the Fathers. It is a plea for something whereby a man is helped by God. The motions of prayer are delimited by these movements. Purity or impurity of prayer is to be determined in this manner: if, at the time when the mind makes ready to offer up one of its aforementioned movements, a foreign thought commingles with it, or it wanders in something, then this prayer is not to be called pure; for it has brought an unclean animal to the altar of the Lord, that is the heart, the noetic altar of God. [[But when the mind fervently embraces one of these motions during the time of supplication -corresponding to the compulsion of the occasion- and when on account of its great ardor the course (Literally; gaze) of the motion is drawn by the eye of faith to enter within the veil of the heart, then henceforth the entrances of the soul are closed by this to alien thoughts, the same which are called strangers and which the Law forbids entrance into the Tabernacle of Witness. This is named the acceptable sacrifice of the heart and pure prayer. Its boundaries are, again, until this point. But what lies beyond cannot be called prayer.]]


Someone might, however, bring to mind what is named spiritual prayer by the Fathers, and not comprehending the force of their words, might say, 'This also belongs to the domain of prayer.' But I am of the opinion that if anyone should make inquiry into the meaning of this, he will find it blasphemous for a created being to say that spiritual prayer can be prayed at all (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek has; can deviate at all.

The Syriac verb can mean both to pray (in Pa'el) and to deviate (in Pe'al) but here the context and the form point to the first). For any prayer that can be prayed is inferior to what is spiritual; and anything that is spiritual is free of movement. And if a man can scarcely pray with purity, what shall we say concerning spiritual prayer? The Fathers were wont to call every good motion and spiritual activity by the name of prayer and not only they, but all those enlightened by knowledge were wont to reckon good activities to be nearly the same as prayer, while it is evident that prayer is one thing, and things accomplished, another. Sometimes, spiritual prayer is called by some theoria (Greek; a path. With the subtraction of the first letter, theoria in Syriac closely resembles the Syriac word for path. Either reading is possible, but the context points to theoria) and by others, knowledge, and again by others, noetic vision (Syriac; revelations of noetic things). Do you see how the Fathers interchange appellations for spiritual things? For the exactitude of designations holds valid for things here, while there is no perfect or true name whatever for things of the age to come, but a simple [state of] knowing only, surpassing every appellation, every rudimentary element, form, color, shape, and composite denomination. For this reason once the soul's knowledge is raised out of the visible world, the Fathers employ whatever appellations they please to indicate that [state of]

knowing, since no one knows its name with exactness. But so as to make the soul's deliberations steadfast therein the Fathers resort to appellations and parables, according to Saint Dionysios, who writes: 'We use parables, and syllables, and permissible names, and words on account of our senses; but when our soul is moved by the operation of the Spirit toward those Divine things, then both our senses and their operations are superfluous when the soul has become like unto the Godhead by an incomprehensible union, and is illumined in her movements by the ray of the sublime Light' ( On the Divine Names; 4 11

(PG 3.708d). The Greek text here rendered is a translation from the Syriac translation and consequently it has some discrepancies with the original. A translation of the original text of Saint Dionysios reads as follows: 'We use sounds and syllables and phrases and

descriptions and words on account of our senses, since when our soul is moved by noetic energies (operations) to things noetic, both the senses and that which they perceive become superfluous, just as, in turn the noetic powers are superfluous when the soul, having become godlike by an unknowable union, throws herself upon the rays of the unapproachable Light with sightless hurlings').

Therefore, my brother, you may be certain that the intellect has the power to discern its own movements up to the domain of purity in prayer. And when the intellect has attained to it, either the intellect turns back (Greek; and does not turn back. The Syriac shows that does not is a copyist's error for either) or it abandons prayer; so then prayer


becomes as it were a mediator between the natural (Greek; Literally; pertaining to the soul, soulish) and the spiritual state. Whenever the intellect moves, it is found in the natural realm; but once it enters into that other realm, it ceases from prayer. The saints of the age to come do not pray with prayer when their intellects have been swallowed up by the Spirit, but rather with awestruck wonder they dwell in that gladdening glory. So it is with us, at the time when the intellect is deemed worthy to perceive the future blessedness, it forgets itself and all things of this world, and no longer has movement (The Syriac also means; thought) with regard to any thing. Wherefore with confidence one may dare to say that the free will guides and moves every virtue and every order of prayer (whether performed in the body or in the mind) and even the intellect itself, that sovereign over the senses. But as soon as the governance and the stewardship (Greek; Literally; management of a household) of the Spirit rule the intellect, the steward of the senses and the thoughts, then a man's nature is deprived of its free will, and is led by another guidance, and does not direct itself. Where, then, will there be prayer, when a man's nature has no authority over itself, but is led whither it knows not by some other power, and is not able to direct the movements of the mind in that which it chooses, but at that moment is held fast in a captivity by which it is guided whither it does not perceive?

But according to the testimony of Scripture, at such a time a man will not possess a will, nor will he know whether he is, 'in the body or out of the body' (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Therefore, shall there be prayer in a man who is thus taken captive and does not even have cognizance of himself? Whence let no one blaspheme and dare to affirm that it is possible to pray spiritual prayer. Yet such is the audacious claim of those who pray with impudence and, being ignorant of all knowledge, delude themselves, saying that they can pray spiritual prayer when they wish (Here Saint Isaac refutes the errors of the Messalians. The words, those who pray, also mean, the Messalians). But humble and sagacious men condescend to learn from the Fathers to know the bournes of their nature, and they do not suffer their intellects to be surrendered to this audacious pretension.

Question: Why, then, is this ineffable grace called by the name of prayer, if it is not prayer?

Answer: This, we say, is because it is granted to the worthy at the time of prayer, and it has its inception from prayer. For, according to the testimony of the Fathers, there is no other time of visitation appropriate to this most glorious grace, save the time of prayer. Verily, for this reason it is called by the name of prayer, because the intellect is led by prayer toward that beatitude, and because prayer is its cause, and at no other time

does it take place, as the writings of the Fathers explain. Indeed, we see how many of the


saints (as it is also recorded in the narration of their lives) are ravished noetically while they stand at prayer.

But if one would ask, 'Why only at this time are these great and ineffable gifts granted?' we should reply: because at this time more than all others a man is prepared and collected so as to give his attention to God, and he yearns for and awaits mercy from Him. But to put it briefly, prayer is the time of standing at the gate of the King to make supplication; and the entreaty of him that beseeches and makes supplication is fittingly granted at this time. Indeed, what other time is there when a man is so ready and carefully watchful as at the very time of prayer?, (Greek; as when he is about to pray). Or is it meet, perhaps, that a man should receive a gift of this kind when he is sleeping, or working, or when his intellect is distracted? For lo, even though the saints are never found idle (since at every moment they are occupied with spiritual matters), yet there are times when they do not stand in the readiness of prayer, because often they meditate upon one of the histories [[in the Scriptures]] or upon the divine vision of created things, or other truly profitable subjects. During the time of prayer, however, the vision of the mind gives heed only to God, and stretches forth to Him all its movements, and it offers Him the heart's supplication with eagerness and constant fervor. Wherefore at this time, when the soul has but one care, it is meet that divine favor should well forth from God. For lo, we observe that when [[we are offering the visible Sacrifice]] everyone (Greek; the priest. The phrase, when we are offering the visible Sacrifice, is added from the Syriac printed text) has made ready and has taken their stand in prayer, seeking mercy from the Deity, making supplication and concentrating their intellect [[upon God]], then the Holy Spirit comes upon the bread and wine which are set upon the altar table. At the time of prayer an angel appeared to Zacharias and announced to him the conception of John ( Vide Luke 1:10 ff). Likewise while Peter was praying on the roof at the sixth hour, he beheld the vision which, by means of the sheet descended from Heaven and the beasts therein, led him to call the nations ( Vide Acts 10:9 ff). And an angel appeared to Cornelius while he prayed, and spoke to him those things written concerning him ( Vide Acts 10:3 ff). And again God spoke to Jesus the son of Navi when he bowed his face to the earth in prayer ( Vide Joshua 7:6 ff). And again, from the mercy seat over the ark ( Vide Numbers 7:89) (whence the priest was initiated in visions from God concerning everything needful) ( Vide Exodus 29:42; 1 Kings 3:1; Luke 1:8 ff), when the High Priest once a year ( Vide Leviticus 16:2; Hebrews 9:7) during the dread time of prayer entered into the Holy of Holies and cast himself down upon his face while all the tribes of Israel were assembled and standing in prayer in the outer tabernacle ( Vide Numbers 20:6), the High Priest


heard the oracles of God through an awesome and ineffable revelation. O how awesome was the mystery which was ministered in this ceremony! So also in the time of prayer were all visions [[and revelations]] made manifest to the saints. For what other time is so holy, and by its sanctity so apt for the reception of gifts, as the time of prayer, wherein a man converses with God? At this time (when we make our petitions and our supplications to God, and we speak with Him) a man forcefully gathers together all the movements and deliberations [of his soul] and converses with God alone, and his heart is abundantly

filled with God. From this he begins to understand incomprehensible things, for the Holy Spirit moves in each man according to his measure, and taking material from that which a man prays, He moves within him, so that during prayer (Syriac; by these understandings or intuitions, i.e. of incomprehensible things) his prayer is bereaved of movement, and his intellect is confounded and swallowed up in awestruck wonder, and forgets the very desire of its own entreaty. The intellect's movements are immersed in a profound drunkenness, and it is not in this world; at such a time there will be no distinction between soul and body, nor the remembrance of anything, even as the great and divine Gregory has said: 'Prayer is the purity (Syriac; settled state) of the intellect, and it is terminated only by the light of the Holy Trinity through awestruck wonder.' Do you see how prayer is terminated through the astonishment of the understanding at that which is begotten of prayer (Syriac; through the astonishment at the understandings (or intuitions) that are begotten of prayer) in the intellect, as I said at the beginning of this homily and in many other places? And again the same Gregory writes: 'Purity of intellect is the lofty flight of the noetic faculties (Greek; Literally; noetic things) which resembles the hue of the sky, and upon and through which the light of the Holy Trinity shines at the time of prayer.'

Question: And when is a man accounted worthy of the whole of this grace during the time of his prayer?

Answer: This comes to pass, he says, when the intellect puts off the old man and puts on the new man of grace, and then it sees its purity to be like unto heaven's hue, which was also called the 'place of God' by the council of the elders of the sons of Israel, when it was seen by them in the mountain ( Vide Exodus 24:9 ff). Therefore, as I have said, one must not call this gift and grace spiritual prayer, but the offspring of pure prayer which is engulfed (Greek; sent down. In Greek; send down resembles engulf, swallow up, so this is probably a copyist's error) by the Holy Spirit. At that moment the intellect is yonder, above prayer, and by the discovery of something better, prayer is abandoned.

Then the intellect does not pray with prayer, but it gazes in ecstasy at incomprehensible things which surpass this mortal world,


and it is silenced by its ignorance of all that is found there. This is the unknowing which has been called more sublime than knowledge. This is the unknowing concerning which it is said, 'Blessed is the man who has attained the unknowing that is inseparable from prayer' (Syriac; the insurpassable unknowing that is found in (or through) prayer. With the omission of a single letter, however, the Syriac could read as the Greek) of which may we be deemed worthy by the grace of the only-begotten Son of God, to Whom be all glory, honor, and worship, now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 24.

On the Subject of a Discourse Spoken by True Knowledge.

(This homily is found only in Syriac).

Every perceptible thing, whether an action or a word, is a manifestation of

something hidden within, if the cause of the thing [perceived] is not accidental and the thing is a continual activity. A recompense is reckoned for the latter case, but the former is only slightly taken into account. For indeed, the strength or weakness of the will is evidenced by the doing of evil or good deeds, not by something's accidental occurrence; but the proof of its freedom is given by [a thing's] continued existence.

Sometimes power is given to an accidental occurrence so as even to defy the free will. Accidental occurrences, whether good or evil, befall a man as an incentive, or a trial, or for training, or as a recompense. The occurrence which is an incentive is good; the trial is considered evil [by men]; but the occurrences for training and for recompense are both

[good and evil]. There are no chance occurrences, for nothing fortuitous happens to a man, whether good or evil. The will of God, which anticipates prayer, provides for every prayer, and by His wisdom He determines accordingly what is for our help. There is a Pilot Who steers (or a Ruler Who governs) the things of this world. There is a guardian (i.e. the guardian angel) with each one of us, whose notice nothing escapes and who never weakens. But all occurrences are very carefully managed by this appointed guardian, and in these four kinds [of accidental occurrences] his management is active.

The prayer filled with sorrow, when a suitable manner of life is joined with prayer's affliction, changes the character of occurrences and brings about improvement

[in a man]. It strengthens and makes steadfast the good man, while to the evil man it gives a change


to the opposite direction. Therefore do not doubt what I have said: there is no occurrence that is by chance and has no Pilot. If indeed prayer combined with integrity of life is able to alter or to restrain (or control) [occurrences], we should believe that every occurrence has a Steersman. Blessed is the man who compares every occurrence that befalls him with his own hidden, interior state, who seeks out its cause and beholds its Pilot!

The only way that a man who wishes to be wise in the eyes of God can do so is to become a fool to the world and a despiser of human glory. Awesome is the man who conceals the greatness of his labor by self-reproach; at such a man the angels marvel. Let involuntary shortcomings be reckoned by you as the guardians of righteousness, for these are even found from time to time in vigilant men.

There is no prayer so quickly heard as the prayer whereby a man asks to be reconciled with those who are wroth with him. For when he charges himself with the offense, this prayer is immediately answered. If, although you do what is proper and are vigilant over your life, you see yourself as feeble and you are despicable in your own eyes and you hate the glory of men, then know that in very truth you walk on the path of God. But if you perceive in yourself that you are far from these things and, when you sound yourself out, you see that even imaginary thoughts of censure cause you pain, then know that you are devoid of the truth and are deceived by vainglory (another manuscript reading is, falsehood).


Homily 25.

On the Things That Are Bestowed Upon a Brother Within His Cell.

(This homily is found only in Syriac).

Many times it happens to a brother during the hours of the day, that even if you were to give him an earthly kingdom, he would not be persuaded at that hour to leave his cell or to have any man knock at his door. For the time of [spiritual] commerce has suddenly come for him. Such things occur on days that are considered days of rest, but often at times of going in and going out (i.e. times of worldly dealings). For suddenly grace visits him with tears beyond measure, or with an ardent feeling that wells up in the heart, or with a certain joy that has no [apparent] cause, or with delight in prostrations.

I know a brother who put the key in the door of his cell to lock it, so that he might go out and allow his spirit to graze, as Scripture says, and there grace visited him and he turned back straightway. Let no man, therefore, find fault with a brother if, on days whereon he does not observe canonical stillness (or stillness according to his rule), it should sometimes occur that he absents himself from the communal church services of the brethren. And this is especially so if he is not one of those reputed to be negligent or given to vain occupations, and if he does not absent himself from the services for bodily labors. You know, my brethren, that our labor is not only that which is accomplished before the eyes of men, but that we have a work which is hidden from men's eyes and which novices and laymen do not know. For you are fully aware that the solitary is under rule and is not his own master. If one of the brethren happens to come to visit with him and he does not respond, that brother should turn back immediately without finding fault with his brother, for he does


not know what the other is engaged in at the time. The cell of a solitary is the cleft in the rock where God spoke with Moses, as the Fathers say. But monastics who have not experienced this through the work which consists in a true taste of stillness do not know these things, and they despise their brethren and judge them, claiming for themselves equality with them in all things they do.

Sometimes it happens that a certain dire warfare is permitted suddenly to assail a brother and he finds himself in danger. Although his hands are crossed upon his chest, it does not flee from him; he falls upon his face, beseeching God, and [at such a time] he cannot endure to hear a man's voice. These variations are known to those who have passed through them in this great sea and are acquainted with the winds that blow there.

And it happens that waves suddenly rise up against him and his ship is swallowed up in hidden abysses. Such things as these, which are unknown to most men, unexpectedly come upon the solitary in his stillness by reason of the devil's violent combats, and he gives himself over to mourning in his cell. There are many variations in this sea and who is there that comprehends its labors, the magnitude of its commerce, and the wondrous pearls that lie in its depth and also the beasts that rise up therein? Blessed is the man who throughout his entire voyage sleeps not, even until he reaches the harbor of departure [from this life]! There is no man who loves something and does not multiply his efforts. No man is able to be engrossed in divine things if he has not forsaken and despised temporal things, becoming estranged from the world's honors and pleasures, cleaving to the shame of the cross (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) and drinking gall and vinegar daily on account of afflictions, men, demons, and poverty.

Be diligent, my brother, and be like the wise merchant, carrying your pearl and wandering throughout the whole earth, being cautious lest its luster be marred. And be vigilant, lest perchance it be stolen from you because of your laxity and you go to Sheol (Hades; the realm of the dead) with anguish.

Pursue the small consolation that is acquired in time from toil, that you may be accounted worthy of that great consolation which dispels the troubles of this life of sorrows for those who find it. Do not despise small things, lest you be deprived of great ones. Has no one ever seen an infant who, when he puts flesh in his mouth, sucks milk?

By means of small things the door is opened to great ones. You dishonor God, O my brother, in that


you desire Him to govern you without a definite order (i.e. in a disorderly way). For no man has been entrusted with great things without first having been tried in small ones. Set this firmly in your heart, my brother, and bring me to mind at the appropriate time: you will find that every lodging place which you will reach tomorrow on this path of virtue and knowledge of the truth will be more glorious and excellent than those wherein you previously passed the night. You set off, and you are struck with awe at the beauty of the lodging that you enter today. Yet its beauty is swallowed up by the beauty of what you will come upon tomorrow. Who can perceive all the delightful changes of the mind?

Only pray, that the door be opened before you.

Beware of despair. You do not serve a tyrant, but your service is to a kind (or gentle, sweet) Lord, Who, taking nothing from you, yet has given you all. And when you did not exist at all, He fashioned you so that you would be in that [state] in which you now are. Who is sufficient to render Him thanks for the fact that He has brought us into existence? O the immeasurable grace! Who can sufficiently honor Him with hymns? For He has given us knowledge of all things. And not only of those which are manifest, but also of hidden things. For we know that if there is anything we do not know, it is necessary for us only to ask this [knowledge] from Him. Who has taught you, mortal man, to be stirred up by the desire of seeking to know that of which your nature has no knowledge?, (Literally; the knowledge of what is not in your nature).

Never seek consolation that lies outside the heart, for thus discerning knowledge dictates. Raise yourself above all consolation that the senses provide, so that you may be accounted worthy to receive that [consolation] which is within, beyond the senses. The solitary who has estranged himself from the consolation of the world and does not await daily the consolation of Christ, is dead during his lifetime. For God is very compassionate and ardently loves to give, but He wishes that we should be the cause thereof (or we should give the occasion). Indeed, He rejoices when a man offers Him a wise prayer.

It is a sign of the beginning of a man's recovery from his illness when he desires hidden things. There is, however, a delay until he witnesses true health. The man who finds it tedious to make entreaty is the companion of him who becomes despondent when there is a delay. Tedium causes a man to put off making supplication in prayer, that is to say, it impedes supplication. Despondency cuts off prayer and prevents its prolongation.

But expectation [of divine consolation] causes a man to acquire patience and stimulates him to linger in prayer. Expectation alleviates from the limbs the weight of fatigue and it knows how to give rest to the heart amid its afflictions. There is no burden the weight of which is more pleasant than labor undertaken with expectation, nor is there any comrade whose


intimacy is so desirable as expectation. Even prison is pleasant for the man who dwells there with expectation. Make this your comrade, O repentant brother, and you will not be

conscious of any of the labors of your struggle. If you are in your cell, it will be with you.

And if you find yourself among men, establish your mind in it, and your heart will never wander toward anything earthly, and this world and all that is in it will be a stranger to you. And if you lie down to sleep, make it your bedfellow, and until you are immersed in sleep converse with it. Then no polluted thought will draw nigh your heart, because your

[mind's] converse is immaterial, and no material object whose sight troubles the mind can make its appearance there. For there is no demonic thought that can manifest itself detached from a material appearance.

From long-suffering in prayer the fruit of life arises, and expectation is a firm helper during prayer to those who possess it. When you pray, bring to mind the ploughman who sows in hope. He Who causes to return twofold the seed that the ploughman sows with hope, Who has esteemed the seeking of His Kingdom and His righteousness to be greater than temporal things (Cf. Matthew 6:33), He Himself will reward your entreaty according to His promise. Amen.


Homily 26.

On the Soul Which Seeks for Profound Theoria, That by Being Immersed Therein, She Might Be Freed of Carnal Thoughts That Arise From Things Recollected.

Every thing that is above another is concealed from what is beneath it. This is not, however, because it possesses by nature a sort of veil composed of some other body (The Sinai Greek MS 409 adds here; but by its own properties it forms one, so to speak) therefore [when it wishes] it is able to uncover its hiddenness. No noetic essence acquires from outside of itself the distinction of its own rank (Greek; things. The Syriac shows this to be a copyist's error for, ranks, orders) but these distinctions are confined within its motions (In this homily the word, motions, movements, seems to mean, activity, operations, but we have left the translation literal). That is, to put the matter more plainly, it can without mediation more easily enter in to receive the primal light than a lower order (Greek; according to another. The Syriac shows this to be a copyist's error for, lower) [from] which, evidently, it does not differ in locality, but according to the high degree and capacity of its purity, or according to the measure of the noetic beings

[therein] as regards their capacity to receive signs and powers from above. Every noetic essence is hidden from the essences that are below it; yet they are not concealed from them by nature, but by the excellence of their motions (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek has; by the motions of the virtues, which seems to be a copyist's error). This I say concerning the orders of the holy powers, the orders of souls, and the orders of demons.

The first are concealed from the second and the second from the third, by nature, place, and by respective movements. Each of the orders (Here Saint Isaac probably refers to the different divisions among angels, souls, and demons)


is separate, and moreover with respect to knowledge they are hidden from one another, whether they are seen or not; but by nature they are hidden from those beneath them. For the faculty of sight of the bodiless is not from outside, as it is in the case of beings who possess bodies, but their ability to see one another is said to come from within their motions, by both the excellence and the measure of their motions. For this reason, if they

are honored with an equal portion, then even though they be distant from one another, they see each other, not in phantasy, but in real nature with unerring sight; howbeit they see not the Cause of all, Who transcends this distinction, Who alone is worshipful. The demons, though they are extremely polluted, are not concealed from one another in their own orders; howbeit they do not see the two orders that are above them. For spiritual sight is the light (The Syriac also means; clarity, lucidity) of motion, and these very

[motions] are their (i.e. noetic natures) mirror and their eyes (Greek; and this very [light]

is for them a mirror and an eye) but when the motions are darkened, they cannot see the orders above them. Now the demons, as being the most dense of the spiritual orders by comparison (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek has; can only see one another according to the same order) can only see one another. So much for the demons.

As for souls, to the degree that they are defiled and darkened, they are neither able to see one another, nor themselves. But if they cleanse themselves and make their way back to their ancient created state, they will clearly see these three orders, that is, the order below them, the one above, and one another [in their own order]. But I do not mean to say that angels, demons, or other souls must be transformed into a bodily form so that pure souls can see them. On the contrary, they see into their very nature and their spiritual order. But if you say that it is impossible that a demon or an angel can be seen if they are not altered and take on a [physical] form, then it is not the soul that sees but the body.

And if this be so, what need is there of purification? For, behold, how at times demons as well as angels appear even to the impure; yet when they see, they see with bodily eyes, and there is no need here of purification. It is not so, however, with the purified soul; for she sees in a spiritual manner with a natural eye, that is, the clairvoyant eye of insight. Do not marvel that souls can see one another even while they are in the body, for I shall give you most clear proof of this from one who bears witness to the truth, I mean the blessed Athanasios the Great, in his life of the great Anthony. Once, he says, while the great Anthony was standing at prayer, he saw someone's soul being raised aloft with much honor, and he called blessed the man who had been deemed worthy to receive such glory.

This was the blest Ammoun of Nitria. Now the mountain where Saint Anthony lived was thirteen days distant from Nitria. This example has proven what was said concerning


the three aforementioned orders, namely that even if spiritual natures are separated from one another, they see each other, and that distances and the bodily senses do not prevent them from seeing one another. So it is that purified souls do not see bodily, but spiritually. For bodily sight pertains to things that are evident and it sees that which is before it. But things that are distant require another kind of vision.

The sublime orders are numberless according to their existence and are named corresponding to their distinction and order. For why else should they be called Principalities, Powers, Virtues, and Dominions unless, perhaps, it is because they are specially honored? They are fewer in number than those who are in submission to them, as Saint Dionysios the Bishop of Athens has said, while in power and knowledge they are great, and singular with respect to the magnitude of their own orders. They are arrayed from order to order until they reach that one [order] which is more ancient and mighty and glorious than all, which is the beginning (or head, foremost, chief) and foundation of all created things. The beginning, I say, but not the Creator (i.e. the Son) of the primordial wonders of God's works. For there are many [orders] that are inferior with respect to [their knowledge of] the providence of the wisdom of God, their and our

Creator; and they are as much inferior as the orders below them are in turn inferior to them. By inferior I mean their exaltation or lowliness not in a spatial sense, but as regards their power and knowledge, in proportion to the measure which they have attained as a result of greater or lesser knowledge. The divine books have given all these spiritual essences nine spiritual names and divided them into three divisions of three each. The first is composed of the great, sublime, and most holy Thrones, the many-eyed Cherubim, and the six-winged Seraphim; the second in order is composed of the Dominions, the Virtues, and the Powers; the third is composed of the Principalities, the Archangels, and the Angels. The names of the orders are thus interpreted from the Hebrew tongue: the Seraphim means those who are fervent and burning; the Cherubim, those who are great in knowledge and wisdom; the Thrones, receptacles of God and rest (The Syriac continues with a direct quote from Saint Dionysios' Celestial Hierarchies, Book 7, 2. We give here a translation from the Greek original: The beings of this first order are called beholders, not because they are beholders of noetic things as it were by sensible symbols, or because they are led up to the Deity by the diversity of the theoria of sacred Scripture, but because they are filled with light which is more sublime than all immaterial knowledge, and are brimming (as far as possible) with the divine vision of that supraessential and threefold Beauty Who is the Origin and Maker of beauty. In like manner they are deemed worthy of communion with Jesus, not through sacred images which formatively engrave the deifying likeness, but as really drawing nigh to Him in that first participation of the knowledge of His deifying illuminations. . . . And [they are called perfected] because they are filled with a primary and transcendent deification, according to the highest knowledge of the operations of God that angels can have (PG 3.208 BC) ). These orders are given these names because of their operations. The Thrones are so called as ones


truly honored; the Dominions, as those who possess authority over every kingdom; the Principalities, as those who govern the atmosphere; Powers, as those who have power over the nations and every man; Virtues (The term virtue means here the embodiment of the power or operative influence in a supernatural or divine being. ( The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. 'virtue') as ones mighty in power and dreadful in appearance; the Seraphim, as those who make holy; the Cherubim, as those who carry; the Archangels, as vigilant guardians; the Angels, as those who are sent.

On the first day, eight noetic creatures (The Greek has seven, which has been transposed from its rightful place in the sentence, as shown by the Syriac) were created, seven in silence and one by a verbal command (Greek, Literally; voice), and this was light ( Vide Genesis 1:3), on the second day the firmament was created; on the third day God gathered the waters and made the herbs to blossom forth; on the fourth day, the division of light; on the fifth day, the birds, reptiles and fish; and on the sixth day, the animals and man. The frame of the whole world is length and breadth. The head is the East; the foot is the West; the right position is the North; the left position is the South.

God laid out the entire earth as a bed, and the highest heaven as a curtain (Cf. Psalms 103:3), a vault and a cube (The words cube and curtain are lacking in Syriac). He fixed the second heaven as a wheel that adheres to the first heaven, and the borders of heaven and earth are joined to one another. He set the ocean as a girdle that encompasses heaven and earth; therein He established lofty mountains reaching even to heaven, and He ordered the sun to journey behind the mountains all the night long; He set the great sea (The great sea and the ocean refer to two different bodies of water) within the mountains

and it dominates over one-half and one-fourth of the dry land (Syriac; dominates four times [the area of] the dry land and one fourth is dry land). To our God be glory. Amen.


Homily 27.

Against Those Who Say: If God Is Good, For What Reason Has He Made These Things?

(This homily is found only in Syriac).

Sin, Gehenna, and Death do not exist at all with God, for they are effects (or, acts), not substances. Sin is the fruit of free will. There was a time when sin did not exist, and there will be a time when it will not exist. Gehenna is the fruit of sin. At some point in time it had a beginning, but its end is not known. Death, however, is a dispensation of the wisdom of the Creator. It will rule only a short time over nature; then it will be totally abolished. Satan's name derives from voluntary turning aside (Here Saint Isaac is giving the Syriac etymological meaning of the word, satan) from the truth; it is not an indication that he exists as such naturally (The sense of this passage is that going astray (satan) is not a natural substance, but an act or effect, and therefore does not exist with God. The creature called Satan -whose personal existence is not denied here- took upon himself this activity. Though this activity may cease, the creature will continue to exist, just as in the case of sin and the sinner).

Even if you should find, O my brother, some of these things written in other places, may we not be reckoned in your eyes as ostentatious men, as though we plagiarize the writings of others, pretending them to be our own! But, on the contrary, reckon us as humble men, since we suck the milk of our Fathers who have gone before us, I mean those things which we have gathered and placed before ourselves as objects of theoria, with the aim of enriching our minds with these provisions, whereon we can graze and be sustained. For we have not forgotten that we do not rise above the rank of learners so long as we dwell in the flesh.

Discernment consists in the direction a man's natural thoughts take (Literally; discernment is the mobility of natural thoughts). For when the


thoughts by their motions proceed on nature's path, they encounter the changing elements and the ages [of the world]. But when they proceed on an inferior way (i.e.

contranaturally), there will be for them another employment than that which they had.

For when the natural [thoughts] in the intelligence are twofold in their employment, they will be recognized in one of these only, that is, in the order which does not pertain to the soul (i.e. the corporeal order).

When you encounter sweetness in the verses of your liturgy, your intellect greedily desires to enjoy that sweetness continually. And if you wish to grant the intellects' request, quickly strive to know the cause of such delight. If you reach it swiftly, as a discerning and not a blind man, it will not be difficult for you to enjoy it always without hindrance. And what, then, is the active agent which is also called 'cause'? A file, without adding anything to iron, makes it bright and radiant, for such is the essence of iron. How? It removes the rust which has come upon it when it was unused. The same holds true for theoria in relation to the nature of the intellect. Bring your mind to the file and you will find how it shines clearly during your liturgy, emulating the brilliance of the

very stars. For the intellect is unable to proceed onward without this action and it lingers when unattended. For this reason I said that during (or through) psalmody—but not through the prayer of the heart and reading—the intellect can be held fast only with difficulty. But this is not the case with prayer and reading; with them only small care is needed. Furthermore, their assistance during psalmody is necessary. Indeed without them, diligence in psalmody will be found to be in vain. And they, again, at the very time when nourishment is furnished, give support to psalmody and not from any other quarter than from these provisions (This sentence is extremely obscure in the Syriac. The provisions are probably the substance or material of reading and prayer). Hunger, indeed, knows how to procure food; it will not, however, consent to refrain from eating it.

Sweet to the laborer is bread earned by his own sweat. Until a man has sweated, the bread of truth will not satisfy him. The body, which is the laborer, sweats and it nourishes the rational intellect. And this occurs when the intellect is deprived of its customary, unnatural nourishment.

Spiritual virtue (or excellence) is the daughter of the will's virtue, and necessarily so. Therefore free will (Literally; freedom), not bondage, is the natural power of reason.

But when it is diverted to one side or the other and stays there, then it gives birth to another power that does not belong to its natural state. When this is born, free will is ruled by, and in servitude to, compulsion, and I dare say that it is bound and has no dominion over itself. Before this, compulsion was a matter of the will, but now compulsion has enslaved the will. This, I say, can be seen on


both sides, whether a man enslaves himself to the right or he gives way to the left. The intellect, however, which can see keenly, is able to perceive in every instance how compulsion subdues free will when this power not found in nature is born of voluntary subjugation. I do not mean here the power that is born of habit, which is very difficult to withstand, but that which is called 'the vindicator'. At any rate habit is subject to the will, although it is a laborious thing to resist habit. Apart from this we know of two powers: one enslaves the will, but the other prevails upon nature itself and even has authority to alter nature. This power, which is an energy (or operation. This refers to divine grace) that overrides nature, is known to those who have experienced it.

The changes of men's hearts and the dissimilar ways of thinking that are usually born from them -be they free or not free, living or dead- are greatly assisted by the ununiformity (or inequality, disparity, unevenness) of the theoria that arises in men's minds concerning God's judgments. By this ununiformity, which is placed in the midst

[of things], the world has been preserved for thousands of years. This ununiformity greatly assists the changing of the courses found on the path of mortal life, and what is greater still, it leads men to theoria concerning the [Divine] judgments that engender earnest hope (This word can also mean, opinions, intimations, depending on the vowels one gives it) in God. But as soon as confidence has entered into many hearts, it is as though a man has taken deadly poison. For even with true and genuine sons ten parts of love should be mixed with five parts of fear.

Nature that is inclined to aberration is not sufficient to receive here the perfection (or fulfillment, completion) of divine truth or to know completely the will that God has for rational beings. Even men such as Paul and his like are insufficient for this, until the time come that aberration should be taken away, so that nature should no longer go astray through the influence it feels from aberration.

What is uniformity and ununiformity?, (or parity and disparity, equality and inequality). The ununiformity of theoria, which in one soul changes and varies, is the incomprehensibility of God's eternal mind (i.e. way of thought. 1 Corinthians 2:16).

Uniformity [of theoria] is the revelation of truth. If nature, which is inclined to aberration, should receive here the real truth, it would die by reason of the onrush of aberration. This is the, 'O the depth of the riches' (Romans 11:33) and, 'How unsearchable are His judgments' (Ibid) and, 'Who hath known the mind of the Lord' (1 Corinthians 2:16), and the like. Such things as these from time to time unexpectedly come upon the mind in a marvelous way and a man sighs deeply. Some call this the cloud. From this are born the ununiformity of theoria and the diversity of [man's] opinions concerning the unattainable quest [for the understanding of] God's judgments.


But when the perfection of nature will come in that world which is not prone to aberration, nature will no longer shrink from knowing divine truth, fearing lest it might incline toward the left because of confidence. Confidence breeds contempt and an impetuous way of thought. But fear, on the other hand, is wont to bind up aberration and keep it bridled. You will discover this fear in your soul through theoria concerning the diversity of God's judgments and the ages, and concerning the ununiformity of the courses of men's lives and the diversity of the recompenses given to each even now, and concerning God's justice which manifests itself from time to time, and then is held back because of His long-suffering, and through theoria concerning righteous men and sinners, and the adverse nature of dissimilar encounters with persons who are providentially opposed to you. When the intellect beholds these things, the entire soul is moved. And then there is born in the soul the inquiry into thoughts, words, and deeds, and into the delineation of the fixed boundaries of God's justice.

But when the intellect withdraws itself from this and ascends solely toward the Existent One by beholding the properties of that good Nature Which possesses eternal knowledge that precedes all existent things, and by beholding all His other properties, then immediately fear is cast out and the mind is sustained by confidence.

When, however, the intellect descends once more from thence and spreads itself out toward the different ages and their distinctions, it turns to flight and gives place to fear. And this is especially because providence does not consent to allow the intellect to remain always in that theoria of the truth (i.e. when it beholds God through His properties). Therefore from time to time it takes away from the heart the power of confidence which is aroused by true theoria and it allows the intellect to be harassed by diverse opinions. This occurs so that a man should not desist from continually judging the truthfulness of his thoughts and actions and thus should acquire cautiousness, for he does not know how he will meet the judgment of God, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 28.

On the Vision of the Nature of Incorporeal Beings, in Questions and Answers.

Question: In how many different ways is human nature able to receive vision of the nature of incorporeal beings?

Answer: The direct apprehension of every simple (Greek; uncompounded) and subtle nature of spiritual bodies comes within the grasp of the sense faculty of human nature in three ways: in the density of substance, which is a non-essential manner (i.e. a manner not corresponding to essence); in the subtlety of substance, which is a non-essential manner; or in true theoria, which is essential vision. In the first, the senses hold sway; in the second, the soul sees superficially; in the third, the power of the mind's nature operates. Further, of the last two, one is dominated by the will and mind, and one by the will and the light of the soul and what strengthens the same. Firstly, then, will is the cause; and these are offspring of the free will, even if the free will and the faculty of volition are quiet at the time of their (i.e. the offspring, the modes of vision) employment, so long as the operation [of the modes of vision] is active and persists. But only one mode of vision (i.e. the first) manifests itself independently of the will and of true knowledge, because independently of the will the senses take in everything that comes to pass. The holy angelic powers employ all these three modes in their fellowship with us for our instruction and the establishment of our life.

The abominable demons, however, can only stir up in us the first two modes, as they draw nigh in order to destroy us and not to profit us. They cannot come to us by the third mode in order to lead us astray, because they have no power whatsoever to set in motion


the natural thoughts of our intellect. For it is impossible for the sons of darkness to approach light. But the holy angels possess this ability: both to set the natural thoughts in motion and to enlighten them. The demons, however, are the lords and creators of false intuitions, the offspring of darkness. For from luminous beings light is received; from darksome beings, darkness.

Question: For what reason was this given to the angels. But not to the demons?

Answer: Every one of these teachers [of men] must firstly see in himself the insight which he teaches; he must learn it, receive it, taste it, and then only can he offer it to his pupils. The first teachers, the angels, transmit the precise reality of things from their own sound knowledge, which they are able to gain by the swift comprehension of their exceedingly keen and pure intellect. But although the demons possess keenness, they lack light. Keenness is one thing, light another. The first without the second brings its possessor to destruction. The second reveals the truth, but the first, a phantom (Greek; an appearance, image) of the truth. For light reveals the reality of things, and in proportion to the measure of a man's way of life, it waxes and wanes.

The holy angels infuse into us that knowledge of the movements of things which they have first tasted and understood, for only then do they transmit it to us. Likewise the second teachers, the demons, set in motion within us conceptions about things (This is the Syriac reading. The the word conceptions is literally motions or mental motions, that is, thoughts. The Greek has; about the motions of things) according to the degree of their knowledge; for when they have not [received] permission to lead us astray, it is necessary for them to set in motion in us right thoughts about such things. Nevertheless be certain, as I said before, that even if we are capable of receiving true divine vision, they would be incapable of teaching it to us, though indeed they possessed it in the beginning. Further,

each one of these teachers, the angels or their opponents, inspires his pupils in accord with the Divine oeconomy, by which that teacher is governed. I hold as a truth, nevertheless, that our intellect, without the mediation of the holy angels, is able of itself to be moved toward the good uninstructed; however, our intellect cannot come to know evil or be incited by it without the mediation of the demons or the senses (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek has ; our senses cannot come to know evil or be incited by it without the mediation of the demons). The intellect cannot work evil of itself; for good is implanted in its nature, but not so, evil. Everything that is alien and comes in from without requires a mediator so that knowledge of it might be gained, but that which is implanted within unfolds itself in nature without instruction, be it but dimly. But although our nature is such that of itself it moves toward the good, its development and illumination cannot come to pass without


the divine vision (Syriac variant; tutorship. In Syriac this word and divine vision are similar in appearance) received from angels. They are our teachers, even as they are of one another; for the lower ones are taught by those who oversee them and possess more light, and so each order is illuminated from the one above even up to that one (Greek; that unity) [order] which possesses the Holy Trinity as Teacher. And further, this very first order itself says openly that it is not instructed of itself, but it has Jesus the Mediator (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:5) as its Teacher, from Whom it receives and then transmits to those below it.

It is my opinion that our intellect does not have a natural power to be moved to the divine vision of Divinity. And in this one deficiency we are the peers of all the celestial natures, for [[without investigations and reasonings]] both in us and in them grace moves that which is alien by nature both to the human intellect and to the angelic.

For divine vision concerning the Godhead is not to be numbered among the other kinds of divine vision. [[For we possess divine vision of the natures of things through participation in their twofold nature, because there is a portion of all things in us. But we do not have a portion of the nature of the [Divine] Essence, and so neither do we have [by nature] divine vision of It.]] Now this divine vision is not stirred by nature in the rational beings of the first and middle orders, but by grace it is set in motion in all intellects, both celestial and terrestrial; nature cannot comprehend this, as it does other things (E.g.; the arts, the sciences, the properties of created beings).

Before Christ's incarnate coming, the theoria of the intellect and vision (The Syriac has; revelations. This entire passage has been omitted in the 'Eastern' versions of the Syriac text, but is found in the Sinai Syriac MS and Vatican Syriac 124), whereby the order of the celestial beings is moved, was not within their power, so that they could penetrate into these mysteries. But when the Word was made flesh, in Jesus a door was opened unto them, as the Apostle says (Cf. Colossians 4:3). It is, however, my opinion—

and indeed it is true—that although we, men, should purify and cleanse ourselves, yet without their mediation, our intellect will not be able to attain to the revelations and insights which lead to that eternal divine vision which is in very truth the revelation of mysteries (Syriac; to that essential divine vision which is the true revelation of mysteries).

For our intellect does not have a capacity as great as that of the most sublime beings, who without mediation receive revelations and divine visions from the Eternal One. But even they [receive these revelations] from Him in a likeness and not nakedly; and in like manner our intellect also [[and likewise the other orders, except that one which [receives

them] from Jesus Who holds the scepter of the Kingdom]]. By means of transmission each order receives from another (i.e. the one above it) revelation concerning the Divine governance and the discernment


thereof, from the first to the second and so on until the mystery has passed through all the orders. There are, however, many mysteries which remain with the first order and do not pass on to the rest; for these cannot receive the magnitude of the mystery, but only the first order. Some mysteries proceed forth from the first order and are only revealed to the second, where they are kept in silence and remain unknown to the rest of the orders. And there are mysteries which proceed as far as the third and the fourth orders. There is also loftiness and meanness (Greek; increase and decrease) in the revelations that are manifested to [[each of the orders of]] the holy angels. [[One order is enriched with revelations, and mysteries of a lofty degree are revealed to it, and it receives superabundant illumination. But another is inferior to the former and its intuitions are too weak for these mysteries. Thus in the reception of revelations there is abundance and scarcity, greatness and smallness among the spiritual orders. Except for that single and chief order which is the first of all the orders, the rest receive divine vision and indications concerning the whole of the Divine governance [of things] from their fellows.]] If, therefore, it is thus with the celestial orders, how much less should we be able to receive such mysteries without the angels and without mediation?

Whenever the perception of the revelation of a mystery descends into the intellects of the saints, this is also from the angels. When it is permitted by God, a mystery is revealed from a higher [angelic] order to a lower one, [[even unto the lowest]]; and in the same manner, when it is permitted by the Divine nod that a mystery should come even to human nature, it is transmitted by those (i.e. by the angels. This is the Syriac reading; the meaning is further explained in the following sentence. The Greek has; to those) who are wholly unworthy of it. For by their intermediary the saints receive the light of divine vision, [leading] even to the glorious Eternal Being, the mystery which cannot be taught; and the angels receive from one another, 'for they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation' (Hebrews 1:14)

[[through the awareness of true intuitions that are proper to them]]. In the future age, however, this order of things will be abolished. For then one will not receive from another the revelation of God's glory unto the gladness and joy of his soul; but to each by himself the Master will give according to the measure of his excellence and his worthiness, and he will not receive the gift from his comrade as he does here. Then there will be no teacher and no pupil, nor one whose deficiency must be filled up by another.

For One is the Giver there, Who gives without mediation to those who receive; and those who win joy, procure it from Him. [[For they do not perceive Him through diverse intellections, but by [direct] revelation of Him, without departing from him through thoughts.]] There the order of those who teach and those who learn ceases, and on One alone hangs the ardent love of all.


I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart

by sin against love is more poignant than any torment. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

Someone was asked, 'When will a man know that he has received the remission of his sins?' He answered, 'When in his soul he becomes conscious that he has completely hated them with his whole heart, and when he governs himself in his external actions in a manner opposed to his former way of life. Such a man, as having already hated his sin, is confident that he has received remission of his sins by reason of the good witness of his conscience which he has acquired, after the saying of the Apostle, "A conscience uncondemned is a witness of itself,"' (Cf. Romans 2:15). And may we also gain remission of our sins by the grace and love for a man of the unoriginate Father with His only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 29.

On the Example and Similitude Furnished by a Divine Vision Concerning the Lord's Day and the Sabbath.

The Lord's Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations. In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath. For he who said that 'God rested (the Greek also has the sense of, ceased) on the seventh day' (Genesis 2:2), signified the rest [[of our nature]] from the course of this life, since the grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and the eighth is in departure from it.

Just as those who are worthy receive in this world the mysteries of the Lord's day in a similitude, but not that day itself as long as they are in their bodily nature (Literally; corporeally. Syriac; in their corporeality) so ascetic strugglers receive the mysteries of the Sabbath in a similitude, but not the true Sabbath itself, which is repose from every sorrow and perfect rest from every troublesome [[passion]]. For God has given us [[to taste]] a mystery, but he has not [[ordained]] that we should here lead our lives in the true reality. The true Sabbath, the Sabbath that is not a similitude, is the tomb, which reveals and manifests perfect repose from the tribulations of the passions and from the toil against them. The whole man, both soul and body, there keeps the Sabbath. In six days God ordered the constitution of this world, He fixed the elements, and He gave their constitution unresting motion for the accomplishment of their liturgy, and they will not cease from their course until the dissolution. From the force of


these primordial elements He fashioned our bodies. But neither did He give the former repose from their motion, nor our bodies, formed from them, repose from their husbandry. He fixed repose as a limit to our corporeal elements (Literally; those things (elements) within us) so that they should follow their primaeval kinship with the earth,

which means dissolution from this life. Thus He said to Adam, 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.' Until when? 'Until thou return to the earth out of which thou wast taken.' 'And the earth shall bring forth unto thee thorns and thistles' (Genesis 3:19, 3:18), which are mysteries [signifying] the husbandry of this life, for as long as a man lives (Syriac; which is a mystery [signifying] that this world is a world of husbandry (or labor) for as long as a man (or the world) lives. But from the time of that night when the Lord sweated ( Vide Luke 22:44), He changed the sweat that brought forth thorns and thistles into a sweat in prayer and the husbandry of righteousness.

For more than five thousand years (Greek; five thousand five hundred years) the Lord left Adam to toil in that first husbandry, because the path of the saints had not yet been revealed, as the Apostle says (Cf. Hebrews 9:8). But in His goodness He sojourned among us in these latter days and commanded the human free will to exchange sweat for sweat, not allowing us complete repose from all toil, but rather an exchange. In this manner He manifested His loving-kindness toward us, because of our prolonged and wearisome hardship upon the earth. If, therefore, we cease to sweat in the labor of prayer, we shall necessarily reap thorns; for cessation of prayer means a tilling of the earth's corporeality which by nature brings forth thorns. For the passions are thorns indeed, and they spring up from the seed that lies in our body. Insomuch as we bear the image of Adam, we necessarily bear his passions also. The earth cannot discontinue to bring forth shoots in accord with its nature. The earth of our body is an offspring of this earth according to the divine testimony, 'The earth from which thou wast taken' (Genesis 3:20).

The first brings forth thorns; the second (which is rational) passions.

If by way of a mystery the Lord was for us in every respect a type and paradigm in all the diverse works of His dispensation, and even until the ninth hour of the Great Friday He did not rest from labor and wearisome toil (which is a mystery of the husbandry of our entire life) but reposed only in the tomb on the Sabbath, where are those who say that in this life there is a Sabbath, that is, repose from the passions?, (i.e. the Messalians). The Lord's day is, however, too great a thing even for us to speak of. Our Sabbath is the day of the grave; it is here that our nature truly keeps the Sabbath.

Necessity, therefore, obliges us


daily to uproot thorns from the earth of our nature so long as it exists, and because of our prolonged toil at this husbandry the thorns will diminish; but you will be unable entirely to cleanse yourself from them. If, therefore, it is the case that during a brief spell of sluggishness or because of a little negligence the thorns multiply, cover over the face of your earth, choke your seed, and obliterate your toil, then it is clearly necessary to purify your soil each day. Cessation from this causes a multitude of thorns to spring up, of which may we be cleansed by the grace of the consubstantial, only-begotten Son of God, to Whom together with the unoriginate Father and the life-creating Spirit be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 30.

On Different Suitable Ways of Wise Guidance for the Instruction of Disciples.

(This homily is found only in Syriac).

All wisdom is from the Lord, as has been said (Cf. Ecclesiasticus 1:1). We are instructed in our own affairs so as to become wise with respect to the Lord's dealings with us. Now the Father of truth deals with His sons in different ways. For the profit of His sons He restrains Himself from uniformity that consists in always showing to them the same face. Nay rather, for their instruction He secretly withdraws His love. Thus He displays the appearance of a state that does not really exist (i.e. that He is devoid of love); but that which He is, He retains within. A wise son recognizes his father's care for him as well as his discerning love in the changes of his behavior toward him. The activity of true love will appear twofold when rightly understood: in what causes joy and also in what causes sorrow. That is to say, love is constantly ready to give pleasure to its beloved. Yet sometimes it causes its beloved to suffer by reason of its great love; and it suffers with its beloved when it causes pain. It firmly resists the stirrings of natural compassion, fearing lest its beloved should be harmed afterward. Love, on the one hand, urges communion; but knowledge, on the other hand, strengthens [love] to resist these sentiments. The diversity of the forms of wise love accords with voluntary variations (Literally, the variations of choice) corresponding to the recipients of these actions of love. Let us not ask foolish love of a wise friend. The man who kills his son by feeding him honey does not differ from the man who kills his son with a dagger.

It is unbecoming to love's wisdom to give the same sustenance to its beloved in times of health and illness. I mean here those variations which the will undergoes through the choice of dispositions, but not of what pertains to the body. If we know how to govern


those times when with discernment we show our love for someone, especially when he is in obedience to us, is it not right that we should attribute to God the knowledge how to accomplish the appropriate deeds of His discerning love for us, even if we merely liken them to the variation of love that we manifest toward our loved ones? These variations are difficult to bear; I also know it myself. Howbeit, this is profitable. Your nature's proclivity to aberration causes you to be in need of these variations, if not as a recompense for things already past, then to instill fear of what will certainly occur.

Distressing occurrences are to interior instruction what helpful medicines are to imbalance (Literally; inequality) of the body's constitution.

Every non-composite created thing is free of struggle in its way of life, whether it be corporeal or incorporeal. Labor naturally exists only amid ununiformity (Literally; inequality), and ununiformity exists only in composite beings because of their conjoined duality. And even though there are, and are said to be, among non-composite and simple beings those who are subject to aberration (or turning aside), this is entirely toward the right, and effortlessly, since they have no experience of the left (Literally; the other).

Indeed, they can only be affected by the good (Literally; they are only passible with respect to the good). For their [tendency to] aberration is bridled by ardent love, and where there is love, there is neither struggle nor fear. Now this is so although they possess self-mastery (or free will); from self-mastery aberration is also said to originate, and for this reason they are worthy of even greater praise.

Good and evil deeds are the offspring of freedom (or free will). Where freedom is lacking, the doing of [good or evil] deeds is superfluous with respect to receiving a recompense. There is no recompense for what is natural. A reward is bestowed for a conflict, and one does not speak of a victory where there is no struggle. When opposition

is taken away, freedom also vanishes with it. Henceforth nature has no more struggle. A time is reserved for the abolition of freedom, and thereafter the faculty of reason will be bound, both in men and in angels. Here I speak of the faculty of reason, not the faculty of being sensibly moved. In the realm of intelligence the rational faculty possesses two properties, that is, two powers: the power of reason and the power of knowing. The former is altogether limited, but through the latter, nature is adorned, I mean, intelligent nature. Even so, this power also will be bound at that time; not by a compulsory bond, but by a bond of delight, a delightful coercion. Sometimes this happens even now to a very few in a mystery, in rapture, that is. This, indeed, is found in rational beings of the first

[order] (i.e. the angels) in so far as possible, though they are not yet perfect. And what is that which they experience without


rapture and without being perfect? There are mysteries that cannot be received before the appointed time. On this account they are imperfect, and not because they possess through rapture the state wherein they now abide. For they do not experience this (i.e. rapture) at all, but rather a constant state and not rapture. And though there be rapture, it is to things still more excellent. So then, rapture for them is a more excellent change, but for us it is abolition (i.e. of freedom) by reason of the weakness of the flesh.


Homily 31.

Containing a Most Necessary and Extremely Beneficial Daily Reminder for the Man Who Has Chosen to Sit in His Cell and Give Heed to Himself Alone.

One of the brethren wrote the following and placed it before him continually, reminding himself thus and saying: 'You have wasted your life in senselessness, O

miserable man, worthy of every evil; but at least be vigilant today, for this remains to you from the days that have passed away empty, devoid of every good work and filled with all evil. Do not ask concerning the world, nor life therein, nor concerning the monastics, nor what pertains to them, nor how they fare, nor how great are their labors, and do not concern yourself with anything of this nature. You took leave of the world in a mystery and reckoned yourself as dead in Christ; live no longer to the world nor to those in the world, so that rest forestall you and that you live in Christ. Be ready and well-prepared for every form of disgrace, outrage, mockery, and reproach from all men. Accept all this with joy as being truly worthy of it, and patiently endure every pain and affliction and every peril from the demons whose will you once did with gladness. Valiantly bear every necessity, that which occurs naturally, and all bitter trials. Through your trust in God endure deprivation of that which is necessary for the body, but soon will change to dung.

Desire to receive all your needs through your hope in God and do not wait for deliverance from another quarter or for consolation from another man. "Cast thy care upon the Lord"

(Psalms 54:22) and condemn yourself in every temptation as the cause thereof. Be scandalized with no man and blame no one who causes you sorrow, because you have eaten of the forbidden tree


and acquired many passions. Joyfully accept bitter trials, that they may violently shake

you only for a brief moment, and that afterward you may be sweetened. Woe to you and your foul-smelling glory, for you have left your soul uncondemned, though she is full of every sin, and you have condemned others in word and thought. Enough, enough of this swine-like food which has been your sustenance until this very hour! What have you to do with men, O wretch? Are you not ashamed to have dealings with them, seeing that you have lived so senselessly? If you give heed to these things and keep them, perhaps you may be saved with God's help. But if you do not, you will depart to a place of darkness, to the dwellings of the demons, whose will you did with face unashamed. Lo, I have testified to you on all these matters. If, therefore, God were justly to turn men against you to recompense you for the outrages and reproaches which you have contemplated and spoken against them your whole life long, then the entire world would be engaged only with you (i.e. in order to repay you for your evils). Cease, therefore, from this moment and patiently endure the recompenses that come upon you.'

This brother reminded himself of all these things each day, so that whenever a trial or tribulation should assault him, he would be able to bear it with thanksgiving and be profited. May we also be able patiently to endure with gratitude all that comes upon us, and so receive profit with the aid of the grace of God, the Friend of man, to Whom be glory and dominion unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 32.

On the Power and Evil Activity of Sin, and on What Produces Them and What Causes Them to Cease.

A man is not freed from the pleasure of sin's working until he truly abhors the cause of sin with his whole heart. This is the fiercest struggle, the struggle that withstands a man unto blood, wherein his free will is tested as to the unity of his love for the virtues.

This is the power which some call enticement and pitched battle, and by the scent of it the wretched soul is enfeebled because of the intense provocation which lies therein. This is the mighty power of sin by which the enemy is wont to trouble the souls (Syriac; limpid purity, clearness) of the caste and to compel the pure movements [of their souls] to experience what they had never in any wise experienced. It is here that we manifest our patience my beloved brethren, our struggle, and our zeal for this is the time of unseen contest (or martyrdom) in which it is said that the monastic order always excels. If the upright intellect does not securely guard itself, it will speedily be confounded by its encounter with this warfare.

A Prayer. O Lord, the Source of all aid, in these times, the times of martyrdom, Thou art mighty to support the souls of those who have with joy betrothed themselves to Thee, the heavenly Bridegroom, and who consciously with sincere motivations and not from duplicity have made the vows of holiness. Wherefore, grant them power to cast down with boldness the fortified walls and every high thing that exalts itself against the truth (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5) lest they miss their mark by reason of the irresistible and unsupportable violence of that moment when one must struggle unto blood!, (or, more literally; that moment wherein the struggle of blood, [or bloody struggle], is fought).


In this time of fierce conflict the struggle is not always over chastity, for abandonment also sometimes occurs for the sake of trial. But woe to the weak man who is tried in this critical conflict because it gains great strength from the habitual actions of those who have surrendered themselves to defeat by consenting with their thoughts.

Be on your guard against idleness, O beloved, for it conceals a sure death, just as without it a monk cannot fall into the hands of those who strive to enslave him. On that day God will not judge us about psalmody, nor for the neglect of prayer, but because by abandoning them we have opened our door to the demons. Whenever they find room, they enter and close the doors of our inner chambers and of our noetic eyes, and then they accomplish tyrannically and impurely in us that which subjects its perpetrators to Divine judgment and most severe punishments. Thus, we become captives because we have forsaken small things which, nevertheless, very wise men deem worthy of attention for Christ's sake. As it is written, he who does not subject his will to God will subject it to his adversary. Hence you should consider these things that seem so small to you to be a bulwark against those who endeavor to take us captive. In the spirit of revelation these small things have been laid down to be accomplished in our cells for the preservation of our life by wise men who uphold the institutes of the Church, but the unwise consider their omission as of no consequence. Since they take no account of the ensuing harm, the beginning and middle of their way is unchastised license, the mother of many losses. It is more expedient to strive not to forsake these small matters than to make a place for sin through spacious living; for the end of unseasonable freedom is absolute slavery.

As long as your senses are alive to every occurrence, understand that you are

[spiritually] dead, for the burning of sin will not be absent from all your members and peace will not be able to settle in your soul (Greek; you will not be able to gain salvation for yourself). If in such a condition a monk should say in his heart that he is vigilant, then he does not wish to know when he is being slapped. Whoever deceives his companion deserves the curse of the Law ( Vide Leviticus 6:2). But when a man deceives himself, what apology will he make? For being conscious of the wickedness of the deed, he feigns ignorance that he does not know it, for which reason he begins to be censured by his conscience. And this he finds troublesome, because he knows that of which he pretends to be ignorant.

On the Passions.

(This title is found in the Greek printed text as the beginning of a new homily).

How sweet are the origins (Literally; starting points) of the passions! Sometimes a man can cut off the passions


and be at peace because of his distance from them, and he rejoices that they have ceased; he cannot, however, extirpate the causes of the passions. For this reason we are tempted against our will. When it is by the passions, we are grieved; but we cherish their origins and would have them remain in us. We do not desire sin, but with pleasure we accept the causes which bring it upon us. For this reason the second (i.e. the causes) by their activity become the sources of the first (i.e. sins). The man who loves the origins of the passions is an involuntary bondsman and against his will he is enslaved to the passions. He who hates his sins will cease to sin, and he who confesses them will receive forgiveness. It is impossible for a man to forsake the habit of sin if he does not first acquire a hatred of sin;

and it is impossible to receive forgiveness before a confession of iniquities. With the latter (i.e. confession) there is real abasement, and with the former (i.e. hatred of sin) there is remorse arising from shame that cleaves to the heart.

If we do not hate those things which are blameworthy, we cannot smell the stench of their activity; and so long as we carry them in ourselves, we shall not be able to perceive their malodor. Therefore, until you cast away from yourself that which is unseemly, you will not comprehend the disgrace that entangles you, nor the shame that arises from it. But when you see your burden in others, understand the dishonor that covers you. Withdraw from evil (Greek; the world), and immediately you will comprehend its malodor. For if you do not withdraw, you will never learn it, nay rather, you will put on its stench like a beautiful fragrance, and you will reckon the nakedness of your shame to be a veil of glory.

Blessed is the man who has receded from this darkness and who sees himself, for within it clear vision and discernment cannot operate. How, indeed, could the beclouded discernment of such a man distinguish what is necessary? Blessed is the man who has put away the heavy-headedness of his intoxication and who has understood his own insatiable debauchery by seeing it in others. For then he will know his own shame. But so long as a man carries in himself the drunken debauchery of his sins, everything that he does appears comely in his eyes. For when nature leaves its rightful order, it is no matter whether it be intoxicated with wine or with lusts, for both alike drive it from its proper state, and both produce an identical inflammation in the body; the means may be different, but the resulting concoction is the same, and the derangement is identical. The different causes are not equal, but in their recipients there is no distinction (Greek; but can be discerned according to each man's reception [of them]).

Every rest (also; ease, respite, relaxation) is followed by hardship, and every hardship endured for God is followed


by rest. Everything that is in this world is subject to change (Syriac; transformation, variation. This is the Syriac reading. The Greek has corruption, which is improbable in this context. There is a Syriac word meaning to waste away which resembles the word change; perhaps the mistranslation originated here), and furthermore a man undergoes change in contrary ways, whether in this age, or in the age to come, or at the time of his departure; and this is especially true with respect to the pleasure that comes from licentiousness, and the suffering that a man endures for the sake of sanctification and which opposes that pleasure. Now God provides in His compassion that a man will taste this punishment either while he is journeying on the road or when he reaches its end; then, by reason of His rich mercies,a man will pass through punishment as a sort of recompense (i.e. for pleasure), and rest as an earnest (i.e. for suffering endured for sanctification's sake). For God does not withhold the wages of good until the last hour (Syriac; until the trumpet); as for evil, however, yes [He does withhold its wages], for it is written: he who is chastised here (the printed Greek text and some MSS add here; because of his own shamefulness) eats away at his own Gehenna (i.e. if an evil man were punished every time he voluntarily committed evil, there would be no Gehenna).

Beware of the freedom that precedes an evil slavery. Beware of the consolation that precedes warfare. Beware of the knowledge that is acquired before an encounter with temptations; but especially beware of the ardent love that is prior to the completion of repentance. If we are all sinners and no man is superior to [[sin's]] temptations, it is

certainly true that no virtue is more pre-eminent than repentance. For a man can never complete the work of repentance. It is always suitable for every sinner and righteous man who wishes to gain salvation. There is no limit to perfection, for even the perfection of the perfect is truly without completion. And for this very reason repentance is bounded neither by periods of time nor by works until a man's death. Remember that every pleasure is followed by disgust and bitterness as inseparable companions.

Beware of joy that does not have conjoined to it the cause of [its] change (i.e.

unchanging joy is perilous). For you cannot understand the term (or limit, boundary. This word is not found in the Syriac) and the cause of the change of anything that is provided by a hidden dispensation from above. Fear those things that are considered to possess uniformity (For this term see page 135. The Greek reads here; which you consider to possess straightness), for it is said that they are outside the path. He Who knows wisely to steer the raft of the world has conjoined change to everything that is His (i.e.

everything in the world); and what is outside of this is a mere similitude (i.e. of the truth.

Greek; an adumbration).

Relaxation of the members is followed by wandering and confusion of the thoughts; immoderate activity is followed by despondency; and despondency is followed by wandering. But the former wandering differs from the latter wandering. The former originating from relaxation is followed by the warfare of fornication, but the latter originating from despondency is followed by the forsaking of one's solitude and roaming from place to place. Righteous works with moderation and laborious perseverance are beyond price; slackening in them increases lust, but excessiveness, on the other hand, increases confusion. Patiently endure, my brother, the folly of your nature which prevails against you, for you ready yourself to attain the wisdom that holds the everlasting crown of sovereignty. Do not be frightened by the turbulence of your Adamitic body, fashioned to enjoy that delight (the knowledge of which surpasses the intellect of carnal man) when it will put on the heavenly Image, Who is the King of peace (Greek; when the heavenly Image, Who is the King of peace, will stand close by). Do not be troubled by the change and turbulence of nature, for the hardship caused by this quickly passes from the man who accepts it gladly. The passions are like dogs that are wont to spend their time before the butchers' shops; they run away at the sound of a man's voice, but if they are left unattended, they attack like great lions. Set every small desire at naught, that you may not ponder upon (variant in Syriac; be besieged by) the vehemence of its burning. For patience shown for a short time with respect to small matters disperses the danger of great ones. It is impossible to overcome great evils, if you do not subdue the lesser.

Remember, O brother, the state wherein you will be found, by which mortality is broken and which has no part in life that slowly takes its course and is maintained by means of humors (i.e. bodily fluids). In that state there is no warmth of the constitution, which by the enticements of pleasure causes hardship for the infantile nature. Patiently endure the toil of the struggle into which you have been led for trial, that you may receive a crown from God and, having passed away from this world, you may find rest.

Remember also that rest which has no end, that life without enticements, that perfect state, that unchanging mode of life (Greek; dispensation, governance), and that compelling captivity of divine love (Greek; that captivity that compels a man to love God) that dominates nature, of which things may we be deemed worthy by the grace of Christ, to Whom with the unoriginate Father and the All-holy Spirit be glory both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 33.

That in Certain Conflicts Labor Is Better Than Being in Danger of Falling.

(This homily is found only in Syriac).

It is not possible to vanquish evil thoughts that are joined to bodily incitements, or rather, it is very difficult. They are called by some a two-edged sword used against us.

There can be no rest from them as long as there is satiety in bread, water, and sleep, and we have access to things that can provoke us through the senses. Cessation of life is better than the shame of these things. When we are diligent in that which it befits us to do, the influence of the flesh will abate in our members.

It is not possible both to be solicitous over the things of the senses and to set aright our passions. Without fervent supplications and continual prostrations it is impossible to draw God's mercies toward us; and it is necessary for us always to continue practicing both one and the other. Without painstaking in small matters, it is impossible to escape from great evils.


Homily 34.

On Guarding the Heart and on Subtler Divine Vision.

If you remain in your cell and you have not yet acquired the power of true divine vision, be always constant in your meditation upon the 'troparia', the 'kathismata' (Names of different kinds of hymns in the Orthodox Church), the recollection of death, and the hope of future things. For these collect the mind and do not permit it to roam about, until true divine vision should come; for the power of the spirit is greater than the passions.

Ruminate upon the hope of future things, joining this with the recollection of God.

Understand well the sense of the 'troparia', and guard yourself from externals that incite you to desire. Keep to the small works that you do in your cell, joining them with the aforementioned, and always examine your thoughts.

(Until this point the Syriac reads as follows: Do not let your intelligence forget the power that lies in spiritual hymns employed with insight. This power firmly leads the thoughts away captive from the world and also steals distraction from the mind, even though chanting is thought to be profitable [only] for youths. For the skittish intellect is helped by it at once. Spiritual yearning is more effective against the passions than the coercion of the intelligence. When you are by yourself, guard your heart by means of the hymns, if you do not yet possess the power to be vigilant within yourself through theoria, which is the occupation of the discerning intelligence. Or else, guard yourself by continual recollection of the departure from the body and the remembrance of those things to which our hope looks forward, joining to this those duties that cause sweetness, namely, withdrawal from things that incite us and the small observances done within the cell).

[[If you should find your harbor after the grater part of your servitude (which precedes it by reason of the free will) then grasp it. But if you should see that it (i.e. the harbor, which is rest from the passions) leads you to foolish deeds, yoke it to laws, for hereby it

can be easily governed. While you are proceeding on your way with the help of insight amid these and similar variations, voyaging in the ship of your cell loaded with goods—

which indeed is a great festival filled with the merchandise of the


ascetics—then examine with much scrutiny the dissimilar offspring that are born to you from perceptible variations. Truly you will see how every spiritual delight is preceded by the afflictions of the cross, and how the pleasure of sin is born of bodily ease. And furthermore you will see why in the harbor of chastity spiritual love is caused by the divine vision of the spirit, which also heals the intellect. There is nothing secondary that does not have a proper cause, and there is no tertiary virtue without a preceding one. Thus you will discover that the intellect's wings sprout up in the womb of chastity, and that on them the intellect ascends to divine love. And it is by love that a man ventures noetically to approach the dark cloud (i.e. wherein God resides). This thought will give a man much power to mingle watchfulness with his affairs and at the same time it will furnish him with the incentives of encouragement. Discipline practiced without eyes is done in vain, for it easily brings on despondency on account of distraction.]] Pray that you may acquire

[vigilant] eyes in everything you do. From these things joy will begin to gush forth in you, and then you will find tribulations to be sweeter than honey [[and your mandra (i.e.

a sheepfold, a cell) to be a wedding chamber]].

No man can conquer the passions except by the palpable virtues; and no one can conquer the wandering of the intellect except by the study of spiritual knowledge. Our intellect is volatile, and if it is not tied down by some reflection, it never stops wandering.

Without attaining perfection in the aforesaid virtues, a man cannot acquire this safeguard.

For unless a man does not vanquish his enemies, he cannot be at peace. And if peace does not reign, how can a man find those things that are stored up within peace? The passions are a wall impeding the hidden virtues of the soul. If the passions are not first cast down by means of externally manifest virtues, that which lies within cannot be seen; for a man who is outside a wall cannot keep company with what is inside. No man sees the sun in a cloud, nor the natural virtue of the soul in the constant turbulence of the passions.

Entreat God to give you to feel spiritual aspiration and yearning. For whenever this yearning of spirit comes upon you, you will stand aloof from the world and the world will stand aloof from you. It is, however, impossible to experience this without stillness, ascetic endeavor, and the converse of reading devoted to the same. Without the latter, do not seek the former (i.e. the yearning of the spirit); for if you seek after it, it will gradually be altered and become corporeal. Let him who has understanding understand. It was the wise Lord's good pleasure that we should eat this bread with the sweat of our brow. He did not ordain this spitefully, but lest it should oblige us to vomit and we die.

For every virtue is the mother of a second. If, then, you abandon the mother which gives birth to the virtues and go out to seek the daughters before you have acquired their mother, those virtues will be vipers to your soul, and if you do not hurl them away from you, speedily you will die.


Homily 35.

On the Signs and Workings of the Love of God.

Now that we have written above (i.e. at the end of Homily 34) about spiritual aspiration and yearning, the time has come to explain it. It is an indistinct power which is stirred in the heart by love, at first without perceptible causes, since it arouses a man's constitution without a real sight of something or active understanding or deliberation. On this account it is thought to have no cause as such, since the intellect is still clouded. It is thus to the inexperienced, but to the perfect the cause is revealed afterward. For indeed, with the searching out of the cause, spiritual yearning becomes much stronger, since sweetness then pervades the heart. Now the heart (Literally; the receptacle) sends a portion of this sweetness into the body and a portion into the faculties of the soul, because the heart is placed as the mediator between the soul's senses and those of the body: for the former it is so as an instrument, and for the latter naturally. The heart directs the sweet savor of its activity to both. For this reason the world is constrained to depart from the heart when the heart departs from the things of the world. Now it is necessary to investigate the cause of this.

The love of God is fervent by nature (Syriac; love is fervent. Throughout this paragraph Saint Isaac speaks both about love in general and the love of God in particular, describing the second in terms of the first) and when beyond measure it descends upon a man, it throws his soul into ecstasy. Therefore the heart of the man who has felt this love cannot contain it or endure it without an unaccustomed change being seen in him according to the measure of love's quantity. And these are its signs: his face becomes fiery, exceedingly joyous, and his body becomes heated. Fear and shame withdraw from


him and he is like one deranged. The power that gathers the mind flees from him and he is as though out of his wits (Syriac; impetuosity and turmoil prevail upon him). [[From henceforth he esteems his life as nothing in comparison with his Beloved.]] He considers death a joy, though it be to him a thing most terrible. And further, the gaze of his intellect is fixed inseparably and deliriously upon Him. Though he is distant, he speaks with Him as one near at hand. Being hidden from sight, he muses upon His well-known hiddenness.

His vision is natural, but inaccessible to sense perception. In his actions, as in his appearance, he is enflamed. He dwells in solitude, but his thinking converses, as it were, with Someone and is filled with awe.

This is the spiritual passion with which the apostles and the martyrs were inebriated. With it the first traveled the world over, toiling and being reviled, while the second, although their members were severed, and although they shed their blood like water and suffered the most dreadful torments, yet they did not grow faint-hearted but endured courageously, and being truly wise, were thought fools. Still others wandered in mountains and caves and dens of the earth (Cf. Hebrews 11:38), and amid disorder they were most well-ordered. [[Being grave, they were unrestrained; being dispassionate, they abode in the flesh; entreating always, they were silent without compulsion.]] May God grant us also to attain to such derangement!, (or madness, mindlessness).

If, before you have entered into the city of humility, you observe in yourself that you have found rest from the importunity of the passions, do not believe it, for this is a trap of the enemy who strives to ensnare you. Nay rather, await the onslaught of great disturbance and turmoil after this period of rest. For until you have passed through all the dwelling-places of the virtues, you will not find rest from your toil, nor will you have relief from the enemy's treacherous designs until you reach the abode of holy humility. O

God, deem us worthy to attain this by Thy grace! Amen.


Homily 36.

On the Modes of Virtue.

Ascetical endeavor is the mother of sanctification. From sanctification the first taste of the perception of Christ's mysteries is born, which is called the first stage of spiritual knowledge. But let no man deceive himself, and imagine divinations (Here reference is made to the pagan mysteries which claimed initiation into spiritual knowledge) for a polluted soul does not ascend to that pure kingdom [[either in an allegorical or in a real sense]], nor is such a soul joined to the holy spirits (i.e. the angels).

[[But when the elements [of the body] mingle with those which are kindred to them (i.e.

at death and the dissolution of the body), then in the absence of the natural unity (i.e. of the body with the soul) the wretched soul is preserved for the great Judgment to come.]]

Wash the beauty, therefore, of your chastity with tears and fasting and the stillness of solitude.

[[Now when the straight course of the natural sphere comes to its end and reaches that great light which nourishes the spheres of the stars—which are manifold in their individual distinctions, as Paul says in his demonstration of the resurrection to come ( Vide 1 Corinthians 15:41)—and when it is joined to the rays of that light (I do not mean in a natural sense) then (i.e. at the end of time) the chariot (Some MSS add, of the will.

See page 146) will be bound fast with unknowing and the two abundantly flowing springs (i.e. the eyes) will cease to pour forth their streams. And then the priests (i.e. prayer) will depart from the sanctuary (i.e. the heart) from before the cloud of the glory of the lord ( Vide 3 Kings 8:11). At that time the king of Israel will be Solomon, that is to say, the peace that is born of humility. He will build a house for the Lord and finish it with the adornment of all the sacred vessels.]]


A small affliction borne for God's sake is better [[before God]] than a great work performed without tribulation, because affliction willingly borne brings to light the proof of love. But a work of leisure proceeds from a self-satisfied conscience. That is why the saints were proved by tribulations for Christ's love, and not by ease. For [good] works accomplished without toil are the righteousness of those in the world, who do righteous deeds (Syriac can also mean; give alms) with their possessions [but not their bodies], thus gaining nothing within themselves. But you, O struggler, taste (Greek; struggle, endure) within yourself Christ's suffering, that you may be deemed worthy of tasting His glory.

For if we suffer with Him, then we are glorified with Him (Cf. Romans 8:17). The intellect is not glorified with Jesus, if the body does not co-suffer for Christ (Syriac; Jesus). He, therefore, who holds human glory in contempt, is deemed worthy of the glory of God, and his body is glorified with his soul. For the glory of the body is chastity's submission to God; but the glory of the intellect is true divine vision concerning God.

True submission is twofold, in works and in revilings; thus, whenever the body suffers, the heart also suffers with it. If you do not know God, the love of Him cannot be stirred within you; and you cannot love God if you do not see Him. The sight of God comes by knowing Him; for the divine vision of Him does not precede the knowledge of Him.

A Prayer. Make me worthy, O Lord, to know Thee so as also to love Thee, not with knowledge arising from study's exercise and joined to the intellect's dispersion; but make me worthy of that knowledge whereby the intellect, in beholding Thee, glorifies Thy nature in divine vision which steals the awareness of the world from the mind.

Account me worthy to be lifted above the will's wandering eye which begets imaginings, and to behold Thee in the constraint of the cross's bond, in the second part of the crucifixion of the intellect, whose liberty ceases from the activity of its thoughts by abiding in Thy continuous vision, which surpasses nature. Implant in me the astringent (Greek; increase) of Thy love, that being drawn away by fervent love for Thee I may come forth from this world. Awake in me understanding of Thy humility, wherewith Thou didst sojourn in the world in the tenement composed of our members which by the mediation of the Holy Virgin Thou didst bear, that with this continual and unfailing recollection, I may accept the humility of my nature with delight.

There are two ways of mounting the cross: the one, crucifixion of the body; and the second, ascent into divine vision. The first comes by freedom of the passions; and the second takes place by the operation of the works of the Spirit (Syriac; the first is of free will, [or freedom], and the second is of operation, [Literally; being worked upon]. The Greek has interpreted the meaning of this. It is probable, however, that free will, not freedom from the passions, is meant). Our intellect is not


brought into submission unless our body is subject to it. The kingship of the intellect is the crucifixion of the body. The intellect is not subject to God unless the free will is subject to reason. It is hard to convey anything sublime to one who is still a beginner, and an infant in stature. 'Woe to thee, O city, when thy king is a child!' (Ecclesiastes 10:16).

Whoever subjects himself to God is near to having all things subject to him. When a man knows himself, the knowledge of all things is granted to him, for to know one's self is the fullness of the knowledge of all things (The Syriac printed text adds here; since, as all things are contained in you, the knowledge of all is contained in the knowledge of yourself). In the submission of your soul all things will be submissive unto you. At the time when humility reigns in your manner of life, your soul will submit herself to you, and along with her, all things will be submitted to you, because the peace of God is born in your heart. But so long as you are outside it, you will be unceasingly persecuted not only by the passions, but also by accidents. Truly, O Lord, if we do not humble ourselves, Thou dost not cease to humble us. Real humility is the fruit of knowledge; and true knowledge, the fruit of trials.


Homily 37.

A Discourse On Diverse Subjects in Questions and Answers [[On the Trustworthy Way of Life and Every Kind of Virtue. This Discourse Will Be Especially Useful for Those Who Have Stripped Off the World, Those Who Dwell in the Desert, Those Who Are Recluses, and Those Who Through Voluntary Mortification Look Forward to the Crown of Righteousness]].

Question: What bond fetters a man's mind (Greek; heart. The Syriac and the Answer show this to be a copyist's error) so that he cannot turn in pursuit of evil things?

Answer: There is no stronger bond for the mind's unruliness than continually to search after wisdom and to be insatiate for the doctrine of life.

Question: Until what limit shall the man run who pursues wisdom and where is

[[the course of]] its instruction completed?

Answer: The limit of this journey is so truly unattainable that even the saints are found wanting with respect to the perfection of wisdom, because there is no end to wisdom's journey. Wisdom ascends even till this: until she unites with God him who follows after her. And this is a sign that the insights of wisdom have no limit: that wisdom is God Himself.

Question: What is the first path and beginning which conducts us to wisdom?

Answer: It consists in a man's going in search of God with all his strength, in striving with his whole soul until the end in his pursuit, and in not being negligent when it is necessary for the love of God to divest himself of and to cast off even his very life.


Question: Who is the man that is worthily said to possess understanding?

Answer: The man who really understands that there is limit to this life is he who is able to set a limit to his sins. For what knowledge or understanding is greater than this, that a man should be so wise as to know how to depart from this life without corruption, having no member tainted by the odor of desire nor any spot in his soul from lust's sweetness? If a man endeavors to refine his intuitions, so as to enter into the mysteries of all natures, and to become enriched through discovery and progress in every field of knowledge, but his soul is blemished by the stain of sin and he has not acquired hope by his soul's good testimony that he will safely reach the harbor of certainty, then there is no man in the world more senseless than he, because his labors have, by their continual pursuit of the world, only brought him to a hope which belongs to this world.

Question: Who in truth is very strong?

Answer: He who is well-pleased to abide in temporal afflictions, wherein the glory of his victory lies hidden, and who has not desired spacious living, which conceals the malodor of shame and gives him who has partaken of it the cup of sighing to drink at all times.

Question: Does harm really occur to a man on his journey toward God if he turns aside from his labor (Greek: turns aside from good works because of temptations)?

Answer: It is not possible for any man to draw near to Christ without tribulation, and without afflictions his righteousness cannot be preserved unchanged. If he puts an end to the labors that make righteousness increase, he will put an end to that which guards it, and his righteousness will be like an unguarded treasure. And he will be like a gladiator surrounded by enemy ranks and stripped of his weapons, like a ship bereft of its

sails and tackle, and like a garden deprived of its source of water.

Question: Who is the man that is illumined in his intuitions?

Answer: Whoever has attained to a perception of the bitterness that is concealed in the world's sweetness; who has kept his mouth from drinking of this cup; who always seeks how to save his soul; who does not halt on his course until he is released from this world; who shuts the doors of his senses, lest the desire for this life should enter him and steal his hidden treasures from him.

Question: What is the world? How can we recognize it? And how can it do harm to those who love it?

Answer: This world is a harlot who, by lust for her beauty, entices those who behold her to love her. The man who in part is possessed by love for the world, and is enmeshed therein, cannot disentangle himself from her embrace until he divests himself of


his own life. When the world has stripped a man of everything and thrust him from his dwelling in the day of his death, then only will the man understand that she is verily a deceiver and a beguiler. Even when a man strives to leave the darkness of this world, he will be unable to see her intricate bonds as long as he is still held therein. In this manner the world holds sway not only over her disciples, her children, and those who are held in bondage within her, but also over non-possessors, ascetics, and those who at one time severed her bonds and rose above her. For lo, by multifarious means the world has begun to ensnare them in her works, to trample upon them and put them under her feet.

Question: Since you have convinced me that the world truly strangles its inhabitants, and of how difficult it is to comprehend the craftiness of its bonds, firstly I beg to learn what is the origin of the intuition (Literally; motion) that instills doubt in the mind concerning the world, since all its bonds are so sweet and the form of its shackles is concealed.

Answer: When the thought of love for his soul is stirred within a man, the intuition of this thought begins to make the world hateful in his eyes and throws him into doubt concerning it.

Question: From whence does he possess this ability to be moved in such a manner, so that what he lauded at all times and always considered beautiful, now suddenly appears uncomely to him and he feels remorse over his life and his previous knowledge, as not having thought correctly about the world?

Answer: At the first it is nature which imparts to him this discerning intuition, when it silently indicates to him the unstable constitution of the world, the termination of its course, and the ephemeral nature of those who enter it, such that he sees the world to be a mere passageway for those who come into it, and for the many generations that preceded him, the precise number of which is unknown. They entered the world like an

inn for the night and they departed from it never to return, like wayfarers journeying on a path throughout the world. Some were kings, some rulers; some were wise, some honored; some were scribes, some orators; some were judges, some generals; some were opulent with riches, some were masters of possessions. But now, after their passing, there is no more the rank of their positions, nor the crown of their sovereignty, nor their mighty throne, nor their luxurious delicacies, nor the praise of their flatterers, nor the love of their friends, nor the indulgences of their flesh, nor the comely beauty of their elegant manners, nor the proud bearing of their dignity, nor their cultured intellect, nor their mind rich with ideas, nor the plenteous outpouring of the Gihon (Cf. Genesis 2:13, or 2

Chronicles 32:30) of their learning which spilled from their mouths and enraptured their hearers by its elegance. Lo, they have slept in


Sheol (The realm of the dead. Originally this word referred to the grave, the place of the body, but later it came to refer to the place of souls. For this reason Sheol (or Hades) is often figuratively said to be under the earth) for long years as though it were one night!

Nor is it known how long a time yet remains for them to sleep this lengthy sleep, or when the daybreak of the resurrection will dawn for them and awake them from their slumber.

And when a man ponders over why they are left in such a state, he is sorely grieved. 'Lo, how many unknown generations', he thinks, 'are enclosed under the earth, and I also shall pass away as one of them. Accursed be riches and comfort!' While deliberating thus, great dismay overshadows his heart and his mind is filled with anguish. And from the oppression of his anguish his tears will fall in great sorrow. Then he will despise the world, mourn over his life, and bewail his soul with diverse and bitter lamentations. With sighs he will say to himself, 'Where will you be, my wretched soul, and where will you be found after my death?' And perhaps even this reflection will arise in him: 'Would that I had not entered this creation and come forth from my mother's womb!' (Cf. Job 3:10-11).

In such lamentation he will shed sweet tears from the sighing of his heart and soak his garments with his weeping. Thereupon this world will be like a prison in his eyes and its former sweetness will be the bitterest of all things. The love of its life and its desirable beauty will be to him like a figure of Sheol.

Then his mind will turn to Scripture, which will instill in him faith in the resurrection and the end of all things in this world, and in the promises set down in Scripture for those who have lived well in this world, and he considers the Divine judgments which menace transgressors of the Law and those who have been pleased to walk on the broad way of sin during their short lifetimes. Then straightway, like a man who has encountered the light, he casts off the oppression of his sorrow and great joy stirs within him, as in a man who has found true and excellent hope. These things and their like a man's nature is unable to make manifest from its own activity, but by faith alone they are understood from the indications of Scripture. For a man cannot gain instruction concerning himself wholly from his nature and the discerning intuitions that arise in him. But we can learn about the future and past acts of God's providence only from the Scriptures, or from the revelation of the Spirit. Therefore the eye of a man's mind will be enlightened by means of the rays of faith and the Scriptures, and nature's faculty of discernment will shine, and he will be awakened to care for his soul. Thereafter he will devise means to set his life free from the world, so that, before departing from the body, he might prepare provisions that will avail him yonder.

Question: How can a man depart completely from this world?

Answer: By the yearning inspired from recollection of the good things to come, which the divine Scriptures sow in his heart with the sweetness of their sayings filled with


hope. For unless a man counters the things that are considered to be glorious and delectable—wherein he is held fast—with the desire for better things, he will be unable to despise his former love.

Question: Lo, nature is feeble and cannot renounce suddenly its former habits and embrace a life of afflictions!

Answer: Unless a man with much wisdom compares in his mind the greatness of the life to come with the brevity of the sorrow of this short life, he will not be able to take such courage as to dare to endure afflictions, so that he might set out on his journey on the path to the new world. I entreat you, reckon up in your mind the number of the years of this place wherein we dwell, then elevate yourself as much as possible, and compare this number with the days of the world to come, and see whether the number of what you give will amount to the number of what you will receive in return. And consider whether you will make an equal exchange in what you will give up with what you will receive in return. Therefore the wise man, being astonished at the greatness of that world and the infinite life there, as compared with the brevity of this life here, will say, 'The number of a man's days, if he lives long, are a hundred years (Cf. Psalms 89:10), and this is like filling a bucket from the sea or taking up a grain of sand. But a thousand years in this world are not even like unto one day in the world of the righteous' (Cf. Psalms 83:11), (This passage has been translated from Bedjan's Syriac printed text. It is not found in the Sinai Syriac MS or the Greek).

Question: What should we do with our body when pain and heaviness encompass it, for together with the body the will is enfeebled in its aspiration for the good and loses its first strength?

Answer: It is often the case with some, that one-half of their soul goes out in pursuit of the Lord and one-half remains in the world, and so their heart is not severed from things here, but they are divided within themselves, and sometimes they look ahead, sometimes backward. I am of the opinion that the sage exhorted such divided men as these, who draw near to the way of God, with the words: 'Come not unto the Lord with double hearts' (Ecclesiasticus 1:28) but come unto His way as one who sows and as one who reaps. And our Lord also, seeing that among those who wish to make a total renunciation there are some whose wills are prepared to do so (This is the Syriac reading) but whose thoughts turn back by reason of the fear of tribulations and because they have not yet cast away the love of the flesh from themselves, uttered this definitive word to them, wishing to disperse the sluggishness of their minds: 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself' (Matthew 16:24), and so on.

Question: But what is it to deny oneself?


Answer: [[It is denial of the flesh.]] Just as a man who is prepared to be crucified has only the thought of death in his mind, and he goes forth not supposing anymore to possess a share of the life of this present age, even so is the man who wishes to fulfill the Lord's word. [[And this is the meaning of 'take up his cross and follow Me' (Matthew 16:24).]] For the cross is a volition that is ready for every affliction. And when He wished to teach us why this is so, He said, 'He that wishes to live in this world, shall cause himself to perish from the true life; and he that makes himself to perish here, shall find himself there' (Cf. Matthew 10:39; 16:25). That is to say, the man who walks on the path of the cross and who has set his footsteps therein, but who once more takes concern for this life, has caused himself to perish from the hope for the sake of which he went forth to suffer tribulation. Not only does this concern prevent him from drawing near to affliction for God's sake, but by his involvement with it, it gradually draws him away and carries him out of the midst of the struggle for the life of blessedness; and this thought grows stronger in him until it conquers him. But he who consents in his mind to lose himself for the sake of finding Christ's love (Greek; he who in his mind loses his life (or soul), for My sake because of My love) will be without reproach and preserved unharmed for life everlasting. And this is the meaning of, 'He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it'

(Matthew 10:39. The word for life is, soul). 'Therefore by yourself prepare your soul from now for complete dissolution from this life. And if loss of this life should overtake you while you are found in such a state of mind (Greek; if you cause yourself to perish from this life, He will say to you in this sense (or mind)), I will give unto you eternal life, even as I have promised you (Cf. John 10:28). If you remain in this life, I will show you here My promise in very deed and the confirmation of the future blessings.' You will find eternal life when you have despised this life. When you enter into the struggle with this preparation, then all things that are thought to be painful and grievous will be as naught in your eyes. For when the mind has been thus prepared, it has no struggle or affliction in the moment of the peril of death. For this reason we must know with all exactness that if a man does not hate his life in this world because of his desire for the blessed life to come, he will in no wise be able to bear the manifold tribulations and pains which come upon him at every hour.

Question: By what means can a man cut off his former habits and accustom himself to the life of poverty and asceticism?

Answer: The body cannot be persuaded to live in privation so long as it is surrounded by the causes of pleasure and slackness. And the mind cannot restrain it from these until it estranges the body from everything that produces slackness. For when the body beholds the sight of luxury and worldly things and nearly every hour sees the causes


of laxity, a burning desire for them is enkindled in it. Therefore the Lord Redeemer very rightly commanded whomever would follow Him to strip himself and leave the world; for a man ought first to cast off from himself the causes of slackness, and then approach the work. When the Lord Himself began to wage war with the devil, He fought him in the arid desert ( Vide Matthew 4:1). Paul also exhorts those who take up the cross of Christ to go forth from the city, saying: 'Let us go forth unto Him without the city and take up His

reproach, for He suffered without the city' (Hebrews 13:12). For by setting himself apart from the world and what pertains to it, a man speedily forgets his former habits and his mode of life and he will not struggle long with these. But if he should draw near to the world and its possessions, he will speedily enfeeble the strength of his mind. Wherefore one must know that separation from the world greatly aids a man and guides him on the way of progress in the fierce and saving struggle. It is proper, then, and helpful in this struggle if a monk's cell be in a poor and mean condition, and if his cell be empty and devoid of everything that could incite in him the desire of ease. For when the causes of slackness are distant from a man, 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 man 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.

When the circumstance of a man is such that he is even in want of a dwelling and his needs are mean and contemptible, then not even when he obtains his need will he look upon it with desire. He will be able to persuade his body to be content with little, and even this he will easily despise; and he does not approach food on account of its delectability, but in order to aid and fortify his nature. Such external causes swiftly make a man engage in asceticism with a mind that is untouched by every affliction and sorrow.

Therefore it is meet for the zealous monk to flee with a nimble foot everything that causes him warfare, and not to associate with that which fights against him, but to restrain himself from the mere sight of it and to make himself distant from its proximity in so far as he is able. I do not say this with respect to the belly alone, but of anything which by its trial and warfare tempts and tries a monk's freedom. For when a man comes unto God, he makes a covenant with God to separate himself from these things. And these are the things I mean: not to look upon the face of a woman ((or for a woman—not to look upon the face of a man; that is, Saint Isaac is presumably referring in this context to someone of the opposite gender)); not to look upon magnificent persons; to have no desire of anything nor to luxuriate; not to look upon elegant clothing (Syriac; not to look upon magnificent things or magnificent persons and their luxury, nor upon elegant persons and their clothing); not to behold the society of men of the world, nor to hear their words, nor to inquire concerning them. For the passions are greatly strengthened by the proximity of any of these things


which make an ascetic grow slack and alter his understanding and his purpose if it is true that the sight of what is good and beautiful spurs on the volition of the man who is truly zealous to undertake labor on its account, it is evident that what is opposed to the good has also the power to take a man's mind captive. And if nothing more befalls the mind that practices stillness than that it gives itself over to the struggle of warfare, even this is a great injury; for the man who voluntarily casts himself from a peaceful state into turbulence suffers a great loss.

If one of the elders among the ascetics and strugglers reckoned it injurious to his thought and harmful to his struggle to see a beardless youth having the resemblance of a woman, who can afford to be heedless in other matters? For once this saint refused to enter a monastery and greet the brethren, because the wise elder reasoned in this manner:

'If during this night I merely reflect that there is such a person in this place, it will be a great harm to me.' Therefore he did not go in and he said to the brethren, 'I do not fear, my children, but why should I bring warfare upon myself for no reason?' (Abba

Abraham. See Budge, The sayings of the Holy Fathers, 1:569). The memory of things such as these produces unprofitable turmoil in the mind (Syriac; that is, why should I exchange the limpid purity of my ascetic labor for the recollection of such things as these). In all things that pertain to the body a man has warfare, and against it he must guard himself. By keeping distant from them he lessens his warfare against them. But whenever they are near at hand, then although he constrains himself to pursue the good, he is endangered by constantly seeing and desiring them (There are different readings in the Greek and Syriac MSS for the last three sentences).

We know that in the summer there are many medicinal herbs which lie concealed in the ground because of the heat and no one can see them; but when they are moistened by rain and they smell the potency of the air's coolness, each species reveals where it was hidden in the earth. So also a man is truly at rest from many passions when he is in the grace of stillness and in the heat of abstinence; if, however, he encounters the things of this world, he sees how each passion awakens and lifts up its head, especially if they smell the scent of repose. I have said this so that no one should grow confident so long as he lives in this body, nay, until he dies, and in order to show that flight and making oneself distant from the causes of evil are a great and excellent help in the ascetic struggle. We must always fear whatever produces shame in us by its recollection, and we must never trample upon and scorn our conscience. Let us therefore put our body to the test in a desolate place bereft of the causes [of warfare] and make it acquire patient endurance. But that which is greater than all is for a man, wherever he should be, to strive to be far re-


moved from the cause of warfare. For although a man might suffer affliction [[in his mind]], yet he will have no fear of suffering a fall due to his proximity [to things] when, being confronted by a need, he is defeated by his thoughts.

Question: When a man has cast off from himself every hindrance and has entered into the struggle, what is the beginning of his war against sin and where does he start his fight?

Answer: This much is known to everyone, that the labor of vigil and fasting is the beginning of every struggle against sin and lust, and especially for the man who contends against the sin that lies within us. In those who wage this invisible war the sign of hatred of sin and of its desire is to be seen in the fact that they begin to fast, and afterward night-vigil works with fasting to establish their asceticism.

On Fasting and Vigil.

The man who during his whole life loves the conversation of this yoke-mate fasting is a friend of chastity. Just as the satisfaction of the belly is the source of all evils, and as the slackness of sleep kindles the lust of fornication, so fasting, vigil, and wakefulness in God's service by withstanding the sweetness of sleep through crucifying the body throughout the day and night, are God's holy pathway and the foundation of every virtue. Fasting is the champion of every virtue, the beginning of the struggle, the crown of the abstinent, the beauty of virginity and sanctity, the resplendence of chastity, the commencement of the path of Christianity, the mother of prayer, the well-spring of

sobriety and prudence, the teacher of stillness, and the precursor of all good works. Just as the enjoyment of light is coupled with healthy eyes, so desire for prayer accompanies fasting that is practiced with discernment.

When a man begins to fast, he straightway yearns in his mind to enter into converse with God. For the body that fasts cannot endure to sleep upon its pallet all the night through. [[Fasting naturally incites wakefulness unto God, not only during the day, but also at night. For the empty body of a faster is not greatly wearied by the battle against sleep. And even if his senses are weakened, his mind is wakeful unto God in prayer. It is better for a man to desist from his liturgy because of weakness due to fasting, than because of sloth due to eating.]] (This passage has been translated from the Syriac printed text). When the seal of fasting is set upon a man's lips, his thought reflects with compunction, his heart pours forth prayer, gloom lies upon his countenance, shameful thoughts are far removed from him, cheer cannot be detected in his eyes, and


he is an enemy of lusts and vain conversations. No one has ever seen a discerning faster enslaved by evil desires. Fasting with discernment is a spacious mansion for every good thing (Syriac; the best things or the virtues); but he who neglects fasting makes every good totter. For fasting was the commandment that was given to our nature in the beginning to protect it with respect to the tasting of food, and in this point the progenitor of our substance fell. There, however, where the first defeat was suffered, the ascetic strugglers make their beginning in the fear of God as they start to keep His laws.

And the Saviour also, when He manifested Himself to the world in the Jordan, began at this point. For after His baptism the Spirit led Him into the wilderness and He fasted for forty days and forty nights ( Vide Matthew 4:1-2). Likewise all who set out to follow in His footsteps make the beginning of their struggle upon this foundation. For this is a weapon forged by God, and who shall escape blame if he neglects it? And if the Lawgiver Himself fasts, who among those who keep the law has no need of fasting? This is why the human race knew no victory before fasting, and the devil had never experienced defeat from our nature; but this weapon has made him powerless from the outset. Our Lord was the first born Leader of victory, so as to set the first crown of victory upon the head of our nature. When the devil, that foe and tyrant, sees a man bearing this weapon, he is straightway frightened and he recollects and considers that defeat which he suffered in the wilderness at the hands of the Saviour; at once his strength is shattered and the very sight of this weapon, given us by our Commander-in-chief, burns him. What weapon is more powerful and gives more boldness to the heart in the time of battle against the spirits of wickedness, than hunger endured for Christ's sake?

For the more the body toils and endures hardship when the phalanx of the demons encompasses a man the more his heart is given succor by [the power of] confidence. He who has armed himself with the weapon of fasting is afire with zeal at all times. Elias the zealot also pursued the work of fasting when he was zealous for God's law. Furthermore, fasting reminds the faster of the commandments of the Spirit and it is an intermediary between the old Law and the grace given us by Christ. He who is negligent with respect to fasting is slothful, heedless, and feeble in the other ascetical struggles as well and he manifests an inception and an evil token of slackness in his soul, thus giving his antagonist an opportunity for defeating him. It is evident that he who enters naked and unarmed into the struggle will retreat from it without gaining the victory; for his limbs were not shielded with the warmth of fasting's hunger. Such is the nature of fasting, that

whoever perseveres in it will possess an unshakable mind, one ready to encounter and repel all the troublesome passions.

It is said concerning many of the martyrs, that when they foreknew, either by reve-


lation or by information received from one of their friends, the day on which they were to receive the crown of martyrdom, they did not taste anything the preceding night, but from evening till morning they stood keeping vigil in prayer, glorifying God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual odes, and they looked forward to that hour with joy and exultation, waiting to meet the sword in their fast as ones prepared for the nuptials. Therefore let us also be vigilant (Syriac; let us also be in such a state of preparedness), we who are called to an unseen martyrdom so as to receive the crowns of sanctification, so that we may never give our enemies a sign of denial with any member or part of our body.

Question: How is it that many who, perhaps, practice these works, do not sense tranquility from passions and peace from thoughts?

Answer: Bodily labors alone, my brother, do not quell the passions which are hidden in the soul, nor do they prevent thoughts from being continually awakened by the senses. For these labors protect a man from lusts, lest he be vanquished by them, and from the delusion of the demons (Syriac, and from the demons, lest he be somehow injured. The Greek translators read deluded for injured, the two words in Syriac being very similar in spelling, and their reading might indeed be the correct one), but they do not give the soul peace and tranquility. Works and labors give the soul dispassion, deaden the members which are upon the earth (Cf. Colossians 3:5), and grant rest from thoughts only when we partake of stillness, and the outer senses cease to be disquieted and continue for a long time in the service of wisdom. For until a man should be freed from encounters with men, and his members be liberated from the dispersion of thoughts, and he gather himself into himself, he will never be able to recognize his passion. Stillness, as Saint Basil says, is the beginning of the soul's purification (Letter 2, To Gregory). For when the outward members cease from their outward activity and from the distraction caused thereby, then the mind turns away from distractions and wandering thoughts that are outside its realm and abides quietly within itself, and the heart awakens for the searching out of deliberations that are within the soul. If a man perseveres well in this, he will begin gradually to make his way into pureness of soul.

Question: Is it really impossible for the soul to be purified while engaged with affairs outside the doors [of the cell]?

Answer: Will a tree that is watered daily ever dry up from the roots? Will the contents of a vessel that is filled daily ever diminish? And if purity is nothing else save forgetting an unfree mode of life and departing from its habits, how and when will the man purify his soul who, actively of himself or through others, renews in himself the memory of his former habits (which is the knowledge of vice) by means of the senses?

When can


he cleanse his soul from this? Or when will he have rest from the battles that assail him from without, so as to be able to see what lies within [[and establish peace]]? If the heart is defiled every day, when will it be cleansed from defilement? But if he cannot even withstand the action [upon him] of outward things, how much less will he be able to purify his heart, seeing that he stands in the midst of the camp and every day hears urgent tidings of war? And how could he dare proclaim peace to his soul? If, however, he should withdraw from this, little by little he will be able to make the first inner turmoils cease.

For until the upper portion of a river is dammed, its lower waters will not dry up. Only when a man enters stillness can his soul distinguish the passions and prudently search out her own wisdom. Then the inner man also awakens for spiritual work and day by day he perceives the hidden wisdom which blossoms forth in his soul.

Question: What are the exact tokens and accurate signs that the fruit which is hidden in the soul has begun to appear from a man's labor?, (Greek; appear as a man).

Answer: When a man is deemed worthy to receive the gift of abundant tears which come over him without effort. For tears are established for the mind as a kind of boundary between what is bodily and what is spiritual and between passionateness and purity. Until a man receives this gift, the activity of his work is still in the outer man and he has not yet at all perceived the activity of the hidden things of the spiritual man. But when a man begins to relinquish the corporeal things of the present age and crosses this boundary to that which lies inside of visible nature, then straightway he will attain to the grace of tears. And from the first hospice of this hidden discipline tears begin to flow and they lead a man to perfection in the love of God. The more he progresses in this discipline, the more he is enriched with love, until by reason of his constant converse with tears he imbibes them with his food and drink.

This, therefore, is the exact sign that the mind has left this world and perceived that spiritual world. But the more a man draws near in his mind to the present world, the more tears subside. And when his mind is totally enmeshed in the world, a man is totally deprived of these tears. This is a sign that a man is completely buried in the passions.

On the Difference in Tears.

There are tears that burn and there are tears that anoint as if with oil. All tears that flow out of contrition and anguish of heart (Greek; and a holy heart. Perhaps the original reading was, unholy, which transliterates, but does not translate, the Syriac word) on account of sins dry up and burn the


body, and often even the governing faculty feels the injury caused by their outflow. At first a man must necessarily come to this order of tears and through them a door is opened unto him to enter into the second order, which is superior to the first; this is the realm wherein a man receives mercy (The Syriac printed text reads here, this is the sign that a man has received mercy. In Syriac the words realm (place) and sign, are similar in appearance). These are the tears that are shed because of insight; they make the body comely and anoint it as if with oil, but they also alter a man's countenance. 'When the heart rejoiceth', he says, 'the countenance gloweth, but when it is in sorrows the countenance is downcast' (Proverbs 15:13). [[While the thinking is silent these tears are

poured forth over the entire countenance. The body receives from them a sort of nourishment, and gladness is imprinted upon the face. He who has had experience of these two alterations will understand]] (This passage is added from the Syriac printed text).

Question: What is the resurrection of the soul, of which the Apostle speaks, saying, 'If ye be risen with Christ'?, (Colossians 3:1).

Answer: When the Apostle said, 'God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts' (2 Corinthians 4:6) the resurrection, he showed this resurrection to be the exodus from the old state [[which in the likeness of Sheol incarcerates a man so that the light of the Gospel will not shine mystically upon him. This is a breath of life through hope in the resurrection, and by it the dawning of divine wisdom shines in his heart]], so that a man should become new, having nothing of the old man. This the prophet also says, 'And I shall give them a new heart and a new spirit'

(Ezekiel 36:26). Then the image of Christ is formed in us through the Spirit of wisdom and the revelation of the knowledge of Him.

Question: What, in brief, is the power of the work of stillness?

Answer: Stillness mortifies the outward senses and resurrects the inward movements, whereas an outward manner of life does the opposite, that is, it resurrects the outward senses and deadens the inward movements.

Question: What is the cause of visions and revelations? For some men see them, but in others who labor more than the former, vision is not so active.

Answer: There are many causes of visions and revelations. Some have the Divine oeconomy and the common profit of all as their cause; others come to pass for the comfort, encouragement, and instruction of the weak. But chiefly, all visions and revelations are providentially bestowed through God's mercy for men, and for the most part they are granted to men of three classes: to the very simple and surpassingly guileless; to certain


perfect and holy men; and to those who have flaming zeal for God, who have despaired of the world and completely renounced it, who have withdrawn from the habitations of men and gone out naked in pursuit of God, expecting no help from anything visible, and at a time when fear has overcome them because of their solitary existence, or when peril of death from starvation or illness or some dire circumstance and tribulation encompasses them, such that they come near to losing hope. Now the first cause that such consolations are granted to some men of this sort, but are not granted to others who surpass them in labors, is purity or non-purity, of the conscience I mean. The second cause is precisely this: insomuch as a man enjoys consolation from men or from anything visible, the consolation of visions and revelations is not granted to him, save for the sake of God's universal providence. Our discourse is, however, concerning anchorites. A witness of what has been said is one of the fathers who made entreaty concerning this matter and heard, 'The consolation and the converse of men suffice you.'

And another witness to this is he who led a solitary life in reclusion, who, when he lived in withdrawal from men, enjoyed at every hour consolation bestowed by divine grace; when, however, he drew near to the world, he sought for this consolation as was his custom and did not find it. He therefore entreated God to reveal the cause of this, saying, 'Is it not, O Lord, because of the episcopacy that grace has departed from me?'

And he was told, 'No, but because God makes special providence for those who live in the desert and vouchsafes them these consolations' (Abba Apos (or Aphi). See Budge, The Sayings of the Holy Fathers, 1:24. In the Syriac the answer given to Abba Apos is, No, but yonder was the desert and God provided for you). For it is impossible that any man should both enjoy consolation from visible things and receive this consolation of grace, unless it be on account of a hidden Divine oeconomy (one of those mentioned above) understood only by Him Who dispenses such things.

Question: Are vision and revelation the same, or different?

Answer: No, they are different. Revelation is often said with respect to the two, because what is hidden is revealed [[and something once hidden now becomes manifest by some means]]. Not every revelation is a vision, but every vision is called a revelation

[[because what is hidden is revealed. Still, not all becomes revealed and known through a vision]]. Revelation is received for the most part concerning things that are known, tasted, and perceived by the intellect. But vision comes to pass in many ways, as it were in a likeness and in types, even as it was given in olden times to the ancients, whether in deep sleep or waking. Sometimes it was precise, sometimes as though in an apparition and somehow obscurely. For often the very man who beholds the vision does not know whether he is awake or asleep. [[And even after he comes to himself, he does not know whether the thing had truly taken place or it occurred as though in a dream.]] It also happens that a voice of


succor is heard, at times a certain form is seen, at times a more distinct vision, that is, face to face, and sight, and speech, and questions and the ensuing intercourse. And holy powers are also beheld by the worthy and bring revelations to pass. These things occur in desert wildernesses and places far removed from men, where a man is by necessity in great need of them because he has no help or comfort from any quarter. But the revelations that are perceived by the intellect through its purity are received by perfect men alone who are replete with knowledge.

Question: What is the sign that a man has attained to purity of heart, and when does a man know that his heart has entered into purity?

Answer: When he sees all men as good and none appears to him to be unclean and defiled, then in very truth his heart is pure. For how could anyone fulfill the word of the Apostle, that 'A man should esteem all better than himself' (Cf. Philippians 2:3) with a sincere heart, if he does not attain to the saying, 'A good eye will not see evil'?, (Cf.

Habakkuk 1:13).

Question: What is purity and where is its boundary?

Answer: Purity is the forgetting of the contranatural modes of knowledge which in the world are invented by [human] nature. And its boundary is when a man is liberated from, and found outside of, these modes of knowledge and he enters into the primordial simplicity and guilelessness of his nature and he becomes like an infant without, however, the deficiencies of an infant.

Question: Is it possible for a man to enter this order?

Answer: Yes. For behold, some have reached this measure, as Abba Sisoes, who used to ask his disciple whether he had eaten bread or not. And another one of the Fathers entered such a nearly infantile simplicity and innocency, that having so completely forgotten the things of this age, he would have eaten before receiving Holy Communion, had not his disciple hindered him; and his disciple led him like a babe to receive Communion [[so limpidly pure and simple was that blessed man]]. To this world he was an infant, but his soul was perfect before God.

Question: What meditation and occupation should the ascetic have while he abides in stillness in his secluded cell, so that his intellect should not be engaged with vain thoughts?

Answer: You ask with respect to meditation and occupation, how a man can become dead in his cell? In truth, what need has a zealous man, who soberly attends to his soul, to ask how to pass his time when he is by himself? What meditation can a monk have in his cell save weeping? Could he have any time free from weeping so as to turn his gaze to another thought? And what occupation is better than this? A monk's very cell


and his solitude, which have a likeness to life in a tomb, far from human joys, teach him that his work is to mourn. And the very calling of his name urges and spurs him on to this, because he is called 'the mournful one' (The Syriac, abila, means this), that is, bitter in heart. All the saints have left this life in mourning. If, therefore all the saints mourned and their eyes were ever filled with tears till they departed from this life, who would have no need of weeping? He whose loved one lies dead before him and who sees himself dead in sins, has he need of instruction concerning the thought he should employ for tears? Your soul, slain by sins, lies before you, your soul which is of greater value to you than all the world. Could there be no need for you to weep over her? If, therefore, we enter stillness and patiently persevere therein, we shall certainly be able to be constant in weeping. So let us entreat the Lord with an unrelenting mind to grant us mourning. For if we are granted this free grace, which is more excellent and surpasses every other gift, then with its help we shall enter into purity. And once we have come into purity, it will not be taken from us until our departure from this life.

Blessed, therefore, are the pure in heart, for there is no time when they do not enjoy the sweetness of tears, and in this sweetness they see the Lord at all times. While tears are still wet in their eyes, they are deemed worthy of beholding His revelations at the height of their prayer; and they make no prayer without tears. This is the meaning of the Lord's saying, 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted' (Matthew 5:4). For a man comes from mourning into purity of soul. But when the Lord said that they will be comforted, He did not explain what sort of comfort. When by means of tears

a monk is deemed worthy of traversing the land of the passions and of reaching the plains of purity of soul, then he encounters there consolation which does not pass away from those who have found it, and he comes upon consolation which is not to be discovered in this world. Then he understands what consolation is received (Syriac; that this is the consolation received) through purity at the completion of mourning, when God wills to give it to those who weep. For it is not possible that a man who continually mourns and weeps should be disquieted by the passions, since the gift of weeping and mourning belongs to the dispassionate. And if the tears of a man who for a long time weeps and mourns can not only lead him to dispassion, but even completely cleanse and free his mind of the memory of the passions, what can we say of those who night and day devote themselves to this activity? No one, therefore, accurately knows the help that comes of weeping, save those only who have surrendered their souls to this work. All the saints strive to reach this entrance-way, because by means of tears the door is opened


before them to enter the land of consolation, wherein the good and saving footsteps of God (The words, good and saving, are lacking in the earliest Greek MSS. The Syriac printed text reads, the footsteps of the love of God) are imprinted through revelations.

Question: Because some are unable to mourn unceasingly by reason of the feebleness of their body, what should they do to safeguard their mind, lest when it is idle, the passions should rise up against it?

Answer: When an ascetic's heart is cut off from the affairs of life by his solitary dwelling, far distant from every distraction (The Syriac reads here, by his solitary dwelling in the complete silence of the desert, withdrawn from noises and cries of turbulent creation) the passions cannot rise up against his soul and trouble him, unless he should grow slothful and neglect his duties. And he will certainly remain unvexed by the passions if he passes his time in the study of the divine Scriptures, seeking out their meanings. For vain thoughts hastily flee from him because of the understanding of the divine Scriptures which grows and abides in him, and his mind is not able to separate itself from its yearning and recollection of the Scriptures, nor will it be able to give any attention whatever to this life by reason of the great sweetness of its rumination, whereby it is exalted in the ascetic's profound stillness in the desert. Wherefore he even forgets himself and his nature, he becomes like a man in ecstasy, who has no recollection at all of this age. With special diligence he ponders and reflects upon what pertains to God's majesty and he says, 'Glory be to His Divinity!' And again, 'Glory be to His wondrous acts! Strange and marvelous are all His works! To what heights has He exalted my worthlessness, on what things has He deemed me worthy to meditate, what thoughts to dare to entertain, wherein my soul may take delight!' And so the ascetic, being engrossed in these marvels and continually struck with wonder, is always drunken and he lives as it were in the life after the resurrection. This grace is very greatly aided by stillness, because the solitary's intellect finds therein a place to remain with itself in the peace which stillness endows. Furthermore, his intellect is moved to the recollection of that which accords with his manner of life. For, setting before his intellect the glory of the age to come, the hope laid up for the righteous in that spiritual life originating in God, and that new restoration, he neither reflects upon nor remembers what pertains to this world.

And when he becomes intoxicated with these things, he is once again translated from

thence hither by his divine vision concerning this age in which he still abides and he says, stricken with astonishment: 'O the depth of the riches of the wisdom, knowledge, insight, prudence, and oeconomy of the inscrutable God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!' (Cf. Romans 11:33). For when He made ready that other wondrous age, so as to bring therein all rational creatures and to keep them in that infinite life, what indeed


was the cause for Him to fashion this world first, to extend its borders, to enrich it with such a multiplicity and abundance of species and natures, and to place in it the causes, materials, and conflicts of the many passions? And how was it that in the beginning He set us in this world and instilled in us a love for longevity here, and then He suddenly translates us from hence by death and keeps us for no small time in insensibility and motionlessness? How is it that He thus causes our form to perish, pours out our constitution and mingles it with the earth, permits our structure to dissolve, perish, and melt away, until the human frame completely ceases to be? And then at a time which He wills and has decreed by His adorable wisdom, He will raise us up in another form, which He Himself knows, and will bring us into another state. And we men are not alone in our hope for these things, but the holy angels, who have no need of this world by reason of their wondrous nature and who are but a little short of perfection, also await our resurrection from corruption, when our race will rise out of the dust and its corruptible nature will be made anew. For it is because of us that they are prevented from entering, and they await that opening of the door of the new age which will occur once only. 'This creation,' that is to say, the angels, 'groaneth' (Romans 8:22. The Greek has, will find rest with us. In Syriac, groan, and find rest, are almost identical in appearance) with us from the oppressiveness of the body which it sees weighing uponus, and the Apostle says:

'This creation waiteth for the manifestation of the children of God (Cf. Romans 8:19, 21), after the total dissolution of this age from its entire constitution and the restitution of our nature to its primordial state.

And then from this he is raised up noetically to that which was before the foundation of the world, when there was no created thing, neither heaven, nor earth, neither angels, nor anything which has now come into being. He considers how the Lord brought all things suddenly from non-being into being simply by being well-pleased to do so, and how everything as it is brought to perfection stands before Him. Then once more he descends in mind to all God's creations and he carefully surveys the wonders of His creatures and the wisdom of His works and he says to himself in awestruck astonishment:

'O the wonder, how greatly His oeconomy and His providence transcend every conception, how wonderful and mighty is the power of His creative works! How did He bring creation, that innumerable multitude of diverse creatures, out of non-being into being? And how will He again cause creation to perish from its wondrous harmony, the beauty of natures and the well-ordered course of its creatures; times and seasons, the union of night and day, the beneficial changes of the year, the many-hued flowers of the earth, the beautiful buildings of the cities, their magnificent palaces, the swift course of men and their nature which


endures hardship from its beginning in life till its departure? How will He suddenly abolish this wondrous order and establish another age, wherein the memory of the former

creation will never again enter into the heart of any man, but a change of another sort will come to pass, and other deliberations, other concerns?' Then human nature will in no wise remember the world or the way of life which was therein. For the mind of man (Syriac; the gaze of man's mind) will be held in bondage by the vision of that state and it will never again have time to turn back [[in recollection]] to the conflict with flesh and blood. At the destruction of that former age, the future age will commence straightway.

Then each man will say: 'O mother, forgotten of thy children, whom thou didst bear and nurture and make wise, who in the twinkling of an eye were gathered into a stranger's bosom and became genuine sons of her who was barren and never gave birth! "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not," (Isaiah 54:1), yea, in the children which the earth hath borne unto thee!'

Then as one in ecstasy he muses and says: 'How long will this age continue?

When will the future age commence? How long will these tabernacles (i.e. our bodies) sleep in this state and our bodies be mingled with earth? How will that mode of life come to be? In what form will this nature be resurrected and framed? In what manner will it undergo a second creation?' And musing upon such things and their like, ecstasy, awestruck wonder, and a still silence overcome him (This is the Greek printed text. Sinai Syriac and many Greek MSS read; simply stillness overcomes him. Syriac; and stillness overcomes him and his perception of his corporeality is stolen away, and for a long time he abides in silence, wondering at God's incomprehensible deeds), whereupon he stands up, then bends his knees, and with many tears offers up thanksgiving and glorification to the God Who alone is wise, Who is ever glorified in His works which are surpassingly wise.

Blessed, therefore, is the man who has been deemed worthy of such things!

Blessed is the man whose meditation this is both day and night! Blessed is the man who dwells upon these things and their like all the days of his life! [[To be thus minded is useful for every man, but especially so for the hesychast, and it is fitting that he be continually reflecting upon these recollections at all times. A man must lay hold of these indications with his thoughts and, having finished prayer, he should ruminate and meditate upon them. When he is engaged in these occupations and this reflection, there will be no place in his mind for a foreign memory that could remove him from his continuous memory of God.]], (This passage is translated from the Syriac printed text).

But if in the beginning of his life of stillness a man does not experience the power of such divine visions because of his mind's distraction, and he cannot yet raise himself up toward the power of the aforesaid wonders of God, let him not become despondent and abandon the serenity of his quiet life. For when the husbandman is sowing the earth he


does not immediately see the ear as he sows the seed; for despondency, hardship, painful limbs, cutting off of friendships, and separation from acquaintances accompany the work of sowing. But after a man has endured these things, another season comes wherein the husbandman is filled with gladness, leaps, exults, and rejoices. And when is this? When he eats the bread furnished by his own sweat and his rumination is held fast in stillness.

For stillness and the aforesaid patient meditation enjoyed therein kindle great and endless sweetness in the heart and swiftly draw the intellect to unspeakable astonishment.

Blessed is the man who perseveres in stillness, for before him is opened access to this divinely-flowing spring; he has drunk from it and been sweetened, and without cease he will drink therefrom, always and at every hour of the night and day, until the completion

and the end of this, his temporal life.

Question: What embraces all the labors of this work, that is to say, stillness, so that when a man has attained it, he can know that he has reached perfection in his manner of life?

Answer: When a man is deemed worthy of constant prayer. For when he reaches this, he has reached the pinnacle of all the virtues and has become a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. For unless a man has received in all certainty the grace of the Comforter, he will be unable to perform constant and unceasing prayer restfully. When the Spirit dwells in a man, as the Apostle says, he never ceases to pray, since the Spirit Himself always prays [within him] ( Vide Romans 8:26). Then, whether he sleeps or wakes, prayer is never separated from his soul. If he eats, or drinks, or lies down, or does something, or even in deep slumber, the sweet fragrances and perfumes of prayer effortlessly exhale in his heart. He does not possess prayer in a limited way, but even though it should be outwardly still, at every moment it ministers within him secretly. For the silence of the limpidly pure is called prayer by one of the Christ-bearers, because their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of a pure heart and mind are meek and gentle cries, whereby the pure chant in a hidden manner to the Hidden God.

Question: What is spiritual prayer, and how is a man who struggles deemed worthy of it?

Answer: Spiritual prayer is the motions of the soul which partake of the energy of the Holy Spirit through exacting chastity and purity. One man in ten thousand is accounted worthy of spiritual prayer. It is the mystery of the future state and life, for herein a man is raised on high and his nature remains inoperative and unmoved by any motion or memory of things present. The soul does not pray a prayer, but in awareness she perceives the spiritual things of that other age which transcend human conception;


and the understanding of these is by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is noetic divine vision, not the movement and entreaty of prayer, although it has its starting-point in prayer. For this reason some have already reached the perfection of purity, and there is no time when their inward motions are not confined in prayer, even as we said above. And when the Holy Spirit overshadows them, He always finds them in prayer. He brings them forth from prayer into theoria, which means 'vision of the spirit'. They have no need of the form of prolonged prayer, nor of the standing and definite order of much liturgy, for it is sufficient for them to remember God and straightway they are taken captive by the love of Him. So as to render honor to prayer, however, they do not neglect standing at prayer; and in addition to their unceasing prayer, they stand on their feet at the prescribed times.

We see that when Saint Anthony was standing at the prayer of the ninth hour, he perceived that his intellect was taken up. And when another Father stretched out his hands while standing at prayer, he entered an ecstasy for the period of four days. And likewise many others through prayer were taken captive by their strong recollection of God and their love for Him, and thus came to ecstasy. A man is accounted worthy of this when he strips himself of inward and outward sin by the keeping of the Lord's commandments, which oppose sin. And if a man practices these commandments in their

order, of necessity he will slip away from the manifold affairs of men; that is, he will, so to speak, disrobe himself of the body and be outside of it: not its nature, but its function.

There is no man in whom sin continues to dwell who walks in the pathways of the Lawgiver and practices His commandments. For this reason our Lord promised in the Gospels that He will make His abode with him who keeps His commandments ( Vide John 14:23).

Question: What is the perfection of all the fruits of the Spirit?

Answer: When a man is deemed worthy of the perfect love of God.

Question: And whence does a man know that he has attained this?

Answer: When the recollection of God is stirred in his mind, straightway his heart is kindled by the love of Him and his eyes pour forth abundant tears. For love is wont to ignite tears by the recollection of beloved ones. A man who is in this state will never be found destitute of tears, because that which brings him to the recollection of God is never absent from him; wherefore even in sleep he converses with God. For love is wont to cause such things. This is perfection for men in their life here.

Question: If, after a man has greatly toiled, labored, and struggled, the thought of pride shamelessly assails him—taking occasion from the beauty of his virtues—and reckons


up the magnitude of his toil, by what means should he restrain his thoughts and achieve such security in his soul that he cannot be persuaded by it?

Answer: When a man comes to know that he can fall away from God as a dry leaf falls from a tree, then he knows the power of his soul. When the Lord withdraws His help from a man and permits him to enter alone into battle with the devil, and He does not go with him as He is wont to go with those who struggle in the contest and to assist them, then that man's strength is made manifest, nay rather, his defeat and consternation, and whether by his own strength he has acquired the aforesaid virtues and has endured every struggle on their behalf. For God's providence accompanies the saints at all times, protecting and strengthening them. With the aid of divine providence a man overcomes all classes of men, whether he enters the contest and sufferings of martyrdom or the other hardships that are undertaken and endured for God's sake. This is clear and evident and cannot be doubted. For how else could human nature vanquish the power of the allurements which are incessantly active in a man's members and grieve him and are able mightily to overpower him? How is it that other men desire and covet victory over them, but though they vehemently contend against them, they are daily defeated; they abide in pain, lamentation, and toil on behalf of their souls, whereas you can easily bear the troubles of the body, which are so very distressing, and be little vexed thereby? And how else could a passionate body contend against a sharp blade, endure the breaking of its limbs and every sort of torment, and not be vanquished by the passions—though a man cannot bear the pain of a thorn under his fingernail—nor even feel the manifold tortures according to the law of nature, save only if another power besides his natural power

comes to him from elsewhere and allays the force of the torments? And since we have discussed God's providence, we should not be slothful and neglect to recount a certain soul-profiting tale which can uplift a man in his struggles.

A certain young man, Theodore by name (Celebrated by the Church on November 30), having been tormented over his entire body, was asked by someone how keenly he had felt the tortures. He replied: 'In the beginning I felt them, but afterward I beheld a youth who wiped away the sweat of my struggle with a sponge, strengthened me, and refreshed me in my contest.' O the compassions of our God! How near is His grace to those who enter the contest for His name's sake, that joyfully they can undergo sufferings on His behalf!

Therefore, O man, do not show ingratitude to the providence which God manifests on your account. If it is obvious that you are not the victor but merely an instrument, as it were, and that it is the Lord Who is victorious in you, and that you receive the title of victor as a free gift, then what can hinder you from asking at all times for that same


strength, what can hinder you from winning the same victories while you give thanks to God for this? Have you not heard, O man, how many champions from the foundation of the world and the beginnings of time have fallen from the height of their struggle because they did not give thanks for this grace? As the gifts of God to the race of men are many and diverse, so there are many differences in the gifts received, corresponding to those who receive them. There is also [the element of] smallness and greatness in God's gifts, and though they are all sublime and marvelous, still one transcends the other in glory and honor, and one degree surpasses another degree. It is one of the chief gifts of Christ that a man consecrates himself to [[the doing of good works and]] the practice of a virtuous discipline. For there are many who forget this grace, even that they have been accounted worthy that in God's eyes there be a distinction between them and the rest of men, that they have consecrated themselves to God (This phrase is not found in the Syriac), that they are among those who receive His gifts, and that they have even been chosen to serve and minister unto God; and instead of unceasingly thanking Him with their mouths for these things, they turn aside to pride and self-esteem. Their thinking is such, that they are not as men who have received the grace of liturgy so as to serve God with a pure life and spiritual doing, but as ones who give God a present (the Syriac could mean this, or as ones whom God has assigned to this as being adjudged righteous) instead of reckoning that He took them out from the midst of men and made them His intimates and initiates into the knowledge of His mysteries. Their souls do not tremble when they reflect on such things, nor even when they behold how their predecessors, who fostered the same thoughts, were suddenly deprived of their lofty rank, how in the twinkling of an eye the Lord cast them down from the very great glory and honor which they enjoyed, and how they turned aside to impurity, licentiousness, and shameless acts in the manner of brute beasts. For because they did not understand their lack of strength, nor remember unceasingly Him Who gave them the great gift of ministering unto Him, of abiding within [[the honor of]] His Kingdom, of being comrades with the angels, and of drawing nigh an angelic discipline, He cast them down from their work. And so by their change of life from one of stillness, He demonstrates to them that it was not by their own strength that they adhered to a well-ordered manner of life, though oppressed by the harassment of nature, the demons, and other adversities, but that this power belongs to God's grace.

Things which the world cannot receive or hear of on account of their difficulty they patiently endured for a great length of time without being overcome, because a certain power accompanied them, sufficient to help and protect them in every circumstance. But because they forgot this power, the word of the Apostle was fulfilled in them: 'And even as they did not try to retain in their knowledge God, their Master, Who united


clay to spiritual liturgy, He gave them over to a reprobate mind' (Cf. Romans 1:28), and, as was meet, they received in their persons the disgrace which their error deserved.

Question: Is it possible that a man who dares spontaneously to renounce completely the habitation of men and suddenly with a good zeal to go forth [[(naked) like Adam]] into the uninhabited and terrible wilderness, could for this reason die of hunger on account of lack of shelter and the other necessities of life?

Answer: He that made ready dwelling-places for the irrational animals before He created them and took concern for their needs, will in no wise overlook His creatures, and especially those who fear Him and who follow Him with simplicity and an unquestioning mind. The man who surrenders his will to God in every matter is never concerned with his body's needs or hardships and sufferings, but his whole desire is to remain within the squalor (Greek; obscurity), of his ascetical discipline and patiently to endure his life of lowliness. He is not as one who quails before afflictions, but he reckons as sweet and delectable his estrangement from all the world. For the sake of purity he suffers hardship amid hills and mountains and becomes like a wanderer in the country of brute beasts, in no wise accepting to give rest to his body, or to live a wretchedly defiled life. And when at every hour he surrenders himself over to death, lest he should be deprived of the pure mode of life which is dear to God, he receives help from Him (The Syriac reads here; live a wretchedly defiled life, lest he should surrender his soul to hourly death which is deprivation of the holiness of a pure mode of life directed unto God). To our God be glory and honor, and may He preserve us in His purity and sanctify us by the holiness of the grace of the Holy Spirit unto the honor of His name, that in purity we may glorify His holy name unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 38.

That the Body Which Fears Temptations Becomes a Friend of Sin.

One of the saints said that the body which fears temptation becomes a friend of sin, lest it should endure hardship and lose its life. Therefore the Holy Spirit forces it to die, for He knows that if it does not die, it will not vanquish sin. If a man wishes the Lord to dwell in him, he constrains his body, he serves the Lord, he labors in the Spirit's commandments (The Syriac printed text reads; he serves the Lord with the fruits of the Spirit [ Vide Galatians 5:22]) recorded by the Apostle, and he preserves his soul from the works of the flesh which the Apostle has written down ( Vide Galatians 5:21). The body that is mingled with sin finds rest in the works of the flesh; but the Spirit of God finds repose in His own fruits (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek adds a negative, which gives but the Spirit of God does not find repose in its [presumably the body's] fruits).

When the body is weakened by fasting and lowliness the soul is spiritually strengthened in prayer. When it is straitened in many ways by the tribulations of stillness and is in privation and necessity, coming near even to losing its life, it is wont to entreat you, saying: 'Leave me be a while, so that in moderation I can struggle; already I walk righteously, for lo, I have been tried by these many evils.' But when you give it rest from afflictions and grant it some small ease as having compassion on it, then however little it might be at rest, it will whisper falsehoods to you in a cajoling manner, little by little, until it causes you to quit the desert (for its cajoling is very powerful). It will say to you:

'Even close to the world we can maintain an excellent discipline, living in our present practices, for greatly have we been tried. Just put me to the test, and if I am not as you wish, we can always return. Lo,


the desert will not run away from us.' Do not trust it, however hard it implores you and whatever promises it makes, for it will not do as it says. Once you have granted its request it will hurl you into great falls, from whence you will not be able to rise up or depart.

Whenever you grow despondent because of trials and you weary of them, say to yourself: 'Again you long for an impure and shameful life.' And if the body says to you:

'It is a great sin to kill oneself,' answer it: 'Yes, I am killing myself, because I cannot live a pure life. I will die here rather than see afterward the true death of my soul away from God. It is better for me to die here for the sake of purity than to live an evil life in the world. I have willingly chosen this death on account of my sins. I slay myself because I have sinned before the Lord and no longer shall I anger Him. What is life to me, if it be afar off from God? I will endure these hardships, lest I should become a stranger to my heavenly hope. [[And why have I been created in the world, if I simply enter and leave it?]] And what would God profit by my life on this earth, if therein I live wickedly and anger Him?'


Homily 39.

On the Different Methods of the Devil's Warfare Against Those Who Journey on the Narrow Way That Transcends the World.

On the First Method.

Our adversary, the devil, has the long-standing habit of artfully choosing modes of warfare against those who enter upon the ascetic contest according to the form of their weapons (Syriac; according to [or after] an examination of their weapons), and he changes the manner of his struggle against them according to the aim of each. He observes those who are indolent in their volition and whose thoughts are infirm, and from the very beginning he vehemently wars upon them, raising up against them vigorous and potent temptations. He does this in order to make them taste the modes of his wickedness at the start of their course, so that they should be overcome by fear and their pathway should seem to them rugged and impassable. Thus they will say to themselves, 'If the beginning of the way is so arduous and harsh, who until the end can confront the many struggles that lie herein?' Thenceforth they are unable to withstand anymore, to make any

further progress, or even to take anything else into consideration, because their thought is so obsessed with apprehension. The devil has only for a little while to straiten them with his warfare before they turn to flight. Nay rather, it is God Himself Who permits the devil to prevail upon them, and He gives them no aid whatever. And this is because they entered the Lord's contest with doubt and coldness. For the prophet says: 'Cursed is the man who does the works of the Lord carelessly, keeping back his sword from blood'

(Jeremiah 31 (48):10); and again, 'The Lord is nigh unto them that fear Him' (Cf. Psalms 84:9). For God


commands us to confront the devil with fearlessness and ardor, saying: 'Start now to destroy him, rush to war against him, grapple with him manfully, and I shall put the fear of you upon your foes that are under heaven, saith the Lord' (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:25).

For if you do not voluntarily die a sensory death for the sake of God's goodness, involuntarily you will die a noetic death, [falling] away from God.

Whatever your portion should be, without misgivings voluntarily accept temporary sufferings for its sake, that you may enter into the glory of God. For if you suffer bodily death in the Lord's contest, the Lord Himself will crown you, and God will give your venerable relics the honor of the martyrs. Therefore, as I said above, those who are negligent and slothful at the beginning and have not undertaken mightily to surrender themselves to death, are found always to be inferior and cowardly in every battle. Nay rather, God permits them to be pursued and warred upon, because they did not truly seek Him, but as tempters and mockers of God they endeavored to do His work. Hence the devil himself knew them from the beginning and tested their thoughts, revealing those men to be cowardly, self-loving and, moreover, sparers of their bodies. So he drives them like a hurricane, since he does not see in them the noetic power that he is accustomed to see in the saints. For in proportion to a man's volition to strive toward God, and in proportion to his purpose to attain his goal for God's sake, God works with him, helps him, and manifests His providence in him. The devil cannot draw near to a man or attack him with temptations unless it be permitted by the bidding of Heaven (Greek; unless a man grows negligent, or God permits it. The Syriac literally reads; unless there be toward him the negligence of that heavenly nod. The Syriac word, negligence, was sometimes used with the meaning of, permission. Apparently the Greek translators construed it to refer to a man's negligence), or he grows lax and surrenders himself to shameful thoughts and to distraction, or he becomes proud and conceited, or he accepts thoughts of doubt and cowardliness.

Now the devil does not so ask God for such men as these, for unskilled and inexperienced beginners, in order to tempt them, as he does for holy and great men, for he knows that God will not permit the former to fall into his hands. God knows that they do not have the strength for the devil's temptations, and so He does not surrender them unless they have within them one of the causes aforementioned; in such a case, the power of God's providence withdraws from them. This is the first method of the devil's warfare.

On the Second Method of the Devil's Warfare.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

Whenever the devil sees men who are courageous and strong, who reckon death as nothing, who go forth with great zeal, who give themselves up to every trial and death,


and who set at naught the life of the world and of the body and every temptation, he does not confront them immediately, nor does he openly reveal himself to them, but he restrains himself, giving place to them; and he does not go out to meet them at their first assault, nor does he draw himself up to do battle with them. For he knows that a man's beginning in every war is more fervent, and that zealous warriors are not lightly vanquished, and he sees how his antagonist has great zeal. It is not, however, that the devil does this from fear of them, but it is the Divine power that covers them which frightens him (Syriac; but of that Divine power that inflames them by means of their material nature, until of their own volition they cast it off little by little when they become self-confident). So long as he sees them in this state, he dares not touch them; but he waits to see them cool from their zeal and cast off the weapons they had fashioned for themselves in their minds by the diverse Divine words [of Scripture] (Syriac; fashioned for themselves and by which they armed their minds, that is, by the diverse Divine words) and recollections which assist and help them. He watches for the time when they are lax, and when they turn aside a little from their former thoughts, and when through the seductive reflections that well up in their minds they begin of themselves to devise inventions for their own defeat. They, by themselves, dig a pit of perdition for their souls with the wandering thoughts arising in their minds from indolence, through which coldness reigns within them, that is, in their hearts. When the devil refrains from warring against them and, as it were, spares them, he does not do so voluntarily, nor does he fear them, nor is he put to shame by them. For he holds them in contempt. But I think that it is because a certain power encompasses those who strive toward God with ardent zeal, who go forth like children, who renounce the world indiscriminately, hoping and believing on God, and who have no conception of him against whom they must fight. For this reason God repels from them the violence of the devil's wickedness, that it might not come near them. For the enemy is bridled when he beholds the guardian [angel] who always shields them. If they do not cast off from themselves the causes of their being helped, that is to say, their prayers, labors, and humility, then their defender and helper will never depart from them.

See, and write these things in your heart; for the love of pleasure and ease is a cause of abandonment. But if a man perseveres and keeps himself firmly from this, God's assistance will never leave him, and the enemy will not be permitted to attack him. And if it happens that one time he is permitted to attack him, it is for instruction; but the holy power continues to accompany and support him, and he does not fear the devil's temptations, for his thought is confident, and because of that [holy] power he despises them. The Divine power teaches him just as a man teaches a small boy to swim. When the boy begins to sink, the man raises him up, because the boy swims above the hands of his teacher.


And when he begins to grow fearful that he will drown, the teacher who holds him in his arms cries out to him encouragingly, 'Do not fear, I am holding you!' And just as a mother who, in teaching her infant son to walk, steps back from him and calls him, and as he comes toward her on his little feet he begins to tremble and is about to fall by reason of their softness and delicacy, and she runs and catches him in her embrace, so the grace of God also embraces and teaches men who purely and with simplicity have surrendered

themselves into the hands of their Creator, and who have renounced the world with their whole heart and follow after Him.

But you, O man who has set out in pursuit of God, always remember throughout your life of struggle the first beginning and first zeal you had when entering upon the path, and the ardent thoughts with which you left your home (the Syriac word has the further meaning; manner of life) and enrolled yourself in the fighting ranks. In this manner examine yourself each day, that there should be no cooling of your soul's ardor with respect to any of the weapons that you carry, nor in the zeal which blazed up within you at the commencement of your struggle, lest you lose any of those weapons with which you were arrayed at the start of your contest. Constantly raise your voice in the camp, encouraging and urging to valor the sons of the right (that is, your own thoughts) and show the others (that is, the enemy's forces) that you are keeping watch. If at the beginning you see that the tempter violently assaults you to frighten you, do not grow faint-hearted, for perhaps this is profitable for you. For He Who saves you does not permit anything to approach you, unless He should bring about thereby some provision for your profit.

Do not be slothful at the beginning lest, having been lethargic now, you should fall when you try to advance, and be no longer able to withstand the afflictions that come upon you, I mean from hunger, sickness, terrifying apparitions, and the like. Do not pervert the intention of Him Who has set your contest, because it procures help for you against your adversary, so that he will not find you as he hopes. But entreat God unceasingly, weep before His grace, lament, and toil until He sends you a helper (i.e. a guardian angel). For if but once you see him that saves you at your side, you will no longer be defeated by your enemy who opposes you. Thus far two methods of the devil's warfare have been described.

On the Third Method of the Enemy's Warfare Against Strong and Courageous Men.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

After all this, the devil again rises up against a man, but he has not the power to with-


stand him in the contest; nay rather, he cannot withstand the angel who strengthens and helps the man. Because of his helper the man is exalted above the devil, and from him he receives strength and patience, such that his dense, material body can vanquish a bodiless and noetic being. When, therefore, the enemy sees all this strength the man has received from God, and that his external senses are not overwhelmed by his (i.e. the devil's) enticements and panderings, then the crafty one seeks a way to part the angel, the man's helper, from him. Nay more, the crafty one wishes to blind the intellect of the man who receives help, that he may be helpless, and to stir up proud thoughts within him, that he might think that all his strength originates from his own forces, that he acquired this wealth by himself, and that by his own power he keeps himself safe from the adversary and manslayer. Sometimes he thinks that he defeated the enemy by chance, sometimes because of the enemy's powerlessness (I shall remain silent concerning the enemy's other methods and the blasphemous thoughts which cause the soul terror by the very memory of them alone). Sometimes the enemy introduces his delusion under the guise of divine

revelations, and he shows diverse things to the man through dreams. When the man is awake, the wily one transforms himself into an angel of light (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14).

He tries all of this in order little by little to persuade a man to concur with it, so that the man will surrender himself into his hands. But if the prudent man keeps his thoughts in safety, or rather, if he can hold fast to the memory of Him Who aids him, and fix the eye of his heart steadfastly upon Heaven, that he may not see those who whisper these things to him, then the enemy will be diligent once again to devise other methods of warfare.

On the Enemy's Fourth and Obdurate Warfare.

(Here a new homily begins in the Greek printed text).

Finally there remains for him only this warfare, since nature is kindred to it, and for this reason he has a special expectation that he will destroy the man thereby. What is this device? It is to attack a man through his natural functions (Syriac; under every pretext to cause him to meet with [or to attack him in] those things because of which he often sins due to nature). For often the athlete's intellect is blinded by the sight and nearness of the objects of sense, and he is easily defeated in his struggle when he is near to them, and particularly when they are before his very eyes. The villainous devil employs this method with knowledge and experience, that is, the experience he has with many ascetics, mighty men, and the great who have fallen by means of these things, and he does this very shrewdly. Although he cannot force a man to


do anything in actual deed, because of the safety that stillness furnishes the man, and because his dwelling-place is far from the occasions and causes of sin, yet he endeavors to delude his intellect with illusions and to represent to him false phantasies in the mask of truth. And to the end that a man will begin to desire these things, the devil stimulates him and makes movements to arise within him; thus he brings him to ponder upon them with shameful thoughts, to consent to them, and to become guilty of them, so that the man's helper might depart from him. For he knows well that a man's victory, defeat, treasure, succor, and simply everything that pertains to an ascetic, are secured through his thought and are gained in an instant, such that his thought need only move from its place, and descend from the heights (Syriac; from that nest of life) to earth, and his volition show its consent but for an instant, as has happened to many of the saints through phantasies of a woman's beauty ((or for a woman—through phantasies of a man's attraction; Saint Isaac is presumably referring in this context to someone of the opposite gender)). And many times he has devised means actually to bring women to those who dwell a mile or two miles or a day's journey from the world. But since he is unable to do this to those who remain far withdrawn from the world, he shows woman's beauty to them in phantasies: sometimes adorned with elegant clothing and lascivious in appearance, and sometimes he shamelessly shows them a woman's nakedness. For by these things and such as these he has conquered some in the actual deed, some he has mocked in phantasies by reason of the laxity of their thoughts, so that he might throw them into the abyss of despair; and this becomes cause for them to return to the world and their souls to fall away from their heavenly hope.

But other men, stronger than these, who were enlightened by grace vanquished both him and his phantasies, and trampled upon the pleasures of the flesh, and were found to be approved in their love of God. Often, too, the enemy has caused them to

behold apparitions of gold, precious things, golden treasures; and at times he showed these things to them in reality, that by means of these different phantasies he might, perhaps, stop some one of them in his course and trip him up by one of his snares and nets.

A Prayer.

But Lord, O Lord, Thou Who knowest our infirmity, lead us not into these temptations, for mighty and proven men hardly emerge from this gate victorious!

The devil and tempter is allowed to make war upon the saints in all these ways of temptation, that thereby their love of God may be proven, and that it may become evident whether, when they are separated, secluded, deprived, and destitute of these objects of sense, they remain lovers of God, abiding in His love and truly loving Him; and whether, when they draw near to such things, they endeavor to despise and repudiate them because of their love for God, and being enticed by them, they remain undefeated and do not alter their love for God. They are tried in this manner, that they may be singled out


not only by God, but also by the devil. For the enemy greatly desires to tempt and try every man, if this were possible to him, and to ask God for them all that he might tempt them, even as he asked for the righteous man Job ( Vide Job 1:9 ff). And when for a brief time God gives His permission, the devil draws nigh to tempt them vehemently, in proportion to the strength of those whom he tempts; thus the iniquitous one assails them as he desires. By this means, however, those who are true and steadfast in the love of God are proven as to whether they despise all these things and reckon them as nothing in comparison with the love of God. Ever humbling themselves in this manner, they ascribe glory to Him Who works with them in all things and is the Source of their victory; and in their struggle they surrender themselves into His hands, saying to God, 'Thou art the Mighty One, O Lord, and Thine is the contest: wage war on our behalf and be therein victorious, O Lord.' At such a time they are proven as gold in the furnace.

But when alloyed and spurious men are tested and known in these temptations, they fall away from God as dross, since giving way to the enemy they leave the field of battle laden with guilt, either because of the laxity of their mind or because of their pride.

They were not worthy to receive the power that the saints had working within them, for the power that helps us cannot be defeated. The Lord is almighty and more powerful than all, and at all times He is victorious in the bodies of mortal men when He descends to aid them in their warfare. But if they are defeated, it is evident that they are defeated without Him. These are men who have voluntarily stripped themselves of God by reason of their ungratefulness, since they have not been accounted worthy of that power which assists the victorious, and they perceive that they are even devoid of their own power which they were accustomed to have at the times of their violent battles. How do they perceive this?

They see that their defeat is pleasurable and sweet in their eyes, and that it is difficult for them patiently to endure the hardship of their struggle with the enemy, the same hardship they were wont zealously to overcome completely by the impulse inherent in their nature's movement, which was formerly so fervent and keen. But now they do not find this in their souls.

Those who are slothful and lax when they begin are overcome not only by these struggles and their like, but they are even frightened and troubled by the rustle of a leaf,

and are vanquished by some brief necessity due to hunger and by some slight illness; thus they renounce and turn back. But those who are proven and true do not even take their fill of greens and vegetables; and even if they eat nothing but the roots of dried herbs, they cannot be persuaded to taste any food before the established meal-time. Moreover, they lie upon the ground because of their body's enervation, their eyes are dimmed


by their extreme physical exhaustion, and their very soul is constrained and nigh to depart from their body, but even so they do not give themselves over to defeat, nor do they abandon their firm volition. For they long for and yearn to do violence to themselves for the love of God, and they freely choose to labor for virtue's sake rather than to possess this transient life and its every comfort. And whenever temptations come upon them, they especially rejoice and are the more perfected by them (Syriac; because they know that temptations render them perfect). Nor do the arduous labors which they endure make them doubt the love of Christ, but until they quit this life, they much prefer valiantly to accept abuse and they do not retreat. But to our God be glory unto the ages of ages.



Homily 40.

On Continuous Fasting, and Remaining Collected in One Place, and What Are the Consequences of This; and That by the Knowledge of Discernment I Have Learned the Exact Use of These Things.

Having been tempted over a great length of time in things from the right hand and from the left, and testing myself often in both, and having received countless blows from the adversary, and been deemed worthy of great and secret aid, I have carried on an examination of myself for many long years; and through experience and God's grace I have learned that the foundation of all good things, the return of the soul from the enemy's captivity, and the path which leads to the light, and itself brings life, are these two virtuous activities: to remain collected in one place, and to fast perpetually. I mean, to set for yourself the rule of wise abstinence in food, of prudent and immovable continuance in one place, and of unremitting study and rumination on God. From this is born the submission of the senses; from this is born the watchfulness of the intellect; by this the ferocity of the passions which rage in the body is tamed; from this comes meekness of thoughts; from this come the mind's luminous movements; from this is born the zeal for the practice of virtue; from this are born sublime and subtle intuitions; from this are born boundless tears which flow at all times, and the remembrance of death; from this is born pure chastity which is remote from every imagination that tempts the mind; from this come clairvoyance and the keen knowledge of things afar off; from this are born the most profound of mystic perceptions which the mind can apprehend, that is, the strength of Divine


utterances (Syriac; from this comes profound insight that fathoms and apprehends the hidden things of all the depths, the strength of the Divine utterances), the innermost movements which arise in the soul, and the discrimination and discernment of spiritual

things: those which are of the holy powers and true visions, and those from empty phantasies; from this arises fear of the pathways and channels in the open sea of the mind, a fear which cuts off slothfulness and heedlessness; from this is kindled the flame of zeal which tramples upon every peril and overstrides all dismay, and the fervor which despises every desire, blots it out of the thinking, and engenders oblivion to the memory of every transitory thing and all else of this nature. But to put it succinctly: from these two are born the freedom of the true man, the soul's renewal (the Greek & Sinai Syrian MS have; the soul's joy (hadutha). Syriac printed text has; renewal (hudatha) which in context seems more likely), and resurrection with Christ in the Kingdom.

Yet if a man is negligent in these two activities, he should know that not only will he bereave himself of all the foregoing blessings, but by disdaining these two he will also profoundly shake the foundation of all the virtues. And just as these are the origin and chief of the soul's divine activities, and the door, and the way of leading to Christ (if a man acquire them and persevere in them) so, in like manner, if he should depart and leap away from them, he will descend to their opposites, I mean, to wandering from place to place and to lawless gluttony. These are the beginnings of the things opposed to the aforesaid and they prepare a place in the soul for the aforesaid passions.

At the very beginning the first, that is, wandering, releases the submissive senses from the bonds of self-constraint (Syriac; the bonds of a quiet life). And what comes of this? From this are born: improper and unexpected encounters which border upon falls; the turmoil of mighty waves awakened by the vision of the eyes; a fierce flame which masters and possesses the body; sudden stumbling in conscious thinking; unrestrained thoughts which precipitate toward a fall; tepid love for the works of God; gradual effacement (or abatement) of the special characteristics of stillness; and a complete abandonment of a man's rule of life. As a result of that which assails the man through the involuntary and diverse spectacles which he beholds in his peregrinations from country to country and from place to place, long-forgotten wicked deeds revive, and he learns new ones which he had not formerly known. And the passions, which by God's grace had been already mortified in his soul, and whose memory had already perished from his mind, are stirred to motion anew and begin to compel his soul to work their wont. But so as not to recount all the rest, I say that these things come upon a man as a result of wandering and of not patiently enduring the hardships of stillness.

And what are the consequences of the second vice, that is, of pursuing the work of swine? What indeed is the work of swine, if not to set no bounds upon the belly and to


fill it incessantly, and to have no appointed time to satisfy the body's need, as rational beings have. What, therefore, are the consequences of this? From this are born drowsiness and a great heaviness of the body joined with loosening of the shoulders.

Thereupon follow: compulsion to leave off God's liturgy; a lassitude which hinders a man from making prostrations during his prayers, and indifference to the usual acts of worship; darkness and coldness of the mind; an intellect which is fat and rendered undiscerning by agitation and great obscuration of the thoughts; thick clouds and tenebrity spread over the entire soul; great accidie in every godly work as well as in reading, since he does not taste the sweetness of the Divine sayings; frequent neglect of necessary things; an unrestrained intellect which roams throughout (Syriac; an unrestrained intellect that is blinded by its roaming throughout) the whole world; many humors collecting in the limbs; impure, nocturnal imaginings of sordid phantasies, and

improper images pervaded with lust which penetrate the soul and pollutedly do as they please. The bed of the wretched man, his clothing, and his entire body are defiled by the great stream of shameful matter which issues forth from him as from a fountain. And this occurs to him not only at night but during the day also. His body continuously exudes matter and thereby defiles his intellect, such that on account of these things the monk disavows his chastity. Delectable titillations produce an incessant, insufferable burning throughout his body. Seductive thoughts come to him, depicting beauty before his eyes, stimulating him at every time and titillating his intellect by converse with them. Because his faculty of discretion has been overclouded, the monk unhesitatingly joins himself to these thoughts in his meditation and in his desire. And the prophet has said the same thing: 'This is the requital of thy sister Sodom, who, reveling, ate bread in abundance' (Cf.

Ezekiel 16:49). One of the great philosophers said: 'If a man satiate his body with delicacies, he delivers his soul up to warfare. And if ever he comes to himself and endeavors to compel himself to abstinence, he cannot, because of the mightily burning movement of his body and the violence and coercion of the incitements and titillations which enslave his soul according to their pleasure.' Do you see the refinement of this man bereft of God? And again the same sage says, 'Fresh and tender nourishment swiftly imparts to the soul the lust of passion; then, death becomes to her something grievous, and she stands in terror of God's judgment' (Greek; imparts to the soul the passions of youth, and death encompasses her, and thus the soul becomes subject to Divine judgment).

The soul, however, that devotes herself to the recollection of profitable things, finds rest in her freedom; her cares are small, and she repents of nothing. She takes forethought for virtue, she bridles the passions, she keeps guard upon excellence, and thus she enjoys growth [[that is unhindered]], joy free of solicitude, a good life and a periless haven.


Bodily pleasures not only strengthen the passions and give them power against the soul, but also tear the soul away from her very roots. Together with this, they incite the belly to intemperance and lack of rule as regards the hours [for eating], that is, to untimely satisfaction of the body's need. The man who is harried by these things does not wish to suffer hunger even for the briefest time so as to control himself, because he is a slave of the passions.

These are the fruits of the shameful passion of gluttony, and those stated beforehand are the fruits of not (The negative is added from the Syriac printed text.

Though it is not found in the Sinai Syriac MS and the Greek, the context demands it) leading a life of stillness. The enemy knows these times—in that he always follows us about—and that especially in these two instances our nature can be easily shaken and provoked to passion (This is the Syriac reading), and he knows that the intellect especially strays when the eyes wander and the belly is at ease. Therefore, he tries and endeavors precisely at these times to make us add to our nature's weakness and to sow in us diverse kinds of evil thoughts, so that (if possible) in the intensity of the combat the passions might gain ascendancy over nature and destroy a man in his fall. Since the enemy knows these times, it behooves us to be conscious of our weakness and the strength of our nature, and that it cannot withstand the onsets and excitations of those times, and the subtlety of the thoughts which, like fine dust, are blown into our eyes, so that we cannot see ourselves or bear up against what befalls us. But through the many

trials that we have undergone, often in great distress by reason of the enemy's temptations, we have finally learned to be prudent and not to allow ourselves heedlessly to obey the will of our ease, nor to be vanquished by hunger, nor straitness, not to be shaken from the place of our stillness (lest we find ourselves in a place where the things we have spoken of can easily come upon us) nor fabricate for ourselves pretexts and ways whereby we may leave the wilderness. Such things are manifest machinations of the devil. If you patiently endure in the desert, you will not be tempted, for there you will see no women ((or for women—'you will see no men'; that is, someone of the opposite gender. Cf. The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt)), nor anything harmful to your mode of life, nor will you hear unseemly cries.

'And what hast thou to do with the way of Egypt, to drink the water of Geon?'

(Jeremiah 2:18; The Peshitta has; the water of the Nile). Understand what I say. Show the enemy your patience and experience in small matters so that he will not seek great things from you. Let these small matters be a pattern for you, that through your struggles in small things you may lay a trap for him (Greek; may cast him down. Here cast down has replaced the original catch) and give him no leisure to contrive great snares for you. For how could the man who cannot be persuaded by the enemy to take even five steps from his solitary dwelling be convinced to abandon


the wilderness or to draw nigh to a village? And how can the hermit who refuses to peek out the window of his hermitage be persuaded to leave it? Or will the man who can be scarcely induced to take a scanty portion of food late in the evening be enticed by thoughts to eat before the appropriate time? Will the man who is ashamed to take his fill of contemptible food long for expensive dishes? And how can the enemy entice a man to gaze after foreign beauty when he will not even look upon his own body?

It is evident that a man is vanquished only when at the beginning he despises such small matters, thus giving the enemy ground to wage war against him in great ones. Will the man who takes no thought for this fleeting life and wishes not to remain alive, even for the briefest moment, be dismayed by suffering and afflictions which bring him closer to his longed-for death? This is warfare fought with discretion; for wise men do not allow themselves to make preparations for great ascetic struggles (Syriac; do not allow their enemy to induce them to great ascetic struggles), but rather they know that the patience which they manifest in small matters preserves them from having to undergo great labors.

Firstly, therefore, the devil strives to extinguish the unceasing prayer of the heart, and then he persuades a monk to disregard the fixed hours of prayer and the rule which he performs bodily. Thus, at first the thinking becomes lax and permits the monk to partake of some paltry, meager bits of food before the appointed time; and after this fall, whereby he ruins his abstinence, the monk slips into intemperance and dissipation. First, the monk is vanquished, or rather, it becomes a trifling thing in his eyes to gaze upon the nakedness of his body or upon some other beautiful aspect of his limbs when he disrobes himself or when he goes out to fulfill a bodily want or to pass water and he loses control over his senses, or he audaciously introduces his hand under his clothes and touches his body; one thing after another will then rise up within him. The man who in these small things does not preserve the safeguard of his mind, but rather dissipates it and displays laxity in one of these matters, opens up against himself great and dangerous inroads. For thoughts, I say by way of example, are like water, and so long as they are confined on all sides, they proceed in their right order. If they once find a small outlet, however, they

escape and destroy the dyke and cause great devastation. The enemy stands before us day and night, waiting, watching, and observing us to spy out a door for him to enter when we have opened wide our senses. As soon as we have been negligent in one of the aforementioned ways, this cunning and shameless cur lets fly his arrows at us. At times it is our nature itself which loves ease, boldness, laughter, wandering of the mind and slothfulness, and becomes a source of passions, a sea of turmoil. But at other times it is the adversary himself who instills these things into the soul. Let us therefore exchange our great labors


[[and the causes of grievous peril]] for small ones. If indeed these small things are neglected, though they be nothing, then, as we have demonstrated, through them will be generated great struggles, arduous labors, tortuous battles, and serious wounds. Who for a small outlay would not choose to gain a peaceful sleep?, (This is the Syriac reading).

O wisdom, how wondrous art thou! And how thou dost foresee all things from afar! Blessed is the man who has found thee, for he is free from the indolence of youth which, by a little neglect, purchases great calamities (Greek; If a man purchases for a small price the healing of great sufferings, he has done well). Well did one of the philosophers say, that once he fell under the influence of lethargy, but becoming aware of this, he sat up with a start. Another, seeing him, laughed because of it. Yet the first retorted, saying: 'It was not this I feared, but negligence, for a little negligence can be the agent of great perils. By the fact that I sat up straightway when I transgressed my rule, I showed myself to be vigilant and that I am not found negligent even in those things which are unworthy of fear.' This is love of wisdom for a man: ever to be watchful even in the small and insignificant things he does; for in this manner he lays up for himself great consolation. He does not drowse, lest something contrary should befall him, but he cuts off occasions in good time. He disperses slight grief through very small labors, and by them he redeems himself from great grief and treads it under foot (The Greek printed text and some Greek manuscripts read here; He endures some small grief through slight labors, and by this tribulation he disperses great grief).

Fools prefer brief comfort that is near at hand to a distant kingdom, not knowing that it is better for a man to suffer torments in his struggle than to take his ease upon a royal bed of this world under the condemnation of slothfulness. Wise men greatly prefer death to the censure that they have accomplished some work without sobriety. Hence the sage says, 'Be vigilant and sober with respect to your life, for slumber is natural to the mind, and is the image of true death.' And the Godbearing Basil, the lover of wisdom, writes, 'Do not expect the man to be eminent in great things who is slothful in small ones.'

Do not be disheartened in the works by which you wish to find life, nor shrink from dying for them.

(Here the Syriac begins a new homily entitled, Brief Sections Distinguishing the Mind's Motions).

Faintness of heart is a sign of despondency, and negligence is the mother of both.

A cowardly man shows that he suffers from two diseases: love of his flesh and lack of faith; but love of one's flesh is a sign of unbelief. He, however, who despises the love of the flesh proves that he believes in God with his whole heart and awaits the age to come.

If there could exist a man who has drawn nigh unto God without perils, struggles,

and temptations, imitate him! A courageous heart and scorn of perils comes from one of


two causes: either from hardness of heart or from great faith in God. Pride accompanies hardness of heart, but humility accompanies faith. A man cannot acquire hope in God unless he first does His will with exactness. For hope in God and manliness of heart are born of the testimony of the conscience, and by the truthful testimony of the mind we possess confidence in God. The testimony of the mind consists in the fact that a man's conscience does not accuse him of negligence in anything within his powers that it is his duty to do. 'If our heart condemn us not, then have we boldness toward God' (1 John 3:21). Thus boldness comes from the achievements of virtue and a good conscience. It is a bitter thing to be enslaved to the body. He who is aware of his hope in God, even to a small extent, will never more be compelled to serve this austere master, the earthly, perishable body.

A man remains in continual silence and perseveres in stillness for one of three reasons: either for the glory of men, or from ardent zeal in virtue, or because he has some divine converse within himself and his mind is drawn away to this. But if a man does not have one of the latter two, he will necessarily be afflicted by the malady first mentioned.

Virtue is not the manifestation of many and various works performed by the agency of the body, but a heart that is most wise in its hope and which unites a right aim to godly works. Often the mind can accomplish that which is good without bodily works, but the body without wisdom of the heart can gain no profit for all it may do (Syriac; for often when actions do not uphold praxis, the mind is able to do so, and even without them it can gain profit. The Greek tries to interpret this rather obscure statement). Yet when he finds an opportunity to do good, the man of God will not be able to refrain from showing his love for God by the toil of his deeds. The first discipline always prospers, the second often, but sometimes not. Do not consider it a small thing that a man be always far removed from the causes of the passions. To our God be glory unto the ages. Amen.


Homily 41.

On the Motions of the Body.

The motion of the lower members of the body which becomes fierce without thoughts, or rather, the impure pleasure which throbs hotly beneath the navel and drives the soul to frenzy against her will, undoubtedly wells forth into the body from the satiety of the belly (Greek; without thoughts of impure pleasure which throbs hotly and draws the soul to calamity against her will is undoubtedly from the satiety of the belly. But in the absence of this cause, know that the passion wells forth in the body itself). In this struggle, count withdrawal from all that incites you and from the sight of women ((or for women; the sight of men)) as a stout and invincible weapon, for even the adversary cannot work within us what nature does by its power. Do not suppose that nature ever forgets what God has naturally sown into it for the begetting of children and for testing those who carry on this fight. But withdrawal from the objects of desire mortifies all lust in our members, surrendering the memory (this word has been lost in the Greek) thereof to oblivion and destruction.

The thoughts of things afar off, which simply pass through the mind and produce

a cool and faint motion, differ from the thoughts which submerge the mind by the indelible sight of some material object and evoke the passions by its proximity, which nourish lust in a man as oil nourishes the flame of a lamp, which re-ignite a passion already flickering and nearly extinguished, and which trouble the sea of the body by rocking the ship of the mind. Without some supplement from without, this natural movement (which inhabits us simply for the sake of procreation) cannot shake the will from limpid purity or unsettle chastity, since God has not given nature the power to subdue a man's good volition to strive toward Him. Whenever a man is defeated either by anger or by lust, it is not a power


of nature that compels him to leave his nature's confines and to withdraw from what is his duty, but it is something which we add to nature by the intermediary of the will. All things that God has made, He has made beautiful and in due proportion. And so long as measure in natural things is rightly preserved in us, the provocations of nature cannot constrain us to stray from the path [[of God's laws, being carried off, as it were, by a flood]]. Then the body is only stirred by orderly, gentle impulses, which merely inform us that there is passion within us, but which produce no titillation or fierce turmoil so strong as to interfere with chastity or to darken the mind by anger and to move us from peace to wroth. But if at any time we greedily desire the things of the senses (whereby anger usually takes on its contranatural fury), or food, or drink, or immoderation, or proximity to women ((i.e. someone of the opposite gender)) and gazing at them or at comely faces, or conversation about them (from which things the flame of lust is kindled and surges through the body), then we change the gentleness of our nature to furiosity: be it on account of the many humors [in the blood], or because of various sights of physical objects.

At times, too, the movement of our members is permitted (Syriac; is from abandonment) [by God] because of our conceit, yet this movement is not like the former; those we call the conflicts of liberty, and they belong to the common way of nature. But we may recognize the warfare that comes upon us by [God's] permission because of our self-esteem, when we have passed many years in prayer and labors and presume that we have accomplished something thereby; for then it is that God permits warfare to besiege us, that we may learn humility. The other conflicts that surpass our strength, and are not from this cause, come upon us because of our slothfulness. For when by gluttony we add to nature some palpable thing, nature can no longer be persuaded to keep the order with which it was endowed from its creation. The man who forgoes tribulations (Some Greek MSS add here; of ascetic struggle) and constant seclusion [in his cell] is involuntarily compelled to love sin; for without these two we are not able to separate ourselves from the inducements of our thought, which diminish as our pains multiply. Tribulations and perils kill the sweetness of the passions, but ease (Greek; rest, comfort, relaxation) nourishes and increases them.

Thus I have clearly come to know that God and His angels rejoice at hardships, but the devil and his helpers at the delight, pleasure, and ease of the flesh. For if the commandments of God are performed with afflictions and straitness and yet we despise the latter, then it is evident that for the love of the passions born of ease and of the pleasures of the flesh we seek ways to disdain Him Who has commanded these things.

We nullify the cause of virtue, I mean straitness and tribulation, while to the extent of the ease which we have achieved we make room in ourselves for the passions. When the

body is found in


straitness, the thoughts cannot wander about in vain concerns; and when a man joyfully endures toils and afflictions, he can soundly bridle his thoughts, since his very thoughts are quelled by labors. If a man remembers his former sins and chastens himself (The Syriac printed text adds; with afflictions), God will then take care to give him rest, because the Lord rejoices in that he, as a sinner, has laid a penance on himself for straying from the way of God; and this is a mark of the true path of repentance. The more a man constrains his soul, the more the honor he receives from God increases. Every joy whose cause is not in virtue immediately awakens lustful movements in him who has partaken of it; yet keep in mind that we have said this with respect to every passionate desire, not [[only]] concerning the desire inherent to nature. To our God be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Homily 42.

On the Kinds of Different Temptations; and on How Sweet Are the Temptations That Come to Pass and Are Endured for the Truth's Sake; and on the Levels and Disciplines Through Which the Sagacious Man Makes His Way.

The virtues follow one another in succession, so that the path of virtue does not become grievous and burdensome, and so that by being achieved in order progressively they may be made light; thus the hardships endured for virtue's sake should be cherished by a man as is the good itself. No one can achieve true non-possessiveness unless he resolves within himself to endure tribulations (Greek; temptations) with gladness. And no man can endure tribulations (Greek; temptations) unless he believes that there is something more excellent than bodily comfort, the which he will receive in recompense for the afflictions that he has prepared himself to undergo. The love of afflictions must first have stirred in the man who has prepared to deprive himself of possessions, for only thereafter does the thought come to him to possess none of the things of this world. And every man who draws nigh to affliction is first made steadfast by faith, and then he approaches afflictions. A man who deprives himself of material things, but has not cast off the activity of the senses (I mean sight and hearing) has procured for himself a double portion of affliction and will doubly suffer hardship and tribulation. Nay rather, what profit is there for a man to deprive himself of sensory things, and yet through the senses still to delight in them? For by the passions which they cause he experiences exactly the same thing which formerly he suffered in actual deed, since the recollection of his accustomed intercourse with sensory things has


not been effaced from his thinking. If mental images of things, in absence of the things themselves, cause a man to feel distressed, what are we to say if the things themselves are near and round about us? How excellent in this respect is the discipline of solitude, how greatly does it aid! For with a strong hand it silences the thoughts, provides strength for endurance, and teaches a man great patience in the afflictions which must necessarily come upon him,

Do not seek advice from a man who does not lead a life similar to your own, even if he be very wise. Confide your thoughts to a man who, though he lack learning, has experience in [spiritual] things, rather than to a learned philosopher who speaks on the basis of speculations, having no actual experience. And what is experience? Experience is not that which is gained when a man approaches and gazes upon things (for since he does not pass time with them, he secures no true knowledge of them) but when he clearly perceives by trial their profit and detriment. For often a thing will seem harmful, yet within, it is found to be wholly full of profit; and in like manner understand the converse of this also: I mean, a thing often appears to be profitable, whereas within, it is filled with much harm. So it is that many men are harmed by what seems very profitable, and the testimony of their knowledge is not true. Therefore follow the counsel of a man who knows how with patience to make trial of things that demand discernment. Not every man is able to give trustworthy advice, but only he who has first governed himself well, who possesses knowledge gained from experience in all things, who does not love himself, and who does not shy away from calumnies (Greek; first governed his freedom well and is not afraid of accusations and calumnies).

Whenever in your path you find unchanging peace, 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 the city of God, this will be a sign for you: the strength of the temptations that you encounter. And the nearer you draw nigh and progress, the more temptations will multiply against you. Whenever, therefore, you perceive in your soul diverse and stronger temptations in your path, know that at that time your soul has in fact secretly entered a new and higher level, and that grace has been added to her in the state wherein she was f