Day 15/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Resurrection of the soul – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 37]

Lord give me a contrite heart – Mar Isaac

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God can never leave a contrite heart without solace.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies]

Draw near to him as a child – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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When you fall down before God in prayer, become in your thought like an ant, like a creeping thing 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 that fathers have for their small children.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies]

This Nativity night – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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This Nativity night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One – Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One – Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy – Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will – Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace – Let us not be conquered by anger.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.

This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Nativity Sermon]

Handful of sand thrown into the ocean – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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As a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God. Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked up by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the wickedness of His creatures.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, 51]

Spread your cloak over the man who is falling – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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Spread your cloak over the man who is falling and cover him. And if you cannot take upon yourself his sins and receive his chastisement in his stead, then at least patiently suffer his shame and do not disgrace him.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 51]

How deep His love – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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What profundity of richness, what mind and exalted wisdom is God’s! What compassionate kindness and abundant goodness belongs to the Creator! With what purpose and with what love did He create this world and bring it into existence! What a mystery does the coming into being of this creation look towards! To what a state is our common nature invited! What love served to initiate the creation of the world! This same love which initiated the act of creation prepared beforehand by another dispensation the things appropriate to adorn the world’s majesty which sprung forth as a result of the might of His love.

In love did He bring the world into existence; in love does He guide it during this its temporal existence; in love is He going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of Him who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised. And since in the New World the Creator’s love rules over all rational nature, the wonder at His mysteries that will be revealed then will captivate to itself the intellect of all rational beings whom He has created so that they might have delight in Him, whether they be evil or whether they be just.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, XXXIV]

The summit of prayer – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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The disciple: What is the acme of all labours of asceticism, which a man when he has reached it, recognises as the summit of his course?

The teacher: When he is deemed worthy of constant prayer. When he has reached this, he has touched the end of all virtues and forthwith he has a spiritual dwelling place. If a man has not received in truth the gift of the Comforter, it is not possible for him to accomplish constant prayer in quiet. When the spirit takes its dwelling place in a man he does not cease to pray because the spirit will constantly pray in him. Then, neither when he sleeps, nor when he is awake, will prayer be cut off from his soul; but when he eats and when he drinks, when he lies down or when he does any work, even when he is immersed in sleep, the perfumes of prayer will breathe in his soul spontaneously. And henceforth, he will not possess prayer at limited times but always; and when he has outward rest, even then prayer is ministered unto him secretly. For the silence of the serene is prayer, says a man clad with Christ. For their deliberations are divine impulses. The motions of the pure mind are quiet voices with which they secretly chant psalms to the Invisible One.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, XXXV]

Pure prayer – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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Prayer is a beseeching for, a caring for, a longing for something, either a liberation from the evil things here or [in the world] to come, or a desire for promised things, or a demand for something by which man wishes to be brought nearer to God. In these emotions are included all habits of prayer. But its being pure or not depends upon the following circumstances. 

If, when the spirit is prepared to offer one of the emotions we have enumerated, any foreign deliberation or distraction mingles itself with it, prayer is called non-pure, because it has brought upon the altar of the Lord an animal which it is not allowed [to offer], the altar which is an upright, intelligible heart. 

But when the spirit gives itself with longing to one of these emotions, in accordance to the necessity of the case, at the time of beseeching, and when on account of its alacrity the gaze of the emotion is directed by the eye of faith beyond the curtain of the heart, the entrances of the soul are closed thereby against the foreign deliberations which are called strangers, whom the law does not allow to enter the tabernacle. This is called the accepted offering of the heart and pure prayer. Its boundaries are to this point. What lies beyond cannot be called prayer.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, XXII]

Whenever you find your course at peace, without change, be suspicious – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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Whenever you find your course is in peace, without variations, be suspicious. For you are deviating from the divine ways trodden by the weary footsteps of the saints. The more you proceed on the way towards the city of the Kingdom and approach it’s neighbourhoods, this will be the sign: that you meet hard temptations. And the more you approach, the more you will find difficulties.

So, whenever the soul on its way perceives varying states which cause difficulty you must know that your soul has secretly been advanced to a higher state and that it has acquired a gift of increase in comparison with the degree it occupied before.

The hard temptation into which God brings the soul are in accordance with the greatness of His gifts. If there is a weak soul which is not able to bear a very hard temptation and God deals meekly with it, then know with certainty that, as it is not capable of bearing a hard temptation, so it is not worthy of a large gift. As great temptations have been withdrawn from it, so large gifts are also withdrawn from it. God never gives a large gift and small temptations. So temptations are to be classed in accordance with gifts. Thus from the hardships to which you have been subjected you may understand the measure of the greatness which your soul has reached. In accordance with affection is consolation.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies]