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 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]
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]
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 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]
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]
Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others. Be crucified, but do not crucify others. Be slandered, but do not slander others. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity. Suffer with the sick. Be afflicted with sinners. Exult with those who repent. Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone. Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all. Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly. Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them. And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.
[Mar Isaac, Ascetical Homilies]
Be on your guard against idleness, my beloved; intelligible death is hidden in it. Without it, it is impossible that the solitary should fall into the hands of those who wish to captivate him.
Not that God will judge us on that day on the basis of the Psalm we have recited or whether we have passed in idleness the times of service occasionally; but by our neglecting them, the demons win access.
And when they have found an opportunity to enter and have shut our rooms, they accomplish in us tyrannically things which will necessarily bring their perpetrators under divine judgement in view of the severe punishment allotted to them. So we become enslaved through negligence in small matters which by the prudent are treated in a painstaking way, for the sake of Christ.
As it has been said: “Whoever does not subject his will to God, he becomes a slave to his foe.” We have therefore, to consider as walls against those who desire to captivate us, those things which are reputed to be of a humble nature and which are accomplished in the cell, things which by those who maintain the strict institutes of the church have been laid down in prudence, in a spirit of revelation, for the preservation of our life, the neglect of which is deemed insignificant by the imprudent, the harm of which, however, they do not consider.The beginning and middle of their path is untrained freedom, which is the mother of wrongs.
To trouble oneself which the care of small things is better than to give opportunity for sin by remissness regarding them.This is freedom at the wrong time; the end of which is grinding slavery.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily XXX]
Humility, even without works, gains forgiveness for many offenses; but without her, works are of no profit to us.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 69)
For a man who for God’s sake humbles himself, and thinks meanly of himself, is glorified by God.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 5]
Humility always received mercy from God; but hardness of heart and littleness of faith contend with fearful encounters.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies. Homily 5]
One of the saints wrote that, “If a man does not count himself a sinner, his prayer is not accepted by the Lord.”
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Epistle to Abba Symeon]