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HOMILIES ST ISAAC Epistle to Abba Symeon   2/12/2020 12:00 πμ






Part II – An Epistle to Abba Symeon of Caesarea.

(The Greek printed text addresses this epistle to Symeon the Wonderworker, while the Greek manuscripts have Abba Symeon of Caesarea. Judging merely by the content of the epistle it seems most unlikely that it was written to Saint Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain (Near Antioch) who is also called the Wonderworker).




Your Epistle, O Holy Man, is not simply written words, but as in a mirror you have depicted therein and made manifest your love for us. As you think us to be, so have you written; and you have shown by your very actions that you love us exceedingly, so that on account of your great love, you forget our measure. For that which it were meet for us to write to your holiness and to ask, so as to learn the truth from you (if we were solicitous over our own salvation), this you have anticipated and written to us by reason of the magnitude of your love. But probably you did this with the art of [[divine]] philosophy, so that by means of the subtle and spiritual questions you ask me, my soul






might be aroused from the state of carelessness wherein she has become deeply mired. Howbeit, by reason of that same divine love because of which you have forgotten our measure, I now also forget my insufficiency, and so I give heed not to my ability but to what your prayer is powerful to do. For though I forget my measure, you will obtain from God by your prayers the fulfillment of your request and you will certainly receive from Him that which you have sought in prayer, as being His true servant.

And so the first question in your epistle is the following: Must all the Lord's commandments be observed, and is there not a way of salvation for the man who does not keep them?

It seems to me that there is no need even to ask concerning this. Although there

are




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many commandments, one must keep them, for otherwise there would have been no reason for the Saviour to give them. I think indeed, that our Master said or did nothing superfluous, unreasonable, or needless. For the purpose of His coming was to cleanse from the soul the evil of the first transgression (Syriac; to cleanse the soul from wickedness) and to bring her back to her primal state. He gave us His life-giving commandments as purifying remedies of the soul's passionate condition. For what medicines are to a diseased body, that the commandments are to the passionate soul. It is clear that the commandments were given to oppose the passions and for the healing of the sinful soul, even as the Lord said plainly to His disciples, 'He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him, and We will come unto him and make Our abode in him' (John 14:21, 23). And again, 'By this shall the world know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another' (John 13:35). It  is evident that a man can acquire love only after he has received health of soul, and that the soul is not in good health unless she keeps the commandments.

The keeping of the commandments is, however, still inferior to spiritual love. And because there are many who keep the commandments out of fear or on account of future reward but not for love's sake, the Lord often admonishes us to observe out of love the commandments which give light to the soul. And furthermore, 'So that men may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in the heavens' (Matthew 5:16); but it is not possible to see in the soul the good works which the Lord taught, unless a man keep the commandments. And showing that the commandments are not burdensome for the lovers of the truth, the Lord said: 'Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For My yoke is good and My burden is light' (Matthew 11:28, 30). And so that we should carefully keep all the commandments, He also decreed this, saying, 'Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of the Heavens' (Matthew 5:19). After all these things ordained for our salvation, I cannot say that there is no necessity to keep all the commandments. Nor is the soul capable of purifying herself if she does not keep the commandments which the Lord gave as medicines for the purging of passions and sins.

You know that evil entered into us through the transgression of the commandments. Hence it is obvious that by keeping them, evil departs from us. But without the doing of the commandments we should not even aspire or hope for purity of soul, because (Greek; when) at the very outset we do not walk on the path that leads us to purity of soul. Do not say that God can give us the grace of purity of soul even without




our keeping the commandments.




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All things of this sort are the judgments of God, and the Church does not direct us to ask for such a thing. The Jews, at the time of their return from Babylon to Jerusalem, came by the road trodden by nature, and in this manner they reached their holy city and beheld the wondrous deeds of the Lord. But Ezekiel was caught away supranaturally by the action of revelation and he came to Jerusalem; and in a divine revelation he was a beholder of the renewal that was to come (Vide Ezekiel 40:1). It is likewise with purity of soul. Some, going by the well-trodden road of the law through the keeping of the commandments in a life of many labors, enter into purity of soul by sweat and blood; and there are others who are vouchsafed purity of soul by the gift of grace. It is a marvelous thing that we are not permitted to ask in prayer for the purity that is granted us by grace and so to reject the active and laborious manner of life. For the Lord said clearly to the rich man who asked how he could inherit eternal life, 'Keep the commandments.' And when the rich man asked, 'What commandments?' He answered, 'At the beginning shun evil works', so reminding him of the natural commandments. But when he sought to learn more, the Lord said to him, 'If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, take up thy cross and follow Me' (Cf. Matthew 19:21). This means, die to all your possessions and thus live in Me; depart from the old world of the passions and so enter into the new world of the spirit. Take up your cross and strip yourself of the knowledge of methods and craftiness and so put on the simple knowledge of the truth. For by saying, 'Take up thy cross' (Matthew 16:24), the Lord taught him to die to all things in the world. When a man has killed the old man in himself, that is, his passions, He then says to him: 'Follow Me.' The old man cannot go the way of Christ, as the blessed Paul says, 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God' (1 Corinthians 15:50), nor can corruption inherit incorruption; and again, 'Put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the likeness of his Creator' (Cf. Ephesians 4:22, 24); and again, 'The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh, mind the things of the flesh and cannot please God by being spiritually minded' (Cf. Romans 8:7, 5, 8). But, O holy man, if you love purity of heart and the spiritual mind of which you have spoken, cleave to the Master's commandments', even as our Master said, 'If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments' (Matthew 19:17), for the sake of love for Him Who decreed them, but not on account of fear or the recompense of wages. For it is not when we practice righteousness that we taste the sweetness concealed within it, but rather when longing for righteousness consumes our heart. And it is not when we commit sin that we are sinners, but when we do not hate sin and we do not repent of it. I should say that there has




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never been a man, either of the ancients or of those most recent, who has not kept the commandments and still has reached purity of heart and been deemed worthy of the divine vision of the spirit. And as it seems to me, whosoever has not kept the commandments and has not gone in the footsteps of the blessed apostles, is not worthy to be called holy.

The blessed Basil and the blessed Gregories, of whom you said that they were lovers of the wilderness, pillars and lights of the Church, and praisers of stillness, did not




enter stillness having failed to practice the commandments. Rather, they first lived in peace and kept those commandments which must be kept by men dwelling with many others, and thus they reached purity of soul, and were deemed worthy of the divine vision of the spirit. I truly believe that when they lived in cities they received strangers, visited the sick, clothed the naked, washed the feet of the weary, and if anyone compelled them to go one mile, they went two. When they had kept the commandments which must needs be kept in the company of men and their intellect began to perceive its primal motionlessness and the mysteries of divine theoria (Greek; mystic and divine theorias), then they hastened to go out into the stillness of the desert. From thenceforth they abode with their inner man so as to become continual beholders of divine visions, and they remained in the divine vision of the spirit until grace summoned them to be shepherds of the Church of Christ.

But you say that Basil the Great sometimes praises dwelling with many men, sometimes withdrawal from men, concerning which I reply that truly zealous men find profit in two ways, each man according to his strength, his discernment, and the goal which he has set for himself. Sometimes the strong are profited by dwelling with many men, sometimes the weak also; and it is the same in the desert. The man who stands firmly in good health of soul, whose intellect is united with the Spirit and who is dead to the life of mankind, the same suffers no harm from habitation with many men, if he is very vigilant in his affairs. Such a man dwells with others not to receive profit, but to profit others, since God has called him to this as He did [[the Apostles and]] the other holy Fathers. But it is also profitable for a weak man, who still needs the milk of the commandments in order to grow, to dwell with many men, until he be exercised, perfected, and buffeted in trials, and he fall and rise up again together with the rest and so achieve health of soul. No infant is nurtured without the streams of milk, no monk without the milk of the commandments is tutored, progresses, vanquishes the passions, and receives purity. And, as we have said, the same holds true for the desert. Sometimes the desert is profitable for those who flee, sometimes for the strong: for the former, so that there be no fuel that could increase their passions; for the latter, so that by being unencompassed by matter, they can confront the onslaughts of the evil one.




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In very truth, as you said, the desert puts the passions to sleep. But not this alone is requisite—for a man to put his passions to sleep—but he must also uproot them, that is, conquer them when they obstinately contend against him. For sleeping passions awake as soon as they meet with a cause which moves them to their activity. But so as to learn that not only the desert puts the passions to sleep, as you say, understand how in the time of sickness and great weakness they do not war vehemently against us. Indeed, the passions themselves often put each other to sleep when they give place to one another. The passion of vainglory often puts to sleep the passion of fornication, and again, the passion of fornication puts to sleep the craving for glory. Let us not, therefore, desire to hasten into the wilderness because it merely puts the passions to sleep, but because by the absence of sensory objects and the withdrawal from all men we become wise in the desert, and our inner, spiritual man is renewed in Christ. And further because at all times we see ourselves, and our intellect becomes wakeful and guards itself at every moment, lest perhaps the memory of its hope be stolen from it. These things, I think, will suffice to answer your first question, if indeed you required them.



Now your second question is this: Is it good to flee from all that excites the




passions in us; and is such flight to be considered a victory, or is flight from warfare and the choosing of peace to be considered a defeat of the soul?

On this matter we shall speak briefly. With intelligence the monk should flee whatever excites evil passions in him, and he should especially sever from himself both the causes of the passions and the fuel whereby they operate and increase, though they be insignificant. But if it is a time for resisting and waging war with them, he should do the following also, not rashly, but with much skill: when snares are laid for him in the vision of his spirit, he should always turn his mind away from the passions toward the natural good which the Creator placed in our nature, even though the devil perniciously perverts the truth for a cunning trial of men. And if permissible, I should also say that he should not only flee from outward vexations, but from his own senses as well, if possible. He should dwell with his inner man and there abide, toiling solely in the continual husbandry of the vineyard of his heart. How, indeed, can the name monasticism be fulfilled by works alone (Greek; until he corresponds in (his) works with the name monasticism. With the addition of a lamedh before name the Syriac might also mean this), since it is applied to him both inwardly and outwardly to the same degree? For by continually abiding with our inner man we shall become one through the completeness of the knowledge of the hope of Christ Who dwells in us. As long as the intellect abides here, it will not wage war with the passions, but grace herself [will do this]. That is to say, the passions will remain inactive.

The third Question: If a man does something for the sake of the purity of his soul,




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but others, not understanding his spiritual discipline, are scandalized with him, should he desist from his divine discipline because of the scandal, or should he do that which profits him, even though onlookers suffer harm?

We say to this: if, while purifying his intellect, a man does something that he has received from the Fathers who came before him, and the goal he has set for himself is to attain to purity, but others, not convinced of his goal, are scandalized, then the guilt is not his own but their own. He does not devote himself to abstinence, fast, strictly seclude himself, and do those things which help him to attain his goal so as to scandalize others, but to render his intellect pure. They, not knowing his aim, find fault with him. They are, however, confuted by the truth, because they are unable (due to their own negligence) to perceive the spiritual goal which he spiritually set for himself, that is, to attain to purity of soul. The blessed Paul wrote of such men, 'The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness' (1 Corinthians 1:18). What then? Should Paul have ceased from the 'kerygma' because the preaching of the Cross was considered foolishness by those who were perishing and did not perceive the Cross's power? Even until this day the subject of the Cross is a stumblingblock and a scandal for the Jews and the heathen. Should we then be silent about the truth, lest they be scandalized? But not merely did Paul not cease from speaking, but he cried out loudly and said, 'Far be it that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!' (Galatians 6:14). He did not, indeed, exclaim his boasting in the Cross so as to scandalize others, but to preach the Cross's great power. Therefore you also, O holy man, should accomplish your discipline with the goal that you have fixed for yourself before God, and in this your conscience will not condemn you. You should judge your discipline by means of the holy Scriptures and by that which you have received from the holy Fathers. If you are not censured by these things, have no fear when others are scandalized. No one is able to please all men alike, and likewise to labor




for God in his hidden self.

Blessed is the monk, O blessed man, who in very truth runs in pursuit of the purity of his soul with all his strength, and journeys toward it on the lawful path which our Fathers traveled, who skillfully ascends to it gradually by its own steps, enduring the tribulation of afflictions, but not employing the foreign steps of his own devisings. Purity of soul is the primordial gift of our nature. Without purity from the passions the soul cannot be healed from the illnesses of sin and possess that glory which she lost by transgressing the commandment. If in reality and actively a man is deemed worthy of purity of soul (which is the soul's good health), his intellect will receive joy through spiritual perception, for he has become a son of God and a brother of Christ, and his intellect becomes oblivious to the good and evil things that befall him.

Further you write in your epistle that a monk who wishes to love God must above

all




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have concern for the purity of his soul. You have spoken well, if indeed you have strength sufficient for this. You also say that the soul which has not yet vanquished the passions has no boldness in prayer, but these two statements seem to me to contradict one another, though I am an ignorant fellow. For if a man has not conquered the passions, how will he have concern for purity? The just law of spirituality does not permit the soul which has not conquered her passions to seek that which is above her. For it is not known that a man loves from what he desires, but it is known that he desires from what he loves, since love naturally precedes desire. If a man did not love, he would not desire. The passions are a door closed in the face of purity. Unless a man opens this closed door, he will not enter into the unsullied and clear realm of purity of soul. When you wrote that the soul does not possess boldness in the hour of prayer (i.e. When the soul has not conquered the passions), you said the truth. For boldness is not only above the passions, it is even above purity. This is the order of succession as I see it: patience through self- compulsion does battle with the passions for the sake of purity; if the passions are conquered, the soul acquires purity; and true purity endows the intellect with boldness in the hour of prayer.

Could we, perhaps, be blamed for asking in prayer for that which we are calling purity of soul, or could it be a petition coming from pride and conceit to ask God for that which the divine Scripture and our Fathers command, though it is this very thing which a monk pursues when he withdraws from the world? But I think, O holy man, that just as a son has confidence in his father and does not beseech him 'Teach me such a craft', or, 'Give me such a thing': so a monk ought not to differentiate in his supplication to God and say, 'Give me this', 'Give me that', for he knows that what a father provides for his son is transcended by God's providence for us. We should, therefore, humble ourselves and mourn over the faults and the stumblings which we have involuntarily committed, whether in our thoughts or our actions. We should say with a contrite heart what the Publican said, 'God, be gracious unto me a sinner' (Luke 18:13); and we should do both openly and hiddenly that which the Lord taught, saying, 'Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21); and when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which we ought to have done' (Luke 17:10). In this manner your conscience will bear witness to you that you are a sinner and have need of mercy. And you yourself know, O holy man, that works and disciplines do not open the door closed within your heart, but a contrite heart and




humility of soul, when you have overcome the passions by humility and not by scorning them. For the man who is sick straightway humbles himself, being concerned to heal his maladies; afterward he seeks to be a king. Verily, purity and health of soul are the kingdom of the soul. As a sickly prince does not say to his father,




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'Make me king', but first cares to regain his health, and after he is completely healthy he receives his father's kingdom; so the sinner, after he repents and receives the health of his soul, enters with his Father into the realm of his nature's purity and reigns in his Father's glory.



We bring to mind how the holy apostle Paul recounts his transgressions and puts his soul in the last and nethermost place, saying: 'Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first He might show forth all His long-suffering. For in the beginning I was a persecutor, a reviler and a blasphemer, but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief' (1 Timothy 1:15, 16, 13). When and at what time did he say this? After great struggles, after mighty works, after the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, which he preached throughout the whole world, after continual deaths and manifold tribulations which he suffered from the Jews and from the heathen. He saw himself as still making a beginning, and not merely was he of the opinion that he had not yet attained to purity of soul, but he would not even number himself among the disciples of Christ, as was meet. For he said, 'I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God' (1 Corinthians 15:9). And when more than all men he had gained victory over the passions, he said, 'I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway' (1 Corinthians 9:27). But if you were to object, saying that at times he also recounts great things about himself, let him persuade you himself about this. For he says that he did not do this voluntarily, nor for his own sake, but for the preaching of the Gospel. And when he relates these great things for the profit of the faithful, he presents himself as being deprived of all sense because he boasts in such a manner, and he cries out and says, 'Ye have compelled me' (2 Corinthians 12:11); and again, 'That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting' (2 Corinthians 11:17). Behold the righteous and upright rule which Saint Paul has laid down for us! Let us, then, observe it and be zealous in its behalf. Let us cease from entreating God for lofty things when He does not bestow them or give them to us by His grace, for God knows the chosen vessels of His service. And the blessed Paul, even after such things, did not ask for the kingdom of the soul, but said, 'I could wish that myself were anathema from Christ' (Romans 9:3). How, then, even before the time known to God, could we dare to ask for the kingdom of the soul, we who have not kept His commandments, nor overcome the passions, nor repaid our debt?

Therefore I am admonishing you, O holy man, lest such a thing should enter your mind. Above all things acquire patience in what befalls you. In great humility and contri-




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tion of heart with respect to our thoughts and whatever pertains to us let us ask God for the forgiveness of our sins and for humility of soul.

One of the saints wrote that, 'If a man does not count himself a sinner, his prayer is not accepted by the Lord.' But if you say that some of the Fathers wrote on what are




purity of soul, health of soul, dispassion, and the soul's divine vision, know that they did not do this so that we should seek these things prematurely, in expectancy, for it is written, 'The Kingdom of God cometh not with the observation of expectancy' (Cf. Luke 17:20). Those in whom such an intention is found have gained for themselves pride and downfall. But for our part, let us put in good order the realm of our heart by deeds of repentance and disciplines well-pleasing to God, and things which are of God will come by themselves, if the place of the heart is pure and undefiled. But to seek 'with observation' these lofty things which are of God, is rejected by the Church of God; and those who have so received them have rather gained for themselves pride and downfall. This is not a sign that a man loves God, but that his soul is sick. How can we seek the lofty things of God, when Paul boasts in afflictions and reckons the lofty things of God to be sharing in the sufferings of Christ?

Further on in your epistle you wrote that your soul has come to love the love for God, but that although you have much desire to love God, you have not attained to a real love of Him, and therefore you yearn to withdraw into the desert. By this you showed that purity of heart has made a beginning in you and the memory of God is aflame and burns strongly in your heart. And if these things are true, they are indeed great; but I should not have wished you to write this, since not one of these things is in its proper place. But if you had told me this by way of a question, a question would require a different form. For how could he who says that his soul still does not have boldness in prayer because he has not conquered the passions, dare to say that his soul has come to love the love for God?

Divine love, in pursuit of which you mystically run by withdrawal into the desert, can in no wise be kindled in the soul which has not overcome the passions. You say, however, that your soul has not conquered the passions and that she has come to love the love for God, which is out of place. For the man who says that he has not conquered the passions and that he loves to love God is unintelligible to me.

But you would reply that, 'I did not say that I love, but that I love to love.' Nor does this stand if your soul does not possess purity. But if you wished to say this simply in a manner of speaking, know that you are not alone in saying this, but that everyone says he would like to love God; and indeed, not only the Christians say this, but even those who do not worship God aright. This thing each man repeats as being his own, but such words are pronounced by the tongue alone and the soul does not feel what is said.

There are




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many who are sick and do not even know it. Vice is a sickness of the soul and delusion is a loss of truth. Most men who are sick with the disease of vice and delusion proclaim health and are lauded by men. Unless the soul is cured from vice and is found in her natural state of health (with which she was created) so that she can be reborn by health of spirit, it is impossible for a man to desire the supernatural things of the Spirit. For so long as the soul is sick with passions, her senses have no perception of what is spiritual, and she does not even know how to desire it, saving only from the hearing of the ears and from writings. Rightly, therefore, I wrote above that those who desire perfection must keep all the commandments, since the working of the commandments heals the powers of the soul. The practice of the commandments is not accomplished simply and by chance, for it is written that, 'There is no remission without the shedding of blood' (Hebrews 9:22). Our nature first received renewal through the incarnation of Christ, and it participated in His passion and death; and then, after the renewal of the shedding of




blood, our nature was renewed and sanctified and became able to receive His new and perfect commandments. For if the new commandments had been given to men before the shedding of the Lord's blood, before our nature was renewed and sanctified, then it is perhaps possible that even the new commandments, like those of old, would have merely cut off vice from the soul, but would have been unable completely to pluck out the very root of vice from her. But now it is not so; now there is a secret labor that accompanies the new, spiritual commandments. When the soul keeps these through the circumspection of the fear of God, they renew her, sanctify her, and secretly heal all her members. For it is obvious which passion is quietly cured in the soul by each commandment. The operation of the commandments is perceived only by the healer and the healed, after the likeness of the woman who had an issue of blood.

You know, beloved, that if the passionate part of the soul is not healed, renewed, secretly sanctified, and held in bonds by spiritual discipline, the soul will not acquire health nor be freed from being troubled by what she encounters in created nature.



Sometimes the healing of the passionate part of the soul is brought about by grace, as in the case of the blessed apostles, because through faith they were made perfect in love of Christ. And sometimes the soul receives health in conformity with the law (Literally; lawfully; i.e. According to the established spiritual order of things). Be certain that the man who has conquered the passions by the doing of the commandments and the harsh labors of a genuine discipline, has gained health in conformity with the law. In this manner his intellect has also been weaned from the materiality of this world; his habitual subservience to his proclivities has been eradicated from him; he has been reborn, as though from the very beginning, into what is spiritual; he is seen to be by grace in the




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realm of the spirit through the thoughts of the inner man; and a new and simple world has received him.

When the intellect is renewed and the heart is sanctified, all the motions of desire (Greek; the thoughts) that move in the heart are set astir in accord with the nature of that world which a man enters. First there arises in him fervent love for things divine and he ardently yearns for communion with the angels and the revelations of the mysteries of spiritual knowledge. His intellect perceives the spiritual knowledge of created things, and the divine vision of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity together with the mysteries of the worshipful oeconomy on our behalf shines forth in him; then he becomes one through the completeness of (Greek; becomes completely one with. The Greek translators read through the completeness of as an adverb) the knowledge of the hope of future things.

Understand, therefore, your state from the very things which I have written you. If a soul confined in the realm of the passions could truly love God, she would have much need (The Greek adds a negative here and reads not much need) to ask questions and to learn the mysteries of the spiritual world. But it is clear that learning and knowledge bring no profit amid the passions, nor do they suffice to open the door closed in the face of purity. But if the passions are removed from the soul, the intellect is illumined, stands firmly in the pure region of its nature, and has no need of questioning, since it distinctly beholds the good things treasured in this region. Our outward senses do not perceive by learning and questioning the natures and the things that are kindred to them, but each sense naturally, and not by questioning, perceives what confronts it. Indeed, instruction does not mediate between the senses and things perceived. However much one may tell a blind man about the glorious light of the sun, the moon, and the choir of the stars, and the




luster of precious stones, he can grasp, judge, and conceive of their beauty only by their appellation, yet his knowledge and his discerning faculty remain divorced from the sweetness of their sight. In the same manner I conceive of the divine vision of the spirit. For if the intellect, which beholds hidden spiritual mysteries, is in its natural state of health, it distinctly beholds the glory of Christ. It does not question or receive instruction, but more than in the freedom of the will it delights in the sweetness of the mysteries of the new world according to the fervor of its faith and hope in Christ. Even so the blessed Paul wrote 'That which we see, why do we yet hope for? With patience we wait for it' (Cf. Romans 8:24, 25).

We ought, therefore, earnestly to wait and persevere in a solitary manner with simplicity with regard to our inner man, wherein there are no impressions of thoughts or sight of complex objects. For in relation to what the intellect sees, it receives patterns.




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When it looks toward the world, the intellect receives impressions and representations according to the diversity of the forms which it ponders. These stir up thoughts in the intellect in proportion to their multiplicity and the diversity of their variations. And when the thoughts are set in motion, they place their seal upon the intellect. But if the intellect looks steadfastly into the inner man, where there is nothing which could give rise to changing forms and no distinction of complex objects different from one another by their shapes, but Christ is all in all, it is clear that the intellect will enjoy simple divine vision. There is nothing which so makes the soul's depths fragrant and is wont to give her such boldness in the hour of prayer as this, for simple theoria is the nourishment of the soul.

When the soul stands firmly in the realm of the knowledge of the truth, she has no need of questioning. For just as the eye of the body does not question when it sees the sun, so the eye of the soul does not first investigate and afterward behold spiritual knowledge. It is in this manner also, O holy man, that the mystical divine vision for which you yearn is revealed in the intellect after the soul has returned to health. But intellectual vision, which endeavors to learn such mysteries through investigation and inquiry, is [nothing but] folly of soul. The blessed Paul did not say that by instruction or in a material place he saw and heard mysteries and 'unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter', but in rapture he was caught up into the spiritual realm and beheld the revelation of mysteries (Vide 2 Corinthians 12:3, 4).

Therefore, O holy man, if you love purity, by love cut yourself off from all love that is poured out toward all things, and having entered, labor in the vineyard of your heart, pluck out the passions from your soul, and strive to be ignorant of human wickedness. Purity which sees God does not arise and blossom forth in the soul by searching for it, but by being ignorant of every man's wickedness. But if you wish your heart to be a dwelling-place of the mysteries of the new world, first become rich in the works of the spirit, soul, and body: fasting, vigil, liturgy, ascetical struggle, patience, purging of thoughts, and so forth. Fetter your intellect by reading the Scriptures and pondering upon them, inscribe the commandments before your eyes, and pay the debt of the passions when you are defeated and when you are victorious (i.e. We must pay the passions their due by being engaged in struggle with them). By the constant converse of prayer and supplication and by your rumination therein, uproot from your heart every image and every likeness which you have received aforetime. Accustom your intellect always to muse upon the mysteries of our Saviour's oeconomy; leave off your search for knowledge and divine vision, which, in their time and place, exceed all verbal




description; pursue the practice of the commandments and labors on behalf of purity; and beg the Lord in heartfelt prayer that the very same fire which He set into the hearts of the Apostles, the Martyrs, and the




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Fathers descend also into your heart in all matters and that you be granted the noetic discipline. The beginning, the middle, and the end of this discipline is the following: the cutting off of all things through union with Christ. If you yearn for the divine vision of mysteries, practice the commandments in yourself by actual deeds, and not merely by aspiring to know them. Spiritual divine vision operates in us in the realm of purity, where Christ dwells, the 'Author of our life' (Acts 3:15). First seek to learn how to enter the realm of the mysteries of the Spirit and in this manner begin.

Purity that is preceded by the practice of the commandments is called the realm of the mysteries. Divine vision is the spiritual vision of the intellect (Syriac; mad'a), that is, to be awestruck and to have understanding of what is, what has come to be, and what will be. Divine vision is the sight of the intellect (Syriac; hauna), that is, to be awed by God's oeconomy from generation to generation, and to understand the glories of God and the terrifying things of the new world. By these things the heart is made contrite and is renewed, and like an infant in Christ the intellect is nourished on the milk of new and spiritual commandments; it becomes free of wickedness and is accustomed to the mysteries of the Spirit and the revelations of knowledge; it is raised from knowledge to knowledge, from divine vision to divine vision, from insight to insight, and mystically it learns and is strengthened, until it is uplifted by love, united by hope, and joy resides in its innermost recesses. Thus it is exalted by God and crowned with the natural glory of its own formation, wherewith it was created.

The intellect ascends into these spiritual abodes by the revelations of knowledge; it falls and stands up, defeats and is defeated, is fried (immolated) in the furnace of the monk's cell, and in this manner is purified, receives mercy, and in reality is accounted worthy of the divine vision of the Holy Trinity, the very thing which you yearn for. The divine visions of natures whereby the intellect is exalted, becomes active, and exercises itself, are three in number: two are of the natures of created things, rational and irrational, spiritual and bodily; the other is of the Holy Trinity. At first it enters into creation, and the intellect passes throughout all created things by the revelation of knowledge. But for those things which do not naturally fall under the senses, divine vision is noetic. The intellect also has a divine vision so as to behold itself. With this the pagan philosophers distracted (Greek; this means to raise upward and roam about) their minds dwelling upon the appearances of created things.

The divine vision of the sons of the mystery of faith is conjoined with faith and grazes in the meadow of the Scriptures. It gathers the intellect from all outward distraction and binds it fast by union with Christ, in the likeness of Basil and Gregory, and the intellect's divine vision is upon the mystical words found in Scripture. Then words which




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knowledge cannot comprehend are received by us through faith, and we gain knowledge of them in that divine vision which we enjoy after purification. For the sake of the mysteries of the Spirit, which are above knowledge and cannot be apprehended by the senses of the body or by the reasoning power of the intellect, God has given us faith,




whereby we know only that these mysteries exist. But this faith gives birth in us to hope for them. By faith we profess that God is the Lord, Master, Creator, and Fashioner of all things. By knowledge we determine that we must keep His commandments and understand that fear keeps the old commandments, but love keeps the life-giving commandments of Christ, as He Himself said, 'I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love' (John 15:10). It is evident that the Son does not keep the commandments of His Father from fear, but from love. For this reason He admonishes us that we should also keep His commandments out of love when He says: 'If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will entreat the Father and He shall give another Comforter' (John 14:15, 16). By the coming of the Comforter He indicates the gifts of the revelation of the mysteries of the Spirit, since it was by the reception of the Spirit that the apostles received the perfection of spiritual knowledge. The Lord promised to ask His Father to give the Comforter to them, to abide with them unto the ages, after the doing of the commandments and purification. Do you see that by the keeping of the commandments the intellect is accounted worthy of the gift of mystical divine vision and the revelations of spiritual knowledge? Indeed, it is not as your wisdom supposed, namely, that the work of keeping the commandments is a hindrance to the divine vision of the divine mysteries which are accomplished in stillness.

Therefore I entreat you, if you perceive in your soul that you have reached the realm of love, keep the new commandments of love for Him Who decreed them, and not from fear, even as the blessed Paul said when he was aflame with divine love: 'Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or prison, or persecution', and the rest. Furthermore he adds, 'For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord' (Cf. Romans 8:35, 38). And so that no man should think that he yearned for great recompense, or honor, or superabundant bestowal of spiritual gifts, as your holiness desires, he said, 'I could wish that myself were anathema from Christ' (Romans 9:3), that those estranged might become His friends. And so that you know that he did not pursue mystical divine vision enjoyed in solitude (like your fatherliness) or desire that which often certain unworthy men have received by grace, hear what he says in another place: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love,




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I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2). Do you see that the lawful door to these things is love? If we acquire love, she will bring us into them. But if we should be granted them by grace, without love, there will certainly come a time when we shall have to give them up. For the acquisition and the guardian of the more lofty holy gifts [[of the saints]] and their divine disciplines is love. Immediately when a monk loses possession of love, his heart loses peace (which is God's tabernacle) and the door of grace is shut within him, that same door whereby the Lord goes in and out, as He says, 'I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall live and find pasture' (John 10:9), for the nourishment of his spiritual life. Here he is not bridled by vice or by delusion, but like men free in Christ, by divine love he goes in and out of every ascent of the revelations of knowledge and mystical divine visions. And so that you know the truth of this, learn from the blessed apostle Paul that in reality the spiritual life




of the intellect is divine theoria, for he cries: I take no pleasure in divine vision without love. If I should not enter through the lawful gate of love into divine vision, I should not desire it at all. And if it were given me by the free gift of grace, when I had not yet acquired love, I should not seek it, for I had not entered into it by the natural door, which is love. I wish, therefore, firstly to acquire love, which is the first divine vision of the Holy Trinity, and then naturally, even without a gift, the divine vision of spiritual things will be mine.

Understand the divine wisdom of the blessed Paul, how he forsook all the gifts which were transmitted to him by grace and he asked for the very substance of the gifts, which both receives all gifts and guards them, as someone has said. The gift of the divine vision of created things was also bestowed upon Moses, and many others were accounted worthy of the same; not, however, permanently, but in a revelation. I, he says, who am baptized in the Holy Spirit and filled with grace, desire to perceive in myself Christ who dwells within me. For Christ effected the renewal of our nature in His own Hypostasis, and by water and Spirit we have put Him on. In an ineffable mystery He united us to Himself and made us members of His body: here, in the manner of an earnest, but in the new world, He naturally imparts life to His members [[even as the head of the body imparts life to the rest of the members]]. Why, then, do you wish and seek for divine vision that is inferior to love? The divine Paul rejected it when it is bereft of love.

Your statement that 'the practice of the commandments hinders me from divine vision', shows that you have found fault with the love of your neighbor and have shown preference to divine vision, and you desire to behold it where it is not to be beheld. For




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the present, O wisest of men, we cannot behold divine vision, but divine vision herself shows herself to us in her own place. Just as with the increase of natural growth the soul receives a diversity of knowledge and apprehends the things of the world and exercises herself therein day by day; so in the things of the spirit a man receives spiritual divine vision and divine awareness and exercises himself therein to the extent that his intellect grows in the noetic discipline and makes further progress. When he reaches the realm of love, he beholds things spiritual in their own place; and no matter how much a man strives to force these things to come down to him, they will not be persuaded. If, however, he should audaciously undertake to behold and comprehend these things before the proper time, straightway his vision will be blinded and he will see illusions and figures instead of realities. As soon as you grasp this fully with your discerning intellect, you will not seek for divine vision when it is not the time. But if it seems to you that even now you see divine vision, know that this vision is an illusion of the imagination (or phantasy) and not divine vision; for there is a likeness and a figure of the imagination for every noetic thing, and again, there is also a true divine vision of it. For behold, in compound natures phantasy as well as true vision occurs. The eye sees true vision when its sight is sound, light is found before it, and what is beheld is close by (This is the Syriac reading. The Greek text has become somewhat confused here). But when the reverse is the case, the eye beholds a mirage instead of the truth, as when it sees water when there is no water, and buildings raised up and suspended in the air, though they stand upon the ground. Apply this explanation of physical things to the noetic as well.

If the sight of the intellect is not purified by the practice of the commandments and by the works of the disciplines of stillness, and if it does not perfectly gain the light of love and grow in the stature of renewal in Christ, and by the different quality of its




knowledge draw near to the spiritual natures in the order wherein it seeks the angelic discipline of the spirit, it cannot become a true seer of divine theoria. However many likenesses of spiritual things the intellect may conceive, they can only be called phantasy and not reality. The cause of the intellect beholding one thing in the place of another is that it is not pure. For the nature of reality always remains unchanged; it is never changed into similitudes. But the cause of the illusion of images is the infirmity, not the purity, of the intellect.

This also befell the profane philosophers, because they regarded as spiritual that concerning which they had received no true teaching from God. Because of the grip and the activity of their rational faculty and the conceptions of their thoughts, they esteemed themselves in their conceit to be something. And further, they deliberated on how they existed, so that they would be able to possess the discovery (i.e. The understanding) both of their genesis and the






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alterations of their forms. They discoursed concerning these things with unseemly presumption, divided the one God into many gods, and in the ruminations of their thoughts spoke and fabricated things which do not exist. In the train of their deliberations they disputed and argued over the spiritual natures and their activities, and called this insane phantasy of their thoughts the divine vision of natures.

The true divine vision of perceptible and imperceptible natures, and of the Holy Trinity Himself, is given in the revelation of Christ. He taught this and showed it to men when at the first, in His own Hypostasis, He accomplished the renewal of man's entire nature, restored and gave it its original freedom, and in Himself He beat down the path for us so that we can journey to the truth through His life-giving commandments; then our nature became capable of beholding true, not illusory, divine vision. When man has shed the old man of the passions by patiently enduring sufferings, by labor, and by affliction, then even as a new-born babe sheds the membrane of its mother's womb, the intellect is capable of being born in a spiritual manner, of seeing in the world of the spirit and of receiving the divine vision of its homeland.

Although the divine vision (Perhaps something like speculation is meant here) of created things is very sweet, still it is a shadow of knowledge, and its sweetness is not distinct from the dreams of phantasy. But the divine vision of the new world in the Spirit of revelation, wherein the intellect delights spiritually, is the operation of grace, not a shadow of knowledge. The sweetness of this divine vision is not distinct from that of which the Apostle wrote: 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto the saints by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God' (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10). This divine vision is food for the intellect until it becomes able to receive a divine vision higher than the first. For divine vision conveys the intellect to another divine vision until it is brought into the realm of perfect love. For love is the place of spiritual things and it dwells in purity of soul. When the intellect is established in the realm of love, grace is active, and the mind receives spiritual divine vision and becomes a beholder of hidden things.

There are two modes, as I have said already, whereby the gift of the revelations of divine vision is given to the intellect. Sometimes it is given by grace because of the fervor of faith, and sometimes because of purity and the practice of the commandments. By grace, as it was given to the blessed apostles, who purified their intellects not by the




observing of the commandments but by fervent faith, and so were accounted worthy of the revelation of divine vision; for they believed on Christ in simplicity, and followed Him unquestioningly with hearts aflame. And when Christ completed His worshipful oeconomy,




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He sent them the comforting Spirit, He purified and perfected their intellect, actively put to death in them the old man of the passions, actively brought to life in them the new man of the spirit, and thus they became conscious both of the new and old man. So too, the blessed Paul was first mystically renewed, then he received the divine vision of the revelation of mysteries; he was not, however, made confident by this. He actively and freely received grace, but throughout his whole life he ran his course, that he might, in so far as possible, make recompense for that grace which he received when the Lord conversed with him in the way as with His own servant, and sent him to Damascus. Is it not written that Jesus conversed with him openly? But Scripture says that Ananias also spoke thus to him, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 9:17). And when he baptized him, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and perceived the mysteries of the revelations of hidden things, even as this was accomplished in the holy apostles when Jesus was with them and said: 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth and He will declare unto you things to come' (John 16:12, 13).

It is evident that it was only when the blessed Paul received the Holy Spirit and was renewed by Him, that he was granted the revelation of mysteries, that he beheld by the Spirit of revelations, that he delighted in divine theoria, heard ineffable words, beheld divine vision more lofty than nature, enjoyed divine visions proper to the celestial hosts and the spiritual orders, and therein he exulted. Let no one say, as the heretics known as the Euchites (or, Messalians) deliriously affirm, that Paul achieved these heights by his own desire (since indeed the intellect is wholly incapable of ascending thither)! On the contrary, he was caught up in rapture by the Spirit of revelations, as he himself wrote in his Epistle to the Corinthians (Vide 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4), in contradiction to these vain men, who likened themselves to the holy apostles, but professed the phantasies of their thoughts and called them spiritual divine visions. This error can be found in many of the heretics, I mean Origen, Valentinus, Bardaisan, Marcion, Manes, and many other ancient originators of the wicked heresies which began from the apostolic times and even until this day are found in certain places.

So because some, seduced by the phantasies of the demons, wished to corrupt the teaching of the blessed apostles, the divine Apostle was compelled to disperse the boast of the heretics (who boasted in the illusions of the activity of the demons which appeared to them) by narrating his own divine theoria with humility and much fear. This he did in the person of another, saying: 'I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); how




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he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter' (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). He does not say, therefore, that he voluntarily ascended in intellect through divine vision into the third heaven, but that he was caught




up by rapture. Indeed, he wrote that he saw divine visions and said that he heard words, but he was unable to describe what those words were or the figures of those divine visions. For when the intellect in the Spirit of revelation sees these things in their own place, it does not receive permission to utter them in a place which is not their own. And even if it should wish, it could not speak of them, because it did not see them with the bodily senses. Whatever the intellect receives through the senses of the body, this it can express in the physical realm. But whatever the intellect perceptibly beholds, hears or apprehends within itself in the realm of the spirit, it has no power to express when it turns again toward the body. It merely remembers that it saw them, but how it saw them, it knows not to express with clarity.

This convicts the false Scriptures called 'revelations', which, being composed by the originators of the corrupt heresies under the influence of demonic phantasies, describe the celestial abodes in the firmament—whither they voluntarily betook their intellects for instruction—the intellect's pathways into Heaven, the places set apart by the Judgment, the manifold figures of the celestial hosts, and their diverse activities. But all these things are shadows of an intellect inebriated by conceit and deranged by the working of demons. For this very reason the blessed Paul by one word closed the door upon all [[divine]] theoria and he conveyed it and enclosed it in silence, where even if the intellect were able to disclose that which belongs to the realm of the spirit, it would not receive permission to do so. For he said that all divine visions which the tongue has power to disclose in the physical realm are phantasies of the soul's thoughts, not the working of grace. May your holiness, therefore, keeping these things in mind, beware of the phantasies of profound thoughts. This warfare especially assaults monks who are keen-witted, who inquire into empty opinions, yearn for novelties, and are superficial.

There was a certain man named Malpas, who was the first to worship the devil and it was called Meliton by the multitude, for so is the interpretation of Malpas (This man is also known as Adelphios). He was a native of Edessa and, at a time when he practiced a very lofty discipline, persevering in excessive labors and tribulations, he invented the heresy of the Messalians. It is said that he was a disciple of the blessed Julian, surnamed Sabbas, for a short time and that he accompanied him to Sinai and Egypt and beheld the great Fathers of that time. He saw the blessed Anthony and heard mystical sayings from him on purity and the salvation of souls, and subtle questions on the passions. Hereby Anthony explained how the intellect, after




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its purification, possesses divine vision concerning the mysteries of the Spirit, and that the soul can receive dispassion through grace, when by the practice of the commandments she sheds the passions of the old man and stands firmly in the soundness of her primal nature. When Malpas heard these words in the prime of his youth, his thoughts were inflamed as though by fire and he returned to his own city; and when the passion of love of glory waxed hot within him, he chose for himself a secluded dwelling and gave himself over to austere works and afflictions and unceasing prayer. There burned within him the passion of vainglory (which indeed was the substance of his hope to attain to the sublime things of which he had heard) but he did not learn the art of opposing the enemies of the truth. He did not understand the snares and wiles and machinations of the adversary, whereby the evil one snatches away the strong and powerful into perdition, but he placed his confidence only in works, affliction, non- possessiveness, asceticism, and abstinence. He did not acquire self-abasement, humility,




and a contrite heart, which are an invincible weapon against the assaults of the evil one, nor did he bring to mind the words of Scripture which say: 'When ye shall have accomplished works, kept the commandments, and endured afflictions, reckon yourselves as unprofitable servants' (Cf. Luke 17:10). But on the contrary he was aflame with a lofty self-esteem arising from the labor of his disciplines, and consumed by the desire of the exalted things he had heard. After the passage of much time, when the devil saw him devoid of the work of humility and having the single desire of apprehending the divine vision of the mysteries of which he had heard, he manifested himself to him in infinite light, saying, 'I am the Comforter and was sent by the Father to you in order to vouchsafe you on account of your works the divine vision you desire to receive, and to give you dispassion and repose from further toils.' In return for these things the treacherous one asked that poor wretch to worship him. And that fool, because he did not perceive the devil's warfare, straightway received him with joy and worshiped him and immediately fell under his power. Instead of divine theoria, the evil one filled him with demonic phantasy and made him cease from his works for the sake of the truth. He raised him up and mocked him with a vain hope of dispassion, saying, 'Now you have no need of works and of buffeting the body and struggle against the passions and lusts'; and he made him the originator of the heresy of the Messalians. When his followers multiplied, his unholy and spurious teaching became known and the bishop of that time banished them.

Again, there was another man in Edessa by the name of Jason, or Asimas, the composer of many triads (A kind of hymn composed of verses three words in length. The Syriac reads here madrashe) chanted even to this day, who practiced a very lofty discipline and bound himself imprudently with very severe labors, until he was glorified [by men]. The devil deluded him, led him out of his cell, placed him on the summit of a mountain called




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Storios, made a pact with him, and showed him the forms of chariots and charioteers, saying to him, 'God has sent me to take you into Paradise like Elias.' In his childishness he was deceived and he sat in the chariot. Then the whole phantasy vanished, he fell from a great height to the earth, and died a death worthy of ridicule.

I have not said these things pointlessly, but so that we should learn the treachery of the demons who thirst for the perdition of the saints, and so that, when it is not the proper time, we should not yearn after the lofty things of the noetic discipline, lest we be made a laughing-stock by our cunning adversary. For I see also nowadays that youths filled with passions babble and fearlessly expound doctrines concerning the mysteries of dispassion.

One of the saints wrote that men who are still filled with passions and indiscriminately converse about both physical and non-physical things, do not differ from men who, though weighed down by illness, give explanations of health. And when the blessed Paul perceived that certain disciples despised the commandments, not having defeated the passions, and moreover they aspired to the blessedness of the divine vision of mysteries, which is possible only after purification, he said to them: First put off the old man of the passions, then aspire to put on the new man, which is renewed after the likeness of Christ its Creator by the knowledge of mysteries. Do not yearn for that divine vision which is alloted to me and the other apostles, which is made active through grace. For God 'hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth' (Romans 9:18). Who shall stand before His face or against His will?




At times God gives freely; at other times He requires works and purification, and only then bestows a gift; and sometimes even after works and purification He does not give [the gift] here, but He withholds so as to bestow it in its proper place. We find that God acts thus also with regard to a lesser gift, namely the forgiveness of sins. For, behold, baptism forgives freely and requires nothing save faith. By repentance after baptism, however, God does not forgive sins freely. He demands labors, afflictions, sorrows of contrition, tears, and weeping over a long period of time, and only then does He bestow remission. The Lord forgave the thief freely, for the mere word of his confession on the cross, and promised him the Kingdom of the Heavens. But from the sinful woman He required faith and tears, and from the martyrs and confessors He required tribulations, torments, straitness, combs of iron, punishments and manifold deaths combined with heartfelt faith and the confession of their mouths.*

*(The doctrine expressed here that 'God does not forgive sins freely', is not a teaching accepted by the Church. Works are not demanded by God as reparation for sin. Saint Mark the Ascetic writes, 'However great our virtuous actions of today, they do not requite but condemn our past negligence' (Against Those Who Think to be Justified by Works) 44); 'Every virtue that is performed even to the




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point of death is nothing other than refraining from sin. Now to refrain from sin is a work within our natural powers, but not something that buys us the Kingdom' (ibid. 25). Works therefore are nothing but remedies for our passionate state, tools that aid us in amending ourselves. God does not withhold remission until works are offered in payment. Rather, works help repair the vessel of the soul, making it capable again of holding divine grace. Saint Isaac says, 'Christ demands not the doing of the commandments, but the soul's amendment, because of which He gave His commandments'. Thus even the various epitimia prescribed by the Church are given to us, not that we may thereby placate God, nor because He demands satisfaction for wrongs committed by us; rather, they are provided as therapies to help us heal our weaknesses, as weapons to help us combat our passions. For this reason, Saint John Climacus writes in The Ladder of Divine Ascent that fasting is used to cure unclean thoughts and overcome gluttony; stillness cures vainglory, almsgiving heals us of avarice, and so on.)




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When your holiness has been persuaded by these things, pay heed to the men of old and to those of recent times, and do not seek for divine vision when it is not time for divine vision. As long as you are incarcerated in the confines of the body, be zealous in the works of repentance, warlike against the passions, and patient in the practice of the commandments. Beware of the treachery of the demons and of those who preach that immutable perfection [can be attained] in this passionate and aberrant world. For this perfection is not even possessed by the angels, the ministers of the Father and the Spirit, since they await the renewal of the middle state (i.e. The human state) so as to be 'delivered from the bondage of corruption by the freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:21). Can perfection be found here, where the sun rises and sets amid the clouds? Where there is sometimes fair weather, sometimes drought? Where at times there is joy, at times, dejection? What is opposed to these things is the portion of wolves, as one of the saints said (see Homily 69; page 337; 'Furthermore he says that because a man according to his own set intention does not wish to journey in the way, and desires




instead to go in his own path, not one trodden by the Fathers, he turns aside from these things and becomes prey for the wolves', and so on). But may God make firm the steps of our discipline with true certainty and His holy teaching, for to Him is due glory, dominion, and majesty both now and unto the endless ages of ages. Amen.




[449] (illustration).

[450] (illustration; Saint 



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HOMILIES ST ISAAC FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY
-FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY.

7:1The noetic renewal of the saints is the crown of the intellect and the understanding which have communion with God through the revelation of His glorious mysteries, but the universal renewal is the general resurrection of all.
HOMILIES ST ISAAC FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY
HOMILIES ST ISAAC Epistle to Abba Symeon


Part II – An Epistle to Abba Symeon of Caesarea.
(The Greek printed text addresses this epistle to Symeon the Wonderworker, while the Greek manuscripts have Abba Symeon of Caesarea. Judging merely by the content of the epistle it seems most unlikely that it was written to Saint Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain (Near Antioch) who is also called the Wonderworker).

Your Epistle, O Holy Man, is not simply written words, but as in a mirror you have depicted therein and made manifest your love for us. As you think us to be, so have you written; and you have shown by your very actions that you love us exceedingly, so that on account of your great love, you forget our measure. For that which it were meet for us to write to your holiness and to ask, so as to learn the truth from you (if we were solicitous over our own salvation), this you have anticipated and written to us by reason of the magnitude of your love. But probably you did this with the art of [[divine]] philosophy, so that by means of the subtle and spiritual questions you ask me, my soul

HOMILIES ST ISAAC Epistle to Abba Symeon
HOMILIES ST ISAAC First Epistle Saint Makarios
Makarios The Great). [451]



APPENDIX C – The First Syriac Epistle of Saint Makarios of Egypt.
(Translated from the Syriac text edition by W. Strothmann in Die syrische Uberlieferung der Schriften des Makarios 1 (Wiesbaden, 1981) pp. 74-84).

Abba Makarios writes to all his beloved sons, exhorting and greeting them before all else. When a man wishes to know himself, to seek God, and to repent of what he has done in the time when he was heedless, God by His grace gives him sorrow over his former deeds.
Hereafter God, in His tender mercy, gives him bodily hardship through fasting and vigil, through a multitude of many prayers and renunciation of the world. And he grants him to bear abuse, to despise bodily comforts, and to love weeping more than laughter.
After this a man is given mourning, weeping, humility of heart and of body, and the ability not to see another man's failings, but only his own. Further he is granted to recollect the day of his departure from this world and how he must needs come before God, to have always before his eyes the torments to come, and to have depicted before his heart the glory and honor which those who love God will receive.
HOMILIES ST ISAAC First Epistle Saint Makarios
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