Glory to God for All Things

Preaching the Love of God – St. Isaac of Syria

isaacI would not have a blog except for the friendship of Fr. Aidan Kimel. He has returned to writing himself. His latest is an exquisite word on the need for preaching the love of God – with a wonderful look at this love in the writings of St. Isaac. I append a short excerpt. Do yourself a favor and follow the link. Listen to the love of God – it is the whole of the gospel. 

…I am convinced that most Orthodox and Catholic preachers simply do not understand what it means to speak the good news of Jesus Christ. They do not understand that preaching is, first and foremost, the proclamation of the God who is absolute love and mercy. The homilies I have heard may be characterized as exhortation. I have heard exhortations to good behavior. I have heard exhortations to imitate Christ in his care for the poor. I have heard exhortations to repentance and the acquisition of the virtues. I have heard exhortations to adhere to the dogmas and traditions of the Church. I have heard exhortations to prayer and ascetical discipline. But rarely, oh so rarely, have I heard the kerygmatic announcement of the surprising and unmerited mercy of God. Rarely have I heard the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ and the eschatological existence now freely given to us in the Church by the Spirit. Rarely have I heard of the God who leaves his flock in search for one lost sheep and upon finding it lays it on his shoulders and rejoicing takes it back to the flock. Orthodox and Catholic preachers prefer to exhort, urge, counsel, warn, and admonish their congregations; but this kind of preaching, whether moralistic or ascetical, cannot save. Only the proclamation of love communicates the abundant life that Christ came to bring us.  Read the rest at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

59 Responses to “Preaching the Love of God – St. Isaac of Syria”

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  1. Matushka Mary Christine says:

    It uplifts my soul to hear how much God loves us despite all we do to push Him away.

  2. Grant says:

    Wow. I followed the link. It was worth it. No more words.

  3. Linda Nicole says:

    At the church I attend the homilies given by our priest speak of love and Gods unending mercy for us, almost every week with various flavors. It always comes from deep in his heart. Great article, but I think that there are very many priest that do a lot more than give an exhortation.

  4. Dino says:

    It reminds us of St. John Chrysostom’s homily:

    I your father, I your spouse, I your home,
    I your nurse, I your root, I your foundation.
    Whatever you want, I will be.
    You will lack nothing. I will labor for you.
    For I came to serve and not to be served.
    I will be your friend and your host,
    your head and your brother, your sister and your mother.
    I will be everything. Only be intimate with Me!
    I will be poor for you, errant for you,
    on the Cross for you, in the Tomb for you.
    Above I plead the Father for your sake,
    on earth I became intercessor to the Father for your sake.
    You are everything for Me,
    brother, co-heir, friend and member.
    What more do you want?

    If only we were aware that He is our all! If only we remembered that Man has but a single desire and it is for Him… (all other desires that distract us from it are nothing but corruptions of that one desire)

  5. fatherstephen says:

    Dino,
    Which homily is this? I find it quoted out there – but no one gives a citation and I have not been able to find it.

  6. Dino says:

    It is in his Homily on the St Mathew Gospel number 76 (if I translate correctly from my source in Greek – it is very famous in the Greek (but hard to come across in English), almost as famous as his celebrated Homily on the Resurrection…

    In Greek: οστ´ (76) ὁμιλίας εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον Εὐαγγέλιον 24,16-31 (ΕΠΕ τόμ. 12, σελ. 34)

  7. Dino says:

    There is more to it and it is truly outstanding (entirely on the Love of Christ)!!

    Apparently the original resides in the Great Lavra on the Holy Mountain

  8. simmmo says:

    I would shudder to think what his appraisal of Protestant sermons would be!!

  9. spidey says:

    Toward the end of my 29 years as a Protestant, I had a conversation with my pastor that I remember vividly. I was in a rough time, and he reminded me, “God loves you.” All I could say was “What does that even mean?”

    A year later, I was heading toward my imminent baptism in the Orthodox Church, and I no longer needed to ask that question. Maybe I landed in an exceptional place, but my priest does not merely preach God’s love, he lives it.

  10. An English translation of St John Chrysostom’s Homily 76 can be found here: http://goo.gl/FMOcs.

  11. “I would shudder to think what his appraisal of Protestant sermons would be!!”

    Well, I have to admit that I really have not heard many Protestant sermons, unless you count listening to my own sermons, preached Sunday after Sunday as an Episcopal priest. And I would have to judge most of them as barely passable, if that. :)

  12. Part 2 of my article on St Isaac is now available on my blog: http://goo.gl/ipXGt. Thanks everyone for reading. Thanks especially to Fr Stephen for making article on St Isaac known to his readership.

  13. mary benton says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    This is wonderful. (So is Fr. Aidan’s blog.)

    I read your post before going to church this morning and, as much as I love my parish, I was thinking “how true”. I have wondered sometimes why this is so – do the priests assume we already know that God loves us? Then the priest today preached of God’s love so tenderly that I was consoled.

    Even if we have been in the Church (yours or mine) for a long time, we still need to hear that message preached often. Else we may drift off into merely being “good people” who live in a two-storey universe :-)

  14. fatherstephen says:

    I noticed in the larger context of St. John Chrysostom’s sermon, the wonderful quote sort of “disappears.” St. John, most of the time, is one of the most “moralizing” of preachers. But he has moments of genius – such as the famous Paschal Homily. This passage is itself genius. I would (if I were coaching the great saint), suggest taking this small quote and build the sermon on it.

    That’s what I did this morning and enjoyed it ever so much (at least from the preacher’s end of things).

    St. John is not the “mystic” or even the “elder” that St. Isaac is. Nor is he a theologian like St. Basil or St. Gregory Nazianzus (or Nyssa). He’s a very straight-forward, frequently literal interpreter of Scripture (especially since most of his material is NT) who tends most towards a moral point. I love him, and his reputation is deserved, but (forgive me for such judgment) I do not place him among the “great” fathers of the Church, except as a representative place-holder for solid sorts. His preaching has moments of genius, and his redaction of the liturgy is truly excellent, even genius as such. But he is not among the figures who played a role in the Great Councils (his life-time didn’t quite match up with the right dates). His squabbles in the Church, including the one that got him exiled, were relatively “petty.” They were not with heretics, but with other solid Churchmen. It was a sad chapter in Church history, not unlike certain events in our own days.

    I’m always interested when Chrysostom is quoted in the manner of the greats (like St. Basil) when it really isn’t his category at all. I love him and have a devotion for him, but, for example, the sermon from which this exquisite quote is taken is relatively prosaic on the whole. This lyrical passage is used primarily to then beat up on his hearers for their ingratitude. So, I took the passage, and preached it in a mystical manner (or something like that), urging through the love of God, my hearers to unite themselves to Christ in the Fast, for Christ Himself has united Himself to us in the Fast. He completes in His 40 days, what Adam did not complete in his (tradition holds that Adam and Eve were in Paradise 40 days).

    Just thoughts of a Sunday evening.

  15. Lina says:

    I am wondering if there is a difference between the group of people who have walked a pretty straight path and the group of people who have left the path and then turned to Jesus to be saved, literally. I fall into the latter group and I really know the love of God who rescued me from the pits and turned my life around. I am eternally grateful.

    I have also worked with people who were extremely poor and Jesus was their only recourse for healing and food at times.
    Their problems were ongoing but they can tell you that He comes through.

    When someone has been rescued by God the rescue is so profound that the sense of trust and love becomes embedded in one’s being.

  16. Patty Joanna says:

    When I was on a journey, when I didn’t know I was on a journey, I read “Pontifications” faithfully. A lot of it flew right over my head, but some of it thrilled my heart.

    It was through Pontifications that I found Orthodoxy. While this might not have always been good news to Father Aiden, it probably is now. :0)

    I’m glad you are writing again, Father Aiden. I worried about you when your blog went “dark” (literally) and have always been thankful for the friendship between you and Father Stephen. It led me to Orthodox Christianity, and saved me.

    Blessed Lent.

  17. dino says:

    Father,
    I thoroughly agree with your comment on St John Chrysostom’s homilies as compared to those great mystics such as St Isaac the Syrian. Besides, we are comparing words spoken to a large lay audience to words written for Hesychasts… The depth and density of St. Isaac, St Makarius, St Hesychios, St Symeon, St Maximus etc could never really come from a homily spoken to large audience.

  18. fatherstephen says:

    Dino,
    Funny, I was thinking the same thing when I woke up this morning (I don’t always wake up thinking about the Church Fathers). But it is, indeed, homiletic material, which is why I am frequently dismayed by those who want to use it for something else. Good reminder, thanks.

    Although, St. Gregory the Theologian, who was Archbishop of the same see a generation earlier, was not shy about doing fine theology in the pulpit. But the people loved St. John in a manner that never happened in St. Gregory’s short stint in that great city.

  19. David Gilchrist says:

    Love moved him to die, And on this we rely,
    He hath loved, he hath loved us, we cannot tell why.
    But this we can tell, He hath loved us so well,
    As to lay down his life to redeem us from hell.
    (Charles Wesley)

  20. Karen says:

    Thanks for this link, Father. A subject near and very dear to my heart, to be sure!

    Very interesting discussion of St. John Chrysostem’s ministry. It reminds me of the distinctions Jesus makes between His public preaching on the one hand and His explanations for the disciples later (who even then didn’t fully understand). We can only absorb from God what we have “ears to hear.”

    I wonder if on this subject you could offer any wisdom about 4 Esdras? I discovered this apocryphal work of 1st century Jewish apocalyptic literature (with Christian interpolations) in my late aunt’s New English Bible with Apocrypha after I had become Orthodox (she was high church Episcopal and a devout believer). It was uncanny how it addressed the very same struggle that brought me to Orthodoxy. The main character (apocryphal “Ezra”) is asking the same questions and expressing the same anguish and concerns I had, and which were only assuaged through my discovery of St. Isaac’s teaching (which I first found in “The River of Fire”).

    I understand 4 Esdras is not in the Greek Bible, but is retained in the Ethiopian canon and is included in the Slavonic. Thoughts Fr. Stephen or Fr. Aidan?

  21. dino says:

    Another Father who gave talks to large audiences that seemed to combine Chrysostoms paraenesis with deep Hesychastic mystical allegories is St Gregory Palamas. In fact he seems to combine all previous Fathers in one sometimes!

    I remembered today (the start of Lent) how he somewhere talks on yesterday’s sermon on Adam (us all, as well as the Mind/Nous) crying outside of the Gate (the entry to our Heart) of Paradise (Christ). He does this a great deal with all the Parables.

  22. CoffeeZombie says:

    Lina,

    Christ himself does seem to say as much. In Luke 7, he gives the parable of a creditor who forgives the debts of two men. One owed 500 pence, the other 50. Christ then asks which will love the the creditor the most. To which Simon, the pharisee he was eating with, replied, “He who was forgiven most,” and Jesus responds “Thou hast rightly judged.”

    Fr. Stephen,

    It is interesting to read your thoughts on St. John Chrysostom here. When I read Fr. Aidan’s post, at the part about exhortational preaching as opposed to preaching the love of God, St. John was the first person I thought of!

  23. Susi says:

    dino wrote: “I remembered today (the start of Lent) how he somewhere talks on yesterday’s sermon on Adam (us all, as well as the Mind/Nous) crying outside of the Gate (the entry to our Heart) of Paradise (Christ).”

    This struck a cord in my heart and is so timely, as I recently read somewhere a similar thought with the priest, as Adam, standing before the closed gate to the alter…and I am reminded of the richness of profound subtlety found in the Orthodox Church and aching for all who have not yet discovered her. Thank you, dino and Fr. Stephen for this conversation.

  24. Dino says:

    Susi,
    one of the richest sources of all these notions expounded on by Saints such as Gregory Palamas is the Great Canon! It can be understood on many levels and is truly sublime…

    Indeed, each and every one of us “eat from the tree” at some point, whether in lustful disobedience or self-seeking curiosity. However, our mind’s “wandering” (whether through the outer or inner senses), is far more of a continuous constant. In fact, that soon becomes the crux of our struggle – if we really do struggle that is.
    As we were estranged from paradise, because of eating from the tree, so is our mind estranged from our heart. There is even an astounding parallel between the one Adam and “all of Adam” in each of our individual repentance. Through the cross of fasting and constant prayerful attention we unite ourselves to Christ’s Cross which leads us back into the heart and into Paradise.

  25. I have the misfortune of hearing many Protestant sermons, usually in Spanish, as my wife speaks that language and she is still a Pentecostal Evangelical in her heart of hearts. She likes to listen to them on the radio and on the television.

    The one she had on last night seemed very angry to me. His face was clutched with barely suppressed rage, and all of his movements were quick and aggressive.

    “Why is he so angry?” I asked my wife.

    “He’s not angry. He’s preaching to Catholics. They don’t pray to Jesus. They pray to the saints, like Saint Barbara, and Saint Helen.”

    “Is he angry that they’re praying to the saints? It sounds like it.”

    I listened to the man’s message, and it was very pointed. Praying to the saints was idolatry, and the Catholics did it because they weren’t born again and had a spirit of fear unto bondage, so they were afraid of Jesus and had to go through the saints. He sounded very, very angry to me. I did nto take this up with my wife because she is an ex-Catholic and considers this man her spiritual father, as he was the first to ever “preach the gospel” in her country, and she was “born again” under his ministry.

    I did not press my wife any further. That way lies Discord.

  26. Dino says:

    Mule Chewing Briars,
    wow! I wish you patience…
    May your meekness, discernment and joy charm your wife away from such delusion! Whether it takes 6 months or 60 years, it always wins in the end…

  27. Grant says:

    Is it too simplistic to say that as Adam ate from the tree that he shouldn’t have and lost Paradise, we must now fast before the Tree of the Crucifixion to be readmitted to Paradise?

  28. Dino says:

    That is indeed in our Hymnography…
    :-)

  29. PJ says:

    I have to admit that I’m scandalized by the comments regarding St. Chrysostom.

  30. Dino says:

    PJ,
    St John talked to city laymen who lived a completely different life to monastics in the desert.
    I assume you must mean Father’s comment:

    St. John is not the “mystic” or even the “elder” that St. Isaac is. Nor is he a theologian like St. Basil or St. Gregory Nazianzus (or Nyssa). He’s a very straight-forward, frequently literal interpreter of Scripture (especially since most of his material is NT) who tends most towards a moral point. I love him, and his reputation is deserved, but (forgive me for such judgment) I do not place him among the “great” fathers of the Church, except as a representative place-holder for solid sorts. His preaching has moments of genius, and his redaction of the liturgy is truly excellent, even genius as such. But he is not among the figures who played a role in the Great Councils (his life-time didn’t quite match up with the right dates). His squabbles in the Church, including the one that got him exiled, were relatively “petty.” They were not with heretics, but with other solid Churchmen. It was a sad chapter in Church history, not unlike certain events in our own days.

    I’m always interested when Chrysostom is quoted in the manner of the greats (like St. Basil) when it really isn’t his category at all. I love him and have a devotion for him, but, for example, the sermon from which this exquisite quote is taken is relatively prosaic on the whole. This lyrical passage is used primarily to then beat up on his hearers for their ingratitude.

    But I think that what Father says makes complete sense… St John Chrysostom, (although one of the most ascetic and personally experienced in stillness bishops), gave homilies that have a very drawn out, often morally paraenetic style due (not to his experience, or any lack thereof, but) to his audience …! I think this is key in appreciating the great difference in his style and that ultra dense style we see in the ascetic Fathers, the sort that we find in the Philokalia.

  31. MgtPgh says:

    This is also posted at my blog.

    What does it all mean!!? I have been reading Kyriacos Markides book “Inner River- A Pilgrimage To The Heart of Christian Spirituality” and a very amazing thing happened to me the other day. This is the second book of his I have read. The other is “The Mountain of Silence” another excellent book on the mysticism of Eastern Orthodoxy. Meanwhile back to the wonder!(FUL) experience I had. I was reading “Inner River” and fell off to sleep one afternoon last week and as I was waking up, just in the moment between sleep and consciousness I saw in my mind’s eye my self as a child. I was laying in bed in the afternoon probably the year 1960 as I sensed that I was around 7 or 8 and had fallen asleep reading. My present self had the sensation that I was actually there in that time with the warm sun on my face exactly like I was here in the present. I had the thought that I was actually physically occupying that space in time as my young self and that I could stay there in that time and that space if I wanted. I also felt compelled to tell my young self that I should not worry because everything would be fine as you have found much happiness and love here in the future. Just as I had that thought I was simultaneously experiencing the exact moment in 2002 when I was filled with the holy spirit lying in my bed one evening after months of prayer and scripture reading. However the Holy Spirit was not finished because at the same exact instant I was also reliving another spiritual experience that transpired in 2012. So it was bang, 1-2-3-4 actual historic events of my life happening simultaneously in my vision. That is what I decided I must have been having. The amazing thing is I was filled with such joy I cannot describe! I was crying, I was laughing, I was praising God and feeling like I was going to explode with happiness! Unbelievable! Lord Jesus Son of God, have mercy! Kyrie Eleison, even. Wow! I kept saying “Lord, what just happened?” Amazing, wonderful, awesome. I wanted more but I don’t know if I could have handled it. I also think I was seeing events in time as maybe God sees them, if that makes sense. The love I felt was overwhelming! Ever since then I have been so happy. We went to Liturgy on Sunday and we decided we are going to fast for Lent and I really want to become Orthodox now. I emailed the priest asking for guidance on what steps to take and am waiting for a reply. Has anyone out there had such an experience before? Did I have a vision?

  32. MgtPgh says:

    So sorry, In my excitement I didn’t think that I may be hijacking the forum. Please forgive if that is the case, I see no way to delete my post.

  33. Part 3 of my article on St Isaac is now available: http://goo.gl/yCIXO. Thanks everyone for visiting my humble blog.

  34. Susi says:

    May the Lord bless your journey, MgtPgh. Remember to breathe in and breathe out. You are on the path, so enjoy the view one step at a time. Allow the priest to guide you, especially where fasting is concerned. We do so only with the guidance and blessing of our priest. Going about such a thing of our own will can be dangerous, so please speak with him prior to making any decisions regarding fasting…and priests are extraordinarily “busy” this time of year so be understanding if it takes him longer to get back with you than it normally would. Again, God’s blessings to you!

  35. easton says:

    MgtPgh, at one time, i would have thought your experience was a ridiculous dream, but…i had an experience a number of years ago that was “unreal”, and there are no words to really explain it. it was a very difficult time in my life (many sad things going on at once) and a light of love literally engulfed me….i was fully awake and it was the most wonderful “sense of total love and serenity” i have ever felt. i accepted it as a wonderful gift from the holy spirit, and have gone back to the memory many times…

  36. fatherstephen says:

    PJ,
    Sorry to scandalize you with my honest musings. The humanity of the fathers (and Chrysostom is exceedingly human – we have much more information about him than is often the case) is as interesting as anything else about them. We have this treasure in earthen vessels. My reflection was saying out loud something that seems very obvious to me from much reading of the good saint. It doesn’t make him less a saint – but he is historically not one of the fathers who generated the dogma of the faith, nor is he noted as one of the great fathers of Hesychasm. He’s a great preacher, though many of his sermons are relatively prosaic. Others are truly inspired. We have, compared to most, many volumes of his sermons, so it’s hard to compare. But I think sometimes we romanticize the very human figures of the fathers and tip-toe around things. At worst, there are those who treat the words of the fathers as inspired on a par with Scripture – that scandalizes me in the extreme – it can yield a patristic fundamentalism. What we want is the experience of the fathers.

    That Chrysostom died rather lonely and depressed matters to me – particularly that he still offered his great last words: “Glory to God for All Things!”

  37. Rhonda says:

    Mule Chewing Briars:

    I truly feel for you. My spouse is a non-practicing RC (converted to RC from nothing for a previous marriage) & very “uncomfortable” with religion. He is still not happy about my conversion to Orthodoxy from Protestantism, although he now accepts it.

    He has much improved over the last ten years since I was received. Originally icons & books were stored away in the basement & even Sunday Church attendance was resented. Prayer time at home was not tolerated. Now I have a very prominently place icon corner & books shelves upstairs. Prayer time must still be done when he is not present, but worship attendance is more frequently allowed, especially for Great Lent, Holy Week & Pascha. In 2011 our Easter/Pascha dates coincided & he decided that he wanted to fast RC-style. This from a man that had not attended a Mass in 15 years of the 20 I’ve been with him! The annual home blessing is also now allowed. My priest & his wife are frequent guests for dinner. So things are infinitely better although we still have a long way to go.

    All I can say is patience, love & pray-pray-pray. You might try to get her to read or read along with her some basic catechical stuff, when she is not all wound up by her “spiritual father”. Or watch the show with her & when he makes a claim that is wrong about your faith say so & then relate the truth, again this is dependent on her receptiveness & mood at the time.

    Never allow it to boil over into an agrument. My distaste for argument & discord has served me well in my husband’s slow acceptance of my Faith. My willingness to cook him fish for RC Lent, even when EO Lent has not yet begun, went a long way as well.

    I have found that most cradle-RC & converts-for-marriage do not really understand much of the depth of their faith (or their former faith). They too can get wrapped up in performance of externals & following of rules, which is what the Protestant preachers rail against, without realizing the theology is much deeper.

    You did not state if she attends worship services anywhere. Hopefully, television & radio are not her only “church”. If that is the case, try suggesting that she find a local church to attend. Media preachers are notoriously more showmanship than discipleship; most are outright frauds. A relationship with a local pastor may be able to replace this guy as her “spiritual father”.

    However, realize that changing is ultimately her choice, to include the option to not change. It may boil down to you having your faith & she hers. As long as neither of you interfers or forbids the other, then that may be the best that it gets. These are just my thoughts & ramblings. If you find them useful, please use them. If not, then feel free to discard them. It’s your marriage & you know your wife much better than I.

  38. Rhonda says:

    MgtPgh:

    Regarding your experience (I prefer this over “vision”) wait & see what comes of it. If it is from God or not will be revealed eventually. Remember that it might just as easily have been a dream based on some longing, conflict or stress in some other part of your life that affected your consciousness while asleep.

    Many are too quick to declare “God told them to” in a dream or vision. Joseph Smith (Founder of Mormonism) as well as Muhammad (Founder of Islam) also had visions that started them on their way. Ellen White (Founder of 7th-day Adventist) is another. There was also William Miller (Founder of the Millerites) & Charles Russell (Founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses). It is alleged that John Nelson Darby (Founder of Dispensationalism) was influenced by a woman who had visions, Margaret McDonald.

    The modern nation of Israel deals with thousand of tourists each year that develop “Holy Land Syndrome”, an overwhelming majority are Protestants. It is a rarity for RC or EO Christians to develop this behavior. Most are “treated” by sending them back home. Once out of Israel/the Holy Land they quickly recover & resume their lives. Most were truly convinced that they were whatever biblical figure they emulated; most are also very devout in their Protestant belief both before & after trip. Only afterwards did they realize they were deluded.

    I’m not saying one way or another that your experience was authentic or not or that it was like any of the above illusions. The human mind & what/how it is influenced is not well understood. You may have had an actual “vision” or you may have had a deceptive illusion. All I am saying is that to be patient & wait & see. Eventually you will know one way or another.

    I agree with another commentor that advised establishing a relationship with an Orthodox priest & becoming a catechumen before engaging in any Orthodox practices, even fasting & the Jesus Prayer. Also, when you feel comfortable, relate your experience to him & follow his guidance. Use his wisdom & guidance for such things as establishing a prayer rule & fasting practices. There is no need to re-invent the wheel so to speak.

    I have non-Orthodox & non-religious friends that try various religious spirituality techniques, including the Orthodox Jesus Prayer, without becoming an active member of the faith of their chosen technique. This is spiritually dangerous & spiritual deception is inevitable.

    Again, be careful–be patient–be wise.

  39. Rhonda says:

    MgtPgh:

    One last comment I forgot previously.

    Do not seek to repeat the experience. This too is spiritually dangerous. True visions are a gift from God & therefore one should wait on Him to bestow His gifts rather than greedily try to snatch more & more.

    I do not know of any Orthodox saints that had frequent & numerous visions constantly throughout their lives. This leads me to believe that true visions from God are truly very rare. I must admit though that I have not researched this so it is just my opinion.

  40. MgtPgh says:

    Rhonda:

    I’m glad things are improving in your marriage concerning your husband’s willingness for increased participation in his faith and yours. I am extremely blessed that my wife was raised in the Orthodox faith and has been very patient with me. She is truly a gift from God and years of prayers answered. My study of all things Orthodoxy over the last three years has really helped me to understand her also. I was raised Southern Baptist and sometimes we seem like we are from different planets.

  41. Dino says:

    According to Patristic experience, Grace can visit us and visits us constantly in a million different ways, but our chock-a-block cram-jam-packed minds makes us deaf and blind to it. Of course, there are many degrees of Grace and the higher degrees get closer and closer and closer to what Elder Sophrony or St Symeon the New Theologian would call ‘union with the Hypostatic Light’, but, ‘lower’ degrees (according to God’s wisdom/love and foreknowledge of our response) can take all sorts of forms: of heightened vigilance, compunction, fiery Faith, tearful joy, all-encompassing love, discernment of Scripture etc etc…
    Those who are grateful for the lowest degrees are those who often exhibit the most stability, even in the face of an apparent complete withdrawal of Grace after a powerful and life-transforming visitatio

  42. fatherstephen says:

    I encourage readers to continue to follow the link to Eclectic Orthodoxy. The third article is up and is excellent. Fr. Aidan is presenting and wonderfully full treatment of St. Isaac and letting the saint speak for himself.

  43. Rhonda says:

    Fr. Aidan’s blog site is excellent. I have read through much of it the past couple of days. Eclectic Orthodoxy & Glory to God For All Things are excellent companions for each other. Thank you & Fr. Aidan for your work & ministry for us :-)

  44. Rhonda says:

    MgtPgh;

    Since you have been blessed with an Orthodox spouse most of what I posted was unnecessary. You have a close source to assist you & keep you grounded. Well wishes & blessings as you & her travel together. Please continue visiting & posting here :-)

  45. MgtPgh says:

    Rhonda:

    Sorry, I should have have included that piece of info in my earlier post. My wife says however’ that I am teaching her a lot of information about Orthodoxy that she was not aware of. :-)

  46. aegian says:

    Thank you for the oiginal post on preaching the love of God and the many interesing posts following. God is everything. He is everywhere. Without Him on this tiny planet whirling in space we would have no life. He IS life. He is our life. He speaks in silence. He is always there, when we need Him and when we do not. He died for us before we even knew anything of Him or what His sacrifice meant for us. We still do not wholly understand the why and the wherefore. Everything will be revealed to us in due course.

    I cannot agree that Saints only have a few visions. If we are in tune with our Lord, if He fills the whole of our being, even as we live on this earth and live ordinary, mundane lives, He speaks to us daily. To the majority it is in silence. God does not have to explain Himself. He does not have to tell us why we are suffering and why so many people suffer.

    He showed through His death that He suffered and suffers still. We believers, who know the whole of His love, or as much as we can know at the moment, carry His cross on a daily basis. God continues to suffer through us and through our suffering. If we dedicate ourselves to Him He will speak to us every moment of every day because our lives become an expression of His love on this earth.

    He may be silent but He speaks through us, His Church, His beloved children who are carrying on His Cross until the work is done and we will see all and understand all.

    We His believers are the fortunate ones because we carry His Cross within us and therefore the coming Resurrection too.

    It would be wonderful if all the people on this forum will rejoice in the truly splendid task our loving Lord has given us. May blessings and peace be on all of our heads and hearts.

  47. aegian says:

    MgtPgh,

    Thank you for posting your wonderful vision. I hope people do not mind my total certainty but it was a vision. It was a perfect example of how God is outside time. We experience it linearly but God sees everything as a whole. He knows what will happen next and what happened before. We are assured that when we die everything will be clear and we will see how everything fitted in to make the whole which is our life.

    You have been truly blessed.

    Mule Chewing Briars, (what a good name!)

    Your post was very moving. All of us are on different stages of the path. If your life seems difficult now because of your wife’s attitude, I hope you will forgive me for saying, love her. Just love her. Be gentle. Be tolerant. The same God who has illuminated your life is working in hers. Be kind to her. Laugh together and enjoy this wondrous world God has given us all. The closer you are to her as a compassionate husband, the closer she will be to the God within you and us all.

    Rhonda, I liked your response to Mule Chewing Briars. You are right. Ultimately it is his wife’s choice which faith she choses and what she believes but we have eternity, so she, like all of us has endless hope.

  48. Alan says:

    Rhonda, regarding your post from 3/19 @ 12:22 AM, I’d like to ask you about your last two (full) paragraphs. I’m currently a Protestant but you might term me an Orthodox seeker. For the last 3.5 years I’ve been reading Orthodox books, blogs, etc and have occasionally attended Divine Liturgy. I find myself very much drawn to the Orthodox Church. But nonetheless, as it stands now, I am not Orthodox. Please note, I am honestly seeking advice here, not trying to challenge you. So you’re saying I should not fast at all and not recite the Jesus prayer? I’m honestly not trying to be snarky, but can I still continue to pray at all?

    I’m hoping that you can expound a bit on your earlier comments, if you don’t mind. Specifically, in what way is it dangerous for a non-Orthodox to observe certain Orthodox practices.

    Thank you for your time.

  49. aegian says:

    St. Isaac the Syrian put teaches us: “When you turn to God in prayer, be in your thoughts as an ant, as a serpent of the earth, like a worm, like a stuttering child. Do not speak to Him something philosophical or high-sounding, but approach Him with a child’s attitude” (Homily 49).

  50. Part four of my series on St Issac is now published: Hell and the Scourge of Divine Love (http://goo.gl/ZgG8d).

    Please remember: I, and I alone, am responsible for what I have written. This article does not necessarily represent the views of Fr Stephen or most other Orthodox. But I do think I am faithfully representing the views of St Isaac of Ninevah.

  51. fatherstephen says:

    Alan,
    My family and I kept the Orthodox fasts for 4 years before we converted. Those not a standard approach. If you have questions, ask the priest where you visit – or do what seems best. I prayed the Jesus Prayer for 20 years before I converted. Jesus heard me and had mercy! It’s certainly not wrong to approach the ascetical practices of the Church slowly. Some of them I’m still slow about after 15 years, and with some of them I’m slowing down some because I’m now almost 60. Not quite as many prostrations – but I truly feel the ones I make!

  52. Rhonda says:

    Alan;

    I detect no “challenge” :-) Please remember that everything I post is just my opinion formed by Orthodoxy as the best I am able with 48 years of life experiences thrown in. IOW, my opinion “ain’t worth a plugged nickel” ;-)

    The comment you are asking about was for that individual based on what they had posted. If the individual had mentioned his Orthodox wife, I would have written a very different response.

    I have seen far too many sincere individuals have some type of spiritual experience & become overzealous “spiritual thrill-seekers”, always chasing & groping for their next “spiritual thrill”. I once had a dear friend that ended up living in a crazy cult compound out in the middle of KS. It was crushing to her family as well as those of us who were her friends; for me this girl was my best friend & it felt like she had suddenly & unexpectedly died. Fortunately, for whatever reason & in whatever manner she left or was taken from the cult. Unfortunately, she has chosen not to reconnect with her family or former friends & her once devout faith is now non-existent.

    You, however, are a different person & situation. You have been reading about Orthodoxy for awhile & are somewhat familiar with Divine Liturgy. Great :-) When you are ready make the next step from inquirer to catechumen. Until then try to attend some Lenten services at your local parish…many hold several in the evenings throughout the week such as Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, parts of the Great Canon of St. Andrew. Also try attending some Holy Week services.

    As far as prayer & fasting, let prayer & your conscious be your guide & take it slow if you are not under the guidance of a priest. I would not dare to countermand Fr. Stephen ;-), but I will point out that he was an Anglican priest long before his reception into Orthodoxy. Fr. Stephen was also better theologically educated than most being from a mainline denomination. Anglicanism & most mainline Protestant denominations, from what I have seen, are not as prone to the “spiritual excesses” or “spiritual thrill-seeking” I have seen throughout the rest of Protestantism, especially the non-denominationals & independents that focus almost exclusively on the exhibition of the “charismatic gifts”. For him, I do not believe that Orthodox asceticism would have been particularly dangerous before his reception & may have proven to be beneficial for him.

    You know your background, your personality tendencies & yourself much better than I. If you find any of my ramblings &/or opinions useful, then by all means use them…if you do not think so, then by all means do not use them. As I said my opinions are not worth much…

    I do wish you God’s grace & blessings on your journey (hopefully) to Orthodoxy :-) Please keep us updated on your journey. I am actually very excited for you.

  53. MgtPgh says:

    Please forgive me @Rhonda @Alan I did not mean to cause trouble.
    :-)

    Romans 12 comes to
    mind for some reason
    :-)

    Also , I talked to the priest
    and am meeting with him next week!

  54. Alan says:

    Fr. Stephen and Rhonda, thank you so very much for your kind, humble and gracious responses. They were most helpful and encouraging to me. One of the things that I find so attractive about Orthodoxy is the genuine humility I see in the Orthodox people I encounter. Again, thanks to both of you!

    @MgtPgh, No worries at all on my end. Blessings to you.

  55. And here we come to the crux of St Isaac’s eschatological vision: http://goo.gl/62KIc.

  56. The conclusion of my reflections on St Isaac the Syrian: http://goo.gl/yqpFV.

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