And Now a Word from St. Isaac the Syrian

isaac1Sometimes…while prayer remains for its part, the intellect is taken away from it as if into heaven, and tears fall like fountains of waters, involuntarily soaking the whole face. All this time such a person is serene, still and filled with a wonder-filled vision. Very often he will not be allowed even to pray: this in truth is the state of cessation above prayer when he remains continually in amazement at God’s work of creation – like people who are crazed by wine, for this is ‘the wine which causes the person’s heart to rejoice’…. Blessed is the person who has entered this door in the experience of his own soul, for all the power of ink, letters and phrases is too feeble to indicate the delight of this mystery.

Quoted by Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev in The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian


One of St. Isaac’s favorite phrases is “sober inebriation.” It is much like the common phrase “joyful sorrow.” Both bear the inner contradiction that shares something of the character of the God Who is Beyond Knowing actually making Himself known. We cannot have such knowledge and not somehow be raised to heights of sober inebriation and joyful sorrow.

Most Sweetest Jesus, have mercy!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.






6 responses to “And Now a Word from St. Isaac the Syrian”

  1. Katia Avatar

    Father Bless,

    “BEHOLD, He cometh leaping upon the mountains (Cant. 2:8). For in coming to the task of our redemption He [Christ] made, if I may so speak, certain leaps. Do you desire, dearest brethren, to learn what those leaps were? From Heaven He came down to a womb; from the womb to a crib; from the crib to a cross; from the cross to a tomb; from the tomb He returned to Heaven. Behold how the Truth, made known in the flesh that He might induce us to run after Him, made for us certain leaps: For He rejoiced like a giant to run His course (Ps. 18:6), that we from our hearts might cry out to Him: Draw us after Thee; we will run after Thee to the odour of Thy ointments” (Cant. 1:3).

    Saint Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, + 604 A.D.

    We should know the Truth,with joyful sorrow.

  2. Gene B Avatar
    Gene B

    Many years ago I went to the tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher during lent, before I was serious about being Orthodox. I distinctly remember being overwhelmed, and when I keeled in the small tomb to pray I was unable to find any words. What could I say? Instead I weeped, speechless and thoughtless.

  3. clary Avatar

    I have experienced that involuntary shed of tears a few times and as I prayed or listened to scripture readings my soul was enveloped in this sentiment of embrace and consummation. It is true, words and thoughts are vanished momentarily and after a few seconds it all ceases leaving me peaceful.

  4. Stephen W Avatar
    Stephen W

    Fr. Stephen,

    What do you mean by the title “A now a word from”? Is this a typo or intentional for some reason? Maybe “And now a word”?

  5. C L Avatar
    C L

    Expressing the inexpressable, it is what the Saint’s do so well!

  6. […] of established plants and new leaves. Often this is punctuated with great mystery, as noted by Saint Isaac the Syrian: Sometimes…while prayer remains for its part, the intellect is taken away from it as if into […]

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