Reflections on a Saying of a Desert Father: St. Isaac the Syrian

“Heed what we read in the “Asketika” of the great teacher and ascetic, Saint Isaak the Syrian: “By the same means that one lost goodness, he must try to acquire it again. Do you owe a debt of gold to God? He does not want pearls from you. Have you lost your prudence? He does not ask of you acts of charity, but requires sanctification of your body. Have you scorned the commandment of love, being conquered by the passion of envy? For what reason do you battle sleep with uncounted all-night vigils, and destroy your body with excessive fasting? These things will not bring you a single benefit; they do not cure the envy. Every sickness of the soul, as well as the body, needs a specific medicine and has a corresponding cure.”

Although I personally have read them, not that that makes any difference, the Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian are still in print, which leads me to think it is something very worthwhile to read.  I am also struck by the fact that Syria is so much in the news these days and heartbreaking news it is.

This sounds like an exhortation to cease to live in denial and to atone for what you actually did. I wish this had been the dynamic in my family instead of our pattern of haveing a serious disagreement and then pretending as if it never happened.  That poisoned our family life and it shattered.

Facing the truth, no matter how painful is much less painful than living in denial, pretending that something is unreal. I am intrigued  by this sentence. “Every sickness of the soul, as well as the body, needs a specific medicine and has a corresponding cure.”  Presumably in the Ascetical Homilies, St. Isaac gives details.


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