I recently picked up a copy of “The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian” after looking at in on the shelf of the bookstore and a number of peoples houses for some time. Often finding some of the Desert Fathers a tough read, and having much else to read for study and other things, something held me back from this before.
Over the last weekend I have picked this up and tried to glean some wisdom from it’s pages. Barely can I get through a handful of pages without having to put it down. Glean from it I have.
Through those handful of pages I felt instructed and ashamed; the simplicity which this great Father can direct you from his words is astounding. Very quickly I found myself directed to put down this book and pick up the Scriptures instead.
“There is nothing so capable of banishing the inveterate habits of licentiousness from our soul, and of driving away those active memories which rebel in our flesh and produce a turbulent flame, as to immerse oneself in the efferent love of instruction, and to search closely into the depth of the insights of divine Scripture”. (Homily One – yes, that quickly!).
Do I immerse myself in the Scriptures. Sure, I read them often. As a Deacon I read them to others in church. This brought back to mind one of the exclamations from the service of tonsuring a reader:
“Child, the first degree of of the priesthood is that of reader. Therefore it becometh thee to read every day in the divine scriptures, that they that hear, considering thee, may receive edification, and that thou, in nowise shaming thine election, may prepare thyself for a more advanced degree.” (The Great Book of Needs – Service of tonsure of a reader or taper-bearer)
Most likely I read them every day also, at least in a small part. But the concept raised by St Isaac to “immerse oneself in the efferent love of instruction” feels like so much more. Or is it what should be expected of all Christians?
This could be one of the slowest books I have read in my life. Fortunately it is broken down into a collection of short homilies, all succinct in themselves. I have relegated it to the bedside table where it will form a delightful reminder if I have ever headed of to bed without prayer or reading of Scripture.
No doubt on these pages you will start seeing occasional quotes from this book appearing, probably for quite a long time 😉