The Doctor is good, but my reluctance prevents me from visiting Him – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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The wounds have scarred my body, but there is no stench so that I may yet seek healing. I hide the wounds of the arrows from people and I cannot bear the doctor removing them. He has prescribed ointments for my wounds but I am not sufficiently strong-hearted to endure their astringency.

The doctor is good. He seeks no compensation from me, but my reluctance prevents me from visiting him. When he comes to me in order to heal me, he finds me eating those things that worsen my wounds. He implores me to stop immediately, but the pleasures of their taste deceive my heart. After I have finished eating, I feel remorseful, but my remorse is not sincere. When he sends me food, saying, “Eat in order that you may be healed,” my bad habit does not allow me to accept it. In the final analysis, I do not know what I will do.

Therefore, weep with me, all my brothers who know me, in order that assistance beyond my strength may come to me and dominate me, that I may become his worthy servant, for his is the power, to the ages of ages. Amen.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis – Discourse 14]

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Repentance comes before gifts, lean not on your own understanding – Abba Isaiah

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Do not seek the sublime gifts of God while still praying to Him for help in order that He may come and save you from sin, for, if the place of the heart is undefiled and pure, the divine gifts come of themselves. Whoever depends on his own knowledge but still possesses his own will gains only hatred, and those who hear sorrow in their heart simply cannot be of the Spirit. Whoever considers the words of Scriptures and practices them according to his own knowledge, thinking intently to himself that this is how reality is, is ignorant of God’s glory and wealth. Whereas one who considers them and says, “I do not know what they mean, for I am human,” offers glory to God. In this person the wealth of God abides in accordance with his capacity and understanding.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Discourse 6]

Virtues, and how to attain them – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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There are three virtues which bestow light on the intellect at all times: knowing no evil against anyone, doing good to those who wrong you, and enduring calmly the things which come your way.

These three virtues give rise to another three which are still greater: knowing no evil against anyone gives rise to love, doing good to those who wrong you produces peace, and enduring calmly the things which come your way brings meekness.

There are four virtues which purify the soul: silence, keeping the commandments, <spiritual> constraint and humility.

The intellect always needs the following four virtues: praying to God by constantly prostrating oneself before him, surrendering before God, being unconcerned with everyone in order not to judge, and being deaf to the passions which speak to it.

Four virtues fortify the soul, allowing it to breathe from the disturbance of the enemy: mercy, freedom from anger, long-suffering, and shaking off every seed coming from sin. Resisting forgetfulness protects all of these.

There are four virtues which, after God Himself, assist the beginner: constant study, resoluteness, vigil and disregard for oneself.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetical Discourses, Discourse 7]

What is fear of God? – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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Abba Peter said, “I asked him, ‘what is fear of God?’ and he said to me, ‘A person who trusts in anybody who is not God, that person does not have fear of God in himself.'”

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetical Discourses, Discourse 26]

Excerpt from Gospel of the Day: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed -Matthew 13:31, 12th of Hatour – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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The parable of the grain of mustard seed is a mystery, as the Fathers have said, and we are called to imitate its example. It is written, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a person took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of herbs and becomes a shrub, so that the birds of the sky come and make nests in it’s branches.” [Mt 13:31]

This, then, is the grain of mustard seed, and these are its virtues which we are called to imitate in every way. When it says, “it is the smallest of all seeds“, it is referring to humility, that we must be subjected to all people. Its growth signifies meekness and longsuffering. Its redness means purity, not having any stain in the flesh. Its sharp twigs are the hatred of the passions, for such hatred is bitter for those who still desire wordly things. Its sweetness, which is only activated when it is mashed or threshed, signifies endurance. Its thresher is stung in the eyes on account of its powerful affliction. It is used to pickle dead things in order that they do not stink. Let us understand this and do likewise, dipping in it the dead parts of our soul so that they are not exposed to stench or worms.

This is why the Lord Jesus became human, in order that we may be concerned with endeavouring to behave as he did, searching ourselves as best we can in accordance with his example, asking whether or not we are like that seed, its condition humility, its sweetness and bitterness and taste. His mercy will strengthen us according to his will, for his is the glory, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetical Discourses, Discourse 11] 

There are two ways, one of life and one of death – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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Someone asked Abba Isaiah, ‘What is repentance and what does “to flee from sin” mean?’

He replied, ‘There are two ways: one of life and one of death (cf. Jr 21:8 and the Didache). The person who walks along one does not progress along the other. The person who walks along both is not yet reckoned for the kingdom, or for punishment. When such a person is dead, his judgement is in the hands of God, who also has mercy. Whoever wishes to enter the kingdom keeps watch over his actions because the kingdom puts an end to every sin. The enemies sow (cf. Mt 13:39) but their thoughts do not grow. If, through the Spirit, a person contemplates the loving kindness of the Godhead (cf. 1 P 2:3) the arrows of the enemy do not penetrate him (cf. Ep 6:16). He is, in effect, putting on the armour of virtues (cf. Ep 6:11), which guards against the enemy, taking care not to allow him to be troubled. If frees him in order that, in his contemplation, he may see, know and distinguish between the two ways, fleeing from one and embracing the other.”

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetic Discourses, Discourse 21]

Self-examination and self-rebuke – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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Abba Isaiah said, “O me, O me! For I did not struggle to save myself. O me, O me! For I did not struggle to purify myself in order to be made worthy of the intervention of the God of mercy. O me, O me! For I did not struggle to overcome the onslaughts of your enemies so that you might reign over me.”

He also said, “O me! For I have been invested with your name, and I am serving your enemies. O me, O me! For I do what God abhors; that is why he is not healing me.”

He also said, “O me, O me! For there are those before me who are accusing me of faults or which I am aware and unaware, and am unable to repudiate them. O me, O me! How can I meet my Lord and his holy ones when my enemies do not allow that even one of my members is pure in the sight of God?”

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetic Discourses, Discourse 26]