Posts Tagged Isaac of Nineveh

Isaac of Nineveh: On Silence

Isaac of Nineveh – 7th century ascetic and mystic,  born in modern-day Qatar, was made Bishop of Nineveh between 660-680.  Here he speaks of the importance of silence in monastic life.

Isaac Neneveh“Love silence above all things. It brings thee near the fruit which the tongue is too weak to interpret. At first we compel ourselves to be silent. Then from our silence something is born which draws us toward silence. May God grant thee to perceive that which is born of silence. If thou beginnest with this discipline, I do not know how much light will dawn in thee through it. Concerning what is said about the admirable Arsenius: that Fathers and brethren came to see him, but that he sat with them in silence and dismissed them in silence – do not think, my brother, that this happened by the action of his will alone, though in the beginning he had to compel himself. After some time some delight is born in the heart from the exercise of this service and by force it draws the body towards remaining in silence.”
“If thou placest all labors of this discipline [solitary life] on one side and silence on the other, silence will outweigh them.”  

~St. Isaac of Nineveh, from Ascetical Treatises 65 

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Met. Kallistos: “Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?”

Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) (born 1934) – is an English-born bishop and theologian of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  From 1966 to 2001, Ware was Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at the University of Oxford. He has authored numerous books and articles pertaining to the Orthodox Christian faith.

 

kallistosware“If the strongest argument in favor of universal salvation is the appeal to divine love, and if the strongest argument on the opposite side is the appeal to human freedom, then we are brought back to the dilemma with which we started: how are we to bring into concord the two principles God is love and Human beings are free? For the time being we cannot do more than hold fast with equal firmness to both principles at once, while admitting that the manner of their ultimate harmonization remains a mystery beyond our present comprehension. What St Paul said about the reconciliation of Christianity and Judaism is applicable also to the final reconciliation of the total creation: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” (Rom 11:33).

When I am waiting at Oxford Station for the train to London, sometimes I walk up to the northernmost stretch of the long platform until I reach a notice: “Passengers must not proceed beyond this point. Penalty: £50.” In discussion of the future hope, we need a similar notice: “Theologians must not proceed beyond this point”—Let my readers devise a suitable penalty. Doubtless, Origen’s mistake was that he tried to say too much. It is a fault that I admire rather than execrate, but it was a mistake nonetheless.

Our belief in human freedom means that we have no right to categorically affirm, “All must be saved.” But our faith in God’s love makes us dare to hope that all will be saved.

Is there anybody there? said the traveler,

Knocking on the moonlit door.

Hell exists as a possibility because free will exists. Yet, trusting in the inexhaustible attractiveness of God’s love, we venture to express the hope—it is no more than a hope—that in the end, like Walter de la Mare’s Traveller, we shall find that there is nobody there. Let us leave the last word, then, with St Silouan of Mount Athos: ‘Love could not bear that… We must pray for all’.”

~ From “Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All? Origen, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Isaac the Syrian” 

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Isaac of Nineveh: God’s Justice is not Rome’s Imperial ‘Iustitia’

Isaac of Nineveh – 7th century ascetic and mystic,  born in modern-day Qatar, was made Bishop of Nineveh between 660-680.  Here Isaac easily debunks the Western Latin notion that God’s righteousness, or “dikaiosyne theou“, is the same as secular Imperial Roman Justice, or “Iustitia“.

 

Isaac Neneveh

Isaac of Nineveh, 7th century

“How can you call God just when you read the parable of the laborers in the vineyard and their wages?  ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong…  I choose to give to this last as I give to you… do you begrudge my generosity?’  Likewise how can you call God just when you read the parable of the prodigal son who squanders his father’s wealth in riotous living, and the moment he displays some nostalgia his father runs to him, throws his arms around his neck and gives him complete power over all his riches?  It is not someone else who has told us this about God, so that we might have doubts.  It is his own Son himself.  He bore this witness to God.  Where is God’s justice?  Here, in the fact that we were sinners and Christ died for us…”  ~ Ascetic Treatises, 60

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Isaac of Nineveh: “…hell is in my opinion: remorse.”

Isaac of Nineveh – 7th century ascetic and mystic,  born in modern-day Qatar, was made Bishop of Nineveh between 660-680.  Especially influential in the Syriac tradition, Isaac has had a great influence in Russian culture, impacting the works of writers like Dostoyevsky.

 

Isaac Neneveh

As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful.  That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse.”  ~ Isaac of Nineveh, Ascetic Treatises, 84

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