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Isaac of Nineveh: Mystic Treatises (IX)

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segunda-feira 18 de outubro de 2021, por Cardoso de Castro


Isaac of Nineveh, Mystic Treatises



There are sins in which a man is entangled through weakness and accidentally. And there are sins the source of which is the will; others (spring) from an uncultivated mind  . Some are committed occasionally, others continually; others are customary. And all these classes and kinds of sins, though bound by the common verdict of reprehension, have a different character and their punishment may be greater or smaller.

Some sins are reprehended severely; others are near to mercy. God   has also shown unto Adam  , Eve and the serpent, though not one of them was exempted from receiving the retribution of his fault, a great variety in the curse which was directed against each one of them; and so He did in the curses directed against their offspring. In accordance with the propensity and inclination of each unto sin, is judgement made more heavy, in If any one be not inclined to follow sin, but he be drawn towards it on account of neglect regarding righteousness, although he be not zealous for it, his judgement will be severe even if the connection with sin be difficult for him. But if he be diligent and temptations rise, mercy is near to purify him, without doubt. For it is another thing that a man who is careful regarding excellence and constant in its works, meditating on it even in the night, should fail in any of its duties; while by day he is loaded with its burden and goes around with it, all his thoughts concentrated upon justness - it is a different thing that, while he is occupied with such things, through ignorance or the compulsion of opposition on the way of excellence and the mighty waves that arise every moment in his limbs, and the propensity towards aberration which is implanted in him as a test of freedom, the indicator of his scale should point somewhat to the left, and through the sickness of the flesh   he should be entangled in any kind of sin and suffer and be sorry on account of it and bewail himself passionately because of his miserable weakness in the face   of what overtakes him now and then.

It is a very different thing, that one being lax in the works of righteousness or wholly neglectful of the way, should run like a slave in complete obedience to all the delights of sin, and try to find the means of its accomplishment; and that like a slave he should purpose zealously to perform the will of his adversary, his limbs serving him as weapons on behalf of Satan   in complete obedience and that he should not even think of repentance so as to draw nearer unto excellence and end his path of shortcomings.

Different are the trespasses and the stumbling-blocks laid on the way of virtue and in the course of righteousness. As the Fathers say: On the way of excellence there are stumbling-blocks, there are varying states, there is compulsion, and the like.

A different thing is death of the soul   and complete destruction and total abandonment. This is known thereby that, although one falls, he does not forget the love of his Father  ; and although he is loaded with trespasses of every kind, his zeal for the service of good is not held back, nor does he desist from his course, nor abhor to stand in struggle against these things anew and with the same chance of being vanquished, nor cease from demolishing every day his building and beginning a (new) foundation.

And the word of the prophet is in his mouth  : Till the hour of my departure from this world, rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. And he will not cease to struggle till death. He will not allow himself to be vanquished, as long as there is breath in his nostrils. And though his ship is wrecked every day and the sweat of his commerce becomes a prey to the depths, he does not cease to borrow and fit out ships and navigate with good hope; till the Lord, seeing his zeal, has mercy for his shipwrecks and inclines unto him in compassion and gives him strong impulses towards ¦patience and towards braving the burning arrows of the Evil one. This is wisdom from God and whoever is sick in this way, is wise.

To abandon hope profits not. It is more expedient for us to be judged on account of special (sins) than on account of complete abandonment. Therefore the blessed commentator [1] warns us against becoming weary in face of the many struggles and the frequent various kinds of strife   to be met on the way of righteousness lest we should turn back and give our adversary the opportunity of a complete victory in any kind of evil. And so the blessed commentator says, arranging the strugglers as it were in classes: If you are truly zealous to look towards excellence and anxious for serenity of mind unto God, and to practise those things which are agreeable unto Him, you must necessarily bear for the sake of these things, all the struggles which will arise continually against you on account of the natural   affections and the attractions of this world and the evil of the demons, without relaxing in spite of the constant and never ceasing strife, without fear of the tenacious vehemence of war, without dread of the hosts of enemies, and without dejection if it happen   that you trespass somewhere and sin, but receiving on your faces the blows and wounds such as are (to be expected) in so great a war. On account of these things, therefore, you must not let yourself be moved even from your will’s decision, on the contrary you must maintain the choice of your behaviour, deeming it a beloved and glorious thing to show yourselves in the war besmeared with the blood of your blows, without pausing in the slightest degree from strife against the enemies. These are the warnings of the blessed commentator.

Thus, it is not becoming in us to relax because of these things. Woe to the solitary who is unfaithful to his covenant and, treading clown his conscience, gives Satan entrance into him, in small and great matters of sin, so that he does not find strength to defend against the enemies the breach (Satan) has made in his soul. And with what countenance will he behold the chaste, his companions, when they are brought together from whom he has separated his way to go the way of destruction, and the freedom of speech with God which the pious possess, and the prayer which arises from the chaste heart towards God and uplifts itself and even passes the hosts of the angels and stops not until it reaches God’s majesty, holding the keys in its hands ceasing not until it has acquired its demand, returning unto the mouth that has sent it, with gladness. (And with what countenance will he look upon) what is harder than all these things, viz. that, as he has separated his way from them here, so Christ will separate him from them on that day. When the brilliant clouds will bear on their backs (NT: hips) the bodies that have become splendid by purification and that enter the great gate of heaven. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, because their work is already judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, in the resurrection before the judgment, nor the impure in the ranks of the saints.

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[1NT: Theodore of Mopsuestia