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Mystic Treatises

Isaac of Nineveh: Mystic Treatises (XVI)

Trad. A. J. Wensinck

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

      

XVI HOW PROFITABLE IT IS FOR THE SOUL   WHILE IN SOLITUDE TO BE FREE FROM WORKS AND HOW INTERCOURSE HARMS THE MIND OF THE NOVICE WHICH HAS BUT LATELY BEGUN TO HAVE INSIGHT   FOR ITSELF AND HOW IT IS CLEAR THAT BODILY WORKS NECESSARILY BRING ABOUT IN THE SOLITARY A DEFICIENCY IN DIVINE WORKS

      

That a man who is beset with care, should be quiet and in a state of peace, is impossible. For the necessary things which cohere with those things upon which he expends his labour, cannot but have the effect that he be shaken; and they will bereave him of his rest and quiet. For the only opportunity for Satan   to enter the soul   is distraction. Therefore it is becoming for the solitary to place himself constantly before God  ’s face and to look for His will, if it be his intention to keep his mind in watchfulness and if it be his will grasp quickly the small deviations as soon as they begin to stir in him, and, in peace of spirit  , learn to recognise what passes in him [1].

Frequent oscillations are a sign of the solitary’s relaxation as to the preparation of Christ  ’s service, and they are signs of deficiency in divine things.

Without being free (from cares) thou canst not demand lucidity from thy soul; nor rest and quiet if the senses are set free; nor concentration of the senses when the oscillations of practice (are frequent).

Keep thy self free from accidents; then thou wilt find no trouble in thy mind.

Without constant beseechings it is not possible to be near to God. And to think of other things at the same time with the work of beseechings, is distraction of the heart.

If fervent emotions befall thee sometimes when thou tastest God in the hot fire of divine things, but when thou seekest them again thou findest them to have become insipid and cold within thyself, (this is because) the distraction of intercourse with men has assailed thee somewhere, or because thou hast estimated bodily work above them, and on account thereof the fervour of thy deliberations has become cold. Tears, however, and beating the head (on the ground) during prayer, and fervent self-humiliations quicken again their warm sweetness in the heart. And in lauded madness the heart will fly after God, crying: My soul thirsteth for thee, the living God: when shall I come and see thy face? He that has tasted this wine   and has been bereft of it, he only knows in what a torment he has been left and what has been taken from him on account of his relaxation.

O, how evil is the sight of men and intercourse with them for him that lives in solitude, especially him that is relaxed and left alone. Verily, my brethren, as a strong blast of cold, that suddenly hits the buds of the trees and nips their small heads germinating from the twigs, so intercourse with men, even though it be short and in a congregation with a good purpose, withers the sprouts of the virtues which have but lately shown their heads because of the good air [2] of solitude, and which beset with their humidity the tree of the soul, planted by the brooks of repentance. And as the sharpness of the cold strikes the new sprouts of the roots, destroying and pushing back their heads into the earth, so intercourse with men destroys the root of the mind which but begins to grow green by reason of the herbs of virtues, thrusting them back to their original place and destroying their tenderness. And if intercourse with those who are nearly master of themselves is so obnoxious to the soul, be it only on account of their hindering the customary service, this must happen to a larger extent if a man speaks with and sees stupid and uncultivated men or even lay people, which has the effect of lire upon small wood. And as the humility of an honorable and estimable man, who forgets himself frequently by drinking wine, is troubled and his honor stained and his chastity shaken by the foreign deliberations which dominate his spirit on account of the force of the wine, so the chastity of the soul is shaken by intercourse with and sight of men; and it forgets the aim of its watchfulness and is bereft of the whole intention of its will; and intercourse and recreation and the use of luxury eradicate from its depth the whole foundation of laudable behaviour.

And even if a man be silent and only in the presence of such men in person, hearing and seeing, the mere fact that the doors of his eyes and his ears let in (what is seen and heard), is able to turn his spirit from divine things and to trouble it greatly.

If thus the mere sight of men and the bare hearing of their speech for only a small time is able to cause so much harm to the solitary who is watchful, what then shall we say about regular meetings or about those of a longer duration?

The vapour rising from the stomach obscures the knowledge of divine things, as the inhalations rising from the damp earth obscure the face of the sun.

Haughtiness does not understand that it proceeds in darkness without knowing insight   and wisdom. In its own thoughts it is elevated above all things, but it is poorer and lower than any thing. It is unable to know the ways of God, and the Lord will hide His will from it, because it does not like to go in the way of the humble.


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[1NT: literally: those who go in and out

[2NT: the mixture of the air