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Mystic Treatises

Isaac of Nineveh: Mystic Treatises (XVIII)

Trad. A. J. Wensinck

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

    

XVIII THINGS WHICH I HAVE HEARD FROM OLD MEN AND STORIES OF HOLY PEOPLE, THEIR PIOUS WORDS AND WONDERFUL BEHAVIOUR. MAY GOD   PRESERVE US BY THEIR PRAYERS AMEN

Concerning another solitary. Once I was in intercourse with the virtuous one that had tasted from the tree of life in the sweat of his soul, from the morning of youth until the evening of old age. And after much conversation in which he taught me concerning excellence, he also said this to me: Every prayer, in which the body does not participate and by which the heart is not affected, is to be reckoned as an abortion without a soul.

Further he said to me: Have not the slightest intercourse with any man who strives after victory in his words, and is astute in spirit   and of keen senses, lest thou destroy the serenity thou hast acquired by works and thy heart become full of darkness and trouble.

Once I went to the cell of one of the Fathers. This saintly man scarcely ever opened to any one. When he saw from his window that it was I, he said: Thou wishest to enter? I said to him: Ay. When I had entered and we had prayed and sat down and he had spoken with me concerning many things, I asked him at last: What shall I do, my lord? There are persons who constantly visit me, without my profiting by their intercourse. To forbid them to enter would be painful to me. They often hinder me even in my usual service. But I am not able to say so to them openly. So I am much troubled by this matter.

This blessed man said to me: When such people visit thee, people who like to be lazy and who spread idle words, and when they have sat down a little time, assume the air that thou desirest to stand for service. And say to (thy visitor), whosoever he be, with an obeisance: My brother, we will perform the service. For the time of my service is come and I may not overlook it. For it would be hard for me to combine it with the next prayer; that would cause me trouble; and I may not omit any service without (the plea of) necessity. At present there is no necessity to let the time pass. - This shalt thou urge till he stand up with thee for the service. And if he say: Perform thou thy service, now I will go away - make an obeisance before him and say: Be kind to me and perform with me this single service, that I may be helped by thy prayer. Then, when he agrees and you are standing, make thy service longer than usually. So thou shalt do with them as often as they enter. And when they see that thou art not of their kind and that thou doest not love idleness, then they will no more come where they hear that thou art. Behold, thou shalt be no respecter of persons and neglect none of the works of God.

If, however, (thy visitor) be one of the Fathers, or a foreign brother who is fatigued, then deem it an important service to remain in intercourse with him. But if this stranger also should be one of those who love idle words, content him as much as thou canst and dispatch him quickly.

Once one of the saints said to me: When I hear, that there are people who perform work in their cell and also accomplish the rules of the cell without failure, I wonder how it is possible that they are not troubled.

He also said a wonderful thing: verily, I say that even when I go to make water  , this troubles my constancy (of mind  ); because practice turns away from me the complete discernment which I have mastered.

A solitary asked a brother: What shall I do? Often I desire a thing and am in need of it on account of illness, or work, or some other reason, so that by its aid I would nigh well be able to lead a life of solitude. But if I see anyone who needs this thing as I do, then compassion causes me to give it him.

Or if any one asks me for this thing, I am pressed by love and by command so that I give it him. But afterwards I require this thing. And my need causes me care and disturbance and troubled thoughts, and it takes away my concentration of spirit and my care for the usual service of solitude. So that I am compelled many times to leave my solitude and go and ask for this thing. And when I restrain myself from going out, I am in great need and perturbance of mind. On account of this thing I am constantly shaken and disturbed without knowing which of the two I shall choose: that which destroys and disturbs my peace for the sake of the peace of my neighbours; or to abandon this, so as to remain in solitude and renunciation, and to care for the small things of my self only, without any inclination to think many thoughts or to care for others.

I beg to learn, in answer to this, what is good and worthy of recommendation. The solitary answered saying: All compassion is either love, or alms, or a gift. And every becoming thing, and every deed reckoned as being godly which destroys thy solitude and bereaves thee of thy freedom regarding the world, and causes thee care and troubles thy thoughts concerning divine things, and breaks the order of thy prayers and brings about troubled deliberations and takes from thee the concentrated occupation with recitation and freedom from distraction, and destroys thy watchfulness and makes thee instead of a prisoner one who walks where he likes and (changes) thee from a solitary into one who mingles (with other people) and awakens in thee buried passions and relaxes the asceticism of thy senses and quickens thee again who were dead to the world and casts thee out of thy angelic service which is concentrated solitary thought, and sets thy part with the service of the laity - this (sort of) righteousness may perish. To accomplish alms of love to thy neighbour, consisting in bodily comfort, belongs to the service of lay-people, or of those solitaries who are inferior   to service in solitude or practice a mingled solitude in the company of one another and through constant visits (NT: literally: entering and departing). - But those solitaries who have earnestly chosen to be free from the world in body and in spirit in order to establish in their mind the prayer of solitude which is the being dead to the things that perish and to all thought of practice and seeing and recollecting (worldly) things, they do not serve Christ   by any service in these bodily things or with a righteousness founded upon manifest deeds with the intermediation of persons in order to be justified thereby, but (they serve Him) by mortifying their members which are upon the earth, according to the word of the Apostle, offering at all times the pure sacrifices of their thoughts as the first fruits of their service and their bodily affections through patience in trouble for the sake of that which they expect. The behaviour of the solitaries is like that of the angels. So it is not just to neglect the service of heavenly things and to gather righteousness by (practising) earthly things.

A brother was blamed because he provided the wants of the poor from his own possessions. He answered proudly: Solitaries are near to alms. He that blamed him said: Well known is the solitary who is not near to alms; who without shame can say to our Lord, as has been said: Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee. This is he that does not possess anything on the earth, nor does he perform bodily labour for earthly things, his thoughts do not turn to any of the visible things in the world, nor does he expect to acquire anything. If any one offers anything to him, he only accepts according to his want; he never looks at aught else. But he is in his dealings like a bird, the which does not think of giving alms; for he has a service more excellent than alms.

How can he give others from that of which he is liberated? But as long as a man works with his hands and receives from others, he is also obliged to give alms. To neglect this would be a manifest transgression of God’s commandment. But if he does not make progress with God in hidden things, and does not know to serve God in spirit and despise the manifest things which lie within his power, what further hope has he to acquire life? Be he anathema.


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