St. Isaac the Syrian (640? – eighth century)
Peace with the World through Peace with God
Be at peace with your soul; then heaven and earth will be at peace with you. Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you, and so you will see the things that are in heaven; for there is but one single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the kingdom is hidden within your soul. Flee from sin, dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the stairs by which to ascend.
~ Mystic Treatises, trans. A.J. Wensinck (Wiesbaden: 1969), p. 8.
Faith as a Doorway of Perception and Spiritual Sight
Faith is the doorway to the mysteries. What the eyes of the body are for physical objects, faith is for the hidden eyes of the soul. Just as we have two bodily eyes, so we have two spiritual eyes, and each has its own way of seeing. With one we see the glory of God hidden in creatures; with the other we contemplate the glory of God’s holy nature when we deigns to give us access to the mysteries.
~ Ascetic Treatises 72 (p. 281). :24 In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p.213.
As a hermit and bishop of Ninevah in Syria, St. Isaac is one of the greatest figures of the Christian East. His influence has always been strong from Lebanon to South India and throughout the Monophysite (non-Chalcedonian) Churches from Armenia to Ethiopia. In the Churches of Greece and Russia his writings have been a source of inspiration and study, even to this century. He was born at Beth-Katrage in modern Qatar on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Isaac is known as a spiritual master and as a powerful and prolific writer who reflects the Syrian emphasis upon rigorous spiritual formation leading to a deep and continual love for all people and all creatures. This, he says, cultivates a “cosmic love” which enables one to perceive the divine fire which indwells all things. Through the one who submits to the cross and follows Christ into the crucifixion, a transfiguration takes place so that the peace of paradise radiates forth. Within this radiance wild beasts and even people become changed. He authored over ninety texts of which only about half have been translated into Greek; few exist in English. For modern ecology, St. Isaac epitomizes the heart-felt love for God and His creation which the ascetics of the Eastern desert bring to Christian vision, thought and practice.
A Charitable Heart
What is a charitable heart? It is a heart which is burning with a loving charity for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons — for all creatures. He who has such a heart cannot see or call to mind a creature without his eyes being filled with tears by reason of the immense compassion which seizes his heart; a heart which is so softened and can no longer bear to hear or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain, being inflicted upon any creature. This is why such a man never ceases to pray also for the animals, for the enemies of truth, and for those who do him evil, that they may be preserved and purified. He will pray even for the lizards and reptiles, moved by the infinite pity which reigns in the hearts of those who are becoming united with God.
~ Mystic Treatises XXIII. Quoted in The Virtues: Commitment, Spiritual Practice and Transformation, Michael Crowley, EPIPHANY JOURNAL, Vol. 6.1.(Fall 1985) pg. 55.