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Abba Isaiah of Scetis - Ascetic Discourses

abba isaiah scetis ascetic discourses

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#1 Anthony Cornett

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 06:39 PM

In reading the Ascetic Discourses by Abba Isaiah of Scetis, I have found much benefit, and am certainly grateful that this text has been rendered into the English language. In Discourse 7, on Virtue, there is an area where the Abba refers to the desire to keep one's soul being a negative. It is related to the Scriptural passage regarding 'whoever desires to keep their life will lose it', however, the specific reference to 'soul' is what throws me off. In the same chapter, at an earlier point, the benefit of looking after one's soul is praised. I don't have access to the original Greek to know if this has been accurately rendered into English, but I leave you with the chapter.

 

 



#2 Anthony Cornett

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 08:23 PM

Portions of related quotes...

 

   These are the words of the New Person and of the Old Person. The one who loves his soul and does not want to lose it keeps the ways of the New Person. The person who wants rest in this brief lifetime carries out and practices the ways of the Old Person but loses his soul. Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed the New Person in his own body, saying, ‘Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it’, for he is the Master of Peace, and through him was the dividing-wall of hatred brought down.

 

and

 

   Those, therefore, who sought to lose their soul in this life, cutting off their proper will, became like holy sheep for sacrifice to him. And when he appears in the glory of his divinity, he will call them to stand on his right, saying, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food’, and so on. Thus, those who have lost their soul in this brief lifetime have found it in the time of need, receiving a reward many times greater than they expected to receive. While those who fulfilled their desires looked after their soul, deceived by the vanity of their wealth and not keeping the commandments of God, but thinking that they would live forever in this sinful age. This is why the shamefulness of their blindness will be revealed at the hour of judgement, and they will become like the goats that were curses, hearing the terrible decision of the judge saying, ‘Depart from me into the eternal fire <and into the outer darkness> prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food’, and so forth. And their mouths will be closed, not finding anything to say, for they will recall their lack of charity and hatred to the poor. Then they will say, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry...and did not take care of you?’; he will silence them saying, ‘He who has done good to one of these that believes in me, has done it to me’.

 


#3 Anna Stickles

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 01:46 PM

The thrust of the quotes seems to be instructions about cutting off our improper desires. The Old person wants to rest when God has given them the command to struggle for virtue.  I mean how often do we struggle and want to stay in bed instead of doing our prayer rule, or get tired of trying to control our anger or fight bad thoughts? So in these cases we need to sacrifice our own desires and impulses of our soul and struggle to keep our peace and remain Christ centered. 

 

Dear friends, let us, therefore, examine ourselves whether each of us performs our commandments according to our ability, or not, for we are all obliged to perform them according to our ability, the small among us in accordance with his slightness and the great in accordance with his grandeur.
 


I think that in the second quote, "look after our soul" means how we can tend to nurture and protect sinful or self-willed impulses of the soul, like how we can hold a grudge or cling to judgmental thoughts, or pursuing things that pat our self-image, over-indulgence etc. instead of letting these things go and practicing self-effacement and self-restraint, such as is mentioned in the following.

 

There are four virtues which purify the soul: silence, keeping the commandments, <spiritual> constraint, and humility.

   The intellect always needs the following four virtues: praying to God by constantly prostrating oneself before him, surrendering before God, being unconcerned with everyone in order not to judge, and being deaf to the passions which speak to it.

   Four virtues fortify the soul, allowing it to breathe from the disturbance of the enemy: mercy, freedom from anger, long-suffering, and shaking off every seed coming from sin. Resisting forgetfulness protects all of these.

   There are four virtues which, after God himself, assist the beginner: constant study, resoluteness, vigil, and disregard of oneself.


 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 17 November 2014 - 01:47 PM.





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