St Isaac the Syrian: Preaching the Astonishing Love of God

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Who among the Eastern Fathers has written more eloquently, more profoundly about the love of God Almighty than St Isaac the Syrian? “In Isaac’s understanding,” states Met Hilarion Alfeyev, “God is above all immeasurable love. The conviction that God is love dominates Isaac’s thought: it is the source of his theological opinions, ascetical recommendations and mystical thought” (The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, pp. 35-36). Sadly this great doctor of the divine love remains relatively unknown in English-speaking Christendom. Only in recent decades have his discourses become available in translation. Yet despite Isaac’s relative obscurity, I believe that his writings are necessary reading for all Orthodox and Catholic preachers, pastors, and confessors. Why do I say this? Because having heard my fair share of Orthodox and Catholic sermons over the past eight years, I am convinced that most Orthodox and Catholic preachers simply do not understand what…

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One Response to St Isaac the Syrian: Preaching the Astonishing Love of God

  1. Mike H says:

    The first time that I encountered the words of St. Isaac (on Ec. Orthodoxy I think) I couldn’t help but think “this sounds too good to be true”. It wasn’t that I rejected it, or wished it to be false, or thought that such words would unravel the whole of the Christian faith, or anything else like that (I was desperately hungry for it, in fact, and still am). It was more like, “Yeah……that’s not the picture of God that I come with nor hear about, nor leave with on a Sunday or any other day. Nice rhetoric, but this guy needs to chill out a little bit.” And that realization – that not exactly common experience of being suddenly confronted with what one actually believes – is disorienting and unnerving. Too good to be true? I mean, saying that something is too good to be true doesn’t make it so, but what a revealing thought it is!

    Perhaps my favorite St. Isaac quote:

    “Like a handful of dust thrown into the sea are the sins of all humankind compared with the mercy and providence of God.”

    I mean….that is good news. Anything less is not. There is just no way to pussyfoot around when it comes to the way that Isaac phrases things.

    George Macdonald had a similar effect on me. After reading some of his work – “Justice” comes to mind – I was simply unable to go back to thinking about things in the same ways that I had before. I wonder if MacDonald was at all familiar with the work of St. Isaac.

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