“Divine hope uplifts the heart, but fear of Gehenna crushes it”

Divine hope uplifts the heart, but fear of Gehenna crushes it. The light of the mind gives birth to faith; faith gives birth to the consolation of hope; hope fortifies the heart. Faith is the unveiling of the understanding. When the mind is darkened, faith is hidden, fear holds sway over us, and our hope is cut off. It is not the faith which comes from instruction which frees a man from pride and doubt, but the faith which is beheld and dawns in the understanding; this is called knowledge and the revelation of truth. As long as the intellect perceives God as God, by His being revealed to the understanding, fear will not approach the heart. When we are permitted to be in darkness and we lose this perception, then fear will assail us until we are humbled and we draw nigh to humility and repentance.

The Son of God endured the Cross, therefore let us sinners boldy rely on repentance. If the form of repentance averted God’s wrath from Ahaab, surely our sincere repentance will not now be unprofitable to us. If a form of humility turned aside Divine wrath from him who was insincere, how much more will it from us who sincerely grieve over our falls? Sorrow of mind suffices to take the place of all bodily labour.

Saint Gregory says, ‘He is a temple of grace who is united with God, and is constant in his concern over His judgement.’ What is concern over God’s judgement? It is: a continual quest after His rest; a mourning at all times and a contrite meditation on account of those things which always remain imperfect because of the wretchedness of our nature; constant sadness on their account which the mind retains through powerful thoughts and which in prayer it offers up before God as an offering with humble compunction; and, inasmuch as is possible and is within a man’s power, to hold solicitude for the body in disdain. Such is the man who carries in his soul the continuous memory of God. As Saint Basil says, ‘Undistracted prayer is that which produces in the soul a distinct reflection on God. And God’s indwelling is this: to have God established in us by [unceasing] memory [of Him].’ In this manner we become temples of God. This is concern with a contrite heart in preparation for the Lord’s rest.

St Isaac the Syrian

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