Abba Isaiah of Scetis: Are You Keeping the Ways of the New Person?

Feast of St Vladimir of Kiev, Equal-to-the-Apostles

Isaiah_of_Scetis_square.jpgTHERE ARE three virtues which are always provided for and required by the intellect: a natural impulse, courage, and resoluteness.

There are three virtues which, when it is seen to possess them, the intellect believes that it has reached immortality: discernment, that is, separating one thing from another, foreseeing everything before its time, and not being persuaded by some foreign thought.

There are three virtues which bestow light on the intellect at all times: knowing no evil against anyone, doing good to those who wrong you, and enduring calmly the things which come your way. These three virtues give rise to another three which are still greater: knowing no evil against anyone gives rise to love, doing good to those who wrong you produces peace, and enduring calmly the things which come your way brings meekness.

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.

Four things defile the soul: not guarding one’s sight when traveling in the city, having intimate friendship with a woman, befriending those who are glorious in this life, and loving to converse with one’s natural parents.

Four things increase fornication in the body: sleeping too much, eating in satiation, talking frivolously, and decorating the body.

Four things darken the soul: hating one’s neighbor, despising, envying, and grumbling against him.

Four things render the soul barren: moving from place to place, liking distraction, loving material things, and miserliness.

Four things increase anger: bargaining, insisting on one’s will, wanting to teach others, and considering oneself prudent.

Three things are difficult for us to acquire and these protect all the virtues: mourning, weeping over our sins, and holding death before our eyes.

Three things control the soul until it reaches a great stature and these do not allow the virtues to inhabit the intellect: captivity, reluctance, and forgetfulness. Forgetfulness fights against us until it brings our very breath to the point of anxiety; it is stronger than all the thoughts, giving rise to all evil, and continually taking down everything that we erect.

These are the works 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 is life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10.39), for He is the Master of Peace, and through Him was the dividing-wall of hatred brought down. He also said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10.34). Again, He said, “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk. 12.49). This means that the fire of His divinity came upon those who followed His sacred teachings. Then they found the sword of the Spirit and hunted down all the desires of their flesh, and so He gave them joy, saying, “My peace I give to you; my own peace I give to you” (Jn. 14.27).

—Abba Isaiah of Scetis, On Virtues

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