“The Beginning of the Way of Life” — Read Scripture and Be Patient

As we prepare to enter Great Lent, Synaxis will post a series of passages from the writings of the Church fathers. We begin with St Isaac of Syria.

St Isaac the Syrian  (by Photios Kontoglou)
St Isaac the Syrian
(by Photios Kontoglou)

The beginning of the way of life (Ps 16:11) consists in applying the mind to the words of God and in exercising patience. For the draught which comes from the words of God helps toward the perfection which is in the latter. Likewise, indeed, the increase of growth in the fulfillment of patience gives place to a greater need for the words of God. And the help which is from both of them quickly brings about the elevation of the whole edifice.

…When the impulses of the soul plunge into the pleasure which comes from the wisdom stored in the words of Scripture, vigorously drawing understanding from it, a person will leave his body behind. Such a one will forget the world and all that is in it and will cancel from the soul all the memories which stir up images of the material world. Often the soul in wonder desists in its reflection from the use of habitual thoughts which come naturally to it, in the presence of the novelties which come to it from the sea of the Scriptures’ mysteries.

"Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind." - St John Chrysostom
“Don’t simply dive into the scriptures. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind.” – St John Chrysostom

Even if the mind is floating in its upper waters, not being able to make its impulses probe the whole depth of the sea to discern all the treasures which are in its depths, still meditation is able with its desire to bind firmly the thoughts of the mind with thoughts of wonder, hindering them from thinking and running after the natural body, as a man clothed in God has said (cf. Gal 3:27).

—St Isaac of Syria, First Discourse (§ 3, 17-18)

An introduction to St Isaac's writings
An introduction to St Isaac’s writings

You can read more of St Isaac’s teachings in On Ascetical Life, available in SVS Press’s Popular Patristics Series.

The Popular Patristics series is comprised of more than 40 volumes. The series aims to provide readable and accurate translations of a broad range of early Christian literature to a wide audience–from students of Christian history and theology to lay Christians reading for spiritual benefit. Recognized Patristic scholars provide short but comprehensive and clear introductory essays according to their specializations for each volume. 

Author: Synaxis

Synaxis is a blog of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.