Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Saint Isaac of Nineveh, also Isaac the Syrian, Isaac of Qatar and Isaac Syrus NULL

Syrian Monk, Bishop, Theologian and Ascetic Hermit

"Gossip begets gossip and blessing begets blessing, therefore, bless others. Always bless with your tongue so that nobody will gossip about you."

"He who despises the sick will not see light, and the day of him who turns his face from a man grieved by affliction will become darkness. The sons of the man who scorns the voice of one suffering hardship will grope their way, being struck with blindness."

"He who is able to suffer wrong with joy, though having means at hand to rebuff it, has consciously received from God the consolation of his faith."

"His path has been trodden from the ages and from all generations by the cross and by death. How is it with you that the afflictions on the path seem to you to be off the path? Do you not wish to follow the steps of the saints? Or have you plans for devising some way of your own, and of journeying therein without suffering."

"Humility, even without works, gains forgiveness for many offenses; but without her, works are of no profit to us, and rather prepare for us great evils."

"If you cannot be merciful, at least speak as though you are a sinner. If you are not a peacemaker, at least do not be a troublemaker. If you cannot be assiduous, at least in your thought be like a sluggard. If you are not victorious, do not exalt yourself over the vanquished. If you cannot close the mouth of a man who disparages his companion, at least refrain from joining him in this."

"If you compel your body when it is weak to labors that exceed its strength, you will instill darkness upon darkness into your soul and bring greater confusion upon her."

"If you love repentance, love silence. For outside of silence repentance does not reach perfection/"

"In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the one who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised."

"In truth, without afflictions there is no life."

"Instead of an avenger, be a deliverer. Instead of a fault finder, be a soother. Instead of a betrayer, be a martyr. Instead of a chider, be a defender. Beseech God in behalf of sinners that they receive mercy, and pray to Him for the righteous that they be preserved. Conquer evil men by your gentle kindness, and make zealous men wonder at your goodness. Put the lover of [punishing] justice to shame by your compassion [i.e. mercy]."

"It is a spiritual gift from God for a man to perceive his sins."

"It is better to avoid the passions by the recollection of the virtues than by resisting and arguing with them. For when the passions leave their place and arise for battle, they imprint on the mind images and idols. This warfare has great force, able to weaken the mind and violently perturb and confuse a man's thinking. But if a man acts by the first rule we have mentioned, when the passions are repulsed they leave no trace in the mind."

"It is just as shameful for lovers of the flesh and the belly to search out spiritual things as it is for a harlot to discourse on chastity."

"It is not possible without temptations for a man to grow wise in spiritual warfare, to know his Provider and perceive his God, and to be secretly confirmed in his faith, save by virtue of the experience which he has gained."

"Just as a man whose head is submerged in the water cannot breathe the subtle air which is poured upon the atmosphere's empty opening, so he who immerses his mind in the cares of the present life cannot take in the breath that is a perception of the new world."

"Just as fish perish from lack of water, so the meditative movements that God causes to blossom forth vanish from the heart of the monk who loves to dwell and pass his life in company with worldly men."

"Just as the dolphin stirs and swims about when the visible sea is still and calm, so also, when the sea of the heart is tranquil and still from wrath and anger, mysteries and divine revelations are stirred in her at all times to delight her."

"Know with certainty, therefore, that to stand is not within your power, nor does it pertain to your virtue, but it belongs to grace herself which carries you upon the palm of her hand, that you may not be alarmed."

"Let us not be in doubt, O fellow humanity, concerning the hope of our salvation, seeing that the One who bore sufferings for our sakes is very concerned about our salvation; God’s mercifulness is far more extensive than we can conceive, God’s grace is greater than what we ask for."

"Love is the Kingdom, which the Lord mystically promised His disciples to eat in His Kingdom. For when we hear Him say, 'You shall eat and drink at the table of My Kingdom,' what do we suppose we shall eat, if not love? Love is sufficient to nourish a man instead of food and drink. This is the wine 'which makes glad the heart of man.' Blessed is he who partakes of this wine! Licentious men have drunk this wine and felt shame; sinners have drunk it and have forgotten the pathways of stumbling; drunkards have drunk this wine and became firm in virtue; the rich have drunk it and desired poverty; the poor have drunk it and been enriched with hope; the sick have drunk it and become strong; the unlearned have taken it and been made wise."

"Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy f or those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its charm."

"Love sinners, but hate their works; and do not despise them for their faults, lest you be tempted by the same trespasses."

"Love the poor, and through them you will find mercy."

"Many are avidly seeking but they alone find who remain in continual silence. Every man who delights in a multitude of words, even though he says admirable things, is empty within. If you love truth be a lover of silence. Silence like the sunlight will illuminate you in God and deliver you from the phantoms of ignorance. Silence will unite you with God Himself. More than all things love silence, it brings you a fruit that tongue cannot describe. In the beginning we have to force ourselves to be silent and then there is born something which draws us to silence. May God give you an experience of this something which is born of silence. If only you will practice this, untold light will dawn upon you as a consequence. After a while a certain sweetness is born in the heart of this exercise and the body is drawn almost by force to remain in silence."

"Mercy and justice (just judgment) in one soul is like a man who worships God and the idols in one house. Mercy is opposed to justice. Justice is the equality of the even scale, for it gives to each as he deserves; and when it makes recompense, it does not incline to one side or show respect of persons. Mercy, on the other hand, is a sorrow and pity stirred up by goodness, and it compassionately inclines a man in the direction of all; it[, mercy,] does not requite [or give equal retribution, an eye for an eye, to] a man who is deserving of evil, and to him who is deserving of good it gives a double portion."

"Mercy and legality in one soul is like a man who worships God and the idols in one house."

"Never seek consolation that lies outside the heart. Raise yourself above all consolation that the senses provide, so that you may be accounted worthy to receive that [consolation] which is within, beyond the senses."

"No man has been entrusted with great things without having first been tried in small ones."

"No man has understanding if he is not humble, and whoever lacks humility is devoid of understanding. No man is humble if he is not peaceful, and he who is not peaceful is not humble. And no man is peaceful without rejoicing."

"Not every quiet man is humble, but every humble man is quiet."

"On that day God will not judge us about psalmody, nor for the neglect of prayer, but because by abandoning them, we have opened our door to the demons."

"Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all beatitude, and there the blessed Paul partook of supernatural nourishment."

"Poor innocent little creatures (to animals bound for slaughter): if you were reasoning beings and could speak you would curse us. For we are the cause of your death, and what have you done to deserve it?"

"Prayer offered up at night possesses a great power, more so than the prayer of the day-time. Therefore all the righteous prayed during the night, while combating the heaviness of the body and the sweetness of sleep and repelling bodily nature."

"Silence cuts off pretexts and causes for new thoughts, while within one’s walls it withers and wilts memories of things which used to concern us. When the old matters wither in the thought, the mind, in setting them aright, returns to its proper dignity."

"Silence is a mystery of the age to come, but words are instruments of this world."

"Spiritual delight is not enjoyment found in things that exist s outside the soul."

"Stillness mortifies the outward senses and resurrects the inward movements, whereas agitation does the opposite, that is, it resurrects the outward senses and deadens the inward movements."

"Take provisions for your long way, O wise man! Remove the heaviness of sleep from your heart, O invited guest! Set your baggage in order for departure, O sojourner! The morning tide is night at hand, O wayfarer; why do you sleep? Arise and prepare yourself, O mariner who is to voyage on the sea! Arise and make ready the tackle of your ship, for you do not know at what hour the wind will carry you out! Honor flees away from before the man that runs after it; but he who flees from it, the same will it hunt down, and to all men become a herald of his humility."

"That which befalls a fish out of water, befalls the mind that has come out of the remembrance of God and wanders in the remembrance of the world."

"The angel who is always near us is by nothing so distressed and made indignant as when, without being constrained by some necessity, we deprive ourselves of the ministration of the Holy Mysteries and of reception of Holy Communion, which grants remission of sins. For at that hour the priest offers up the sacrifice of the Body of Him Who gives us life, and the Holy Spirit descends and consecrates the Body and Blood and grants remission to creation. The Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the angels stand with great awe, fear, and joy. They rejoice over the Holy Mysteries while experiencing inexpressible astonishment. The angel who is always by us is consoled, because he also partakes in that dread spectacle and is not deprived of that perfect intercourse."

"The ark of Noah was built in the time of peace, and its timbers were planted by him a hundred years beforehand. In the time of wrath the evil man perished, but the ark became the shelter for the righteous."

"The carnal man fears death like a beast fears slaughter. The rational man fears the judgment of God. But the man who has become a son is adorned by love and is not taught by the rod of fear; he says, 'But I and my father's house will serve the Lord.'"

"The ladder to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and within your soul. Dive down into yourself, away from sin, and there you will find the steps by which you can ascend."

"The Lord's Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations. In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath. For he who said that `God rested on the seventh day,' signified the rest [of our nature] from the course of this life, since the grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and the eighth is the departure from it."

"The man who chooses to consider God an avenger, presuming that in this manner he bears witness to His justice, accuses Him of being bereft of goodness. Far be it that vengeance could ever be found in that Fountain of love and Ocean brimming with goodness! The aim of His design is the correction of men; and if it were not that, we should be stripped of the honor of our free will. Perhaps He would not even heal us by reproof."

"The man who endures accusations against himself with humility has arrived at perfection. He is marveled at by the holy angels, for there is no other virtue so great and so hard to achieve."

"The man who is deemed worthy to see himself is greater than he who is deemed worthy to see the angels."

"The more a man's tongue flees verbosity, the more his intellect is illumined so as to be able to discern deep thoughts; for the rational intellect is befuddled by verbosity."