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Forgiveness; St. Isaiah of Scetis, "The Solitary"

From the Ascetic Discourses, Discourse 18

Cistercian Publications

THE MOST HOLY APOSTLE COMMANDED his children, saying, The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God', and 'Let the peace of God rule in your hearts'. In the Gospel according to Mark, the Lord says to the disciples, 'Forgive your debtors all their transgressions, and your Father will forgive you yours'. This word of the Lord is fearful, for unless you see that your heart is pure toward all, you can ask nothing from God.

Instead you offer him insolence, inasmuch as you say to him who searches hearts, 'Forgive me my sins', when you are sinful and bear a grudge against your fellow human being. Such a person does not pray with the intellect, but ignorantly with the lips, for one who truly desires to pray with the intellect to God, in the Holy Spirit, and with a pure heart, searches his heart before praying, to see whether he is free from all anxiety before every person or not. If he is not, he deceives himself, because no one is listening to him, since the intellect is not praying but is simply < following> the habitual routine of daily prayer. However, the person who wishes to pray in a pure manner will first examine what is in his intellect. Is he saying, 'Have mercy on me', and at the same time showing mercy to another who asks for this, or is he saying, 'Forgive me', and at same time forgiving others? If you say, "Do not remember the evils which I have committed, either voluntarily or by force’, you too should not remember those of others, If it is a matter of force, then, you too should not hold something against another person. Unless you have managed to do these things, then you are praying in vain. According to all the Scriptures, God is not listening to you. Forgive me!

Again, he said in the prayer of <the Gospel according to> Matthew, 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors', and in <the Gospel according to > Luke, 'If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you'.

I have offered you all <the way> of love, so that whatever you want God to do to you, you may do first, and then you will be set free according to the measure that you have cleansed your heart toward the whole of creation, so as to remember no injury, then you are obliged to keep this way. God requires exactitude and not simply words. Every person binds himself to Gehenna, and looses himself, for nothing is stronger than the will which leads you either to death or life. Blessed, then, are those who have loved eternal life, for they will not falter. So there is a struggle going on in the toil and hidden sweat of the heart against the thought that stifles you, in order not to allow its arrow to wound your heart, and it will require an effort on your part to heal it, unless your sins are ever before you. If you hear that some evil was done against you by someone, hold up your good will in order not to return the evil in your heart, neither blaming, judging, criticizing, nor even delivering him to the words of others; then you will think to yourself, 'No evil was done against me'. If you have the fear of Gehenna inside you, then you will triumph over the evils that want you to render evil against your neighbor, for it will say to you, 'Wretched person, pray for your own sins and God will support you at all times without revealing them, whereas you angrily cast your neighbor into the mouths of others. Therefore, it is clear that your sins are not removed, since no forgiveness has touched you. So, if your heart is softened and you guard yourself from evil, you will have mercy from God, but if your evil heart is hardened toward your neighbor, you have not yet become mindful of God.

Forgive me. I am in every way impoverished and humbled by sins, and by writing these things am ashamed within my heart, for unless a person reaches the natural state of the Son of God, all of his efforts are in vain. A farmer who sows his seed expects to make a manifold return, but if the wind destroys it, he is completely saddened in his heart about the damage to the crops and the toils that he rendered to the earth. When the Apostle Peter was crucified in Rome, he requested to be hung head down, thereby revealing the mystery of the unnatural condition that dominates everyone, for he was saying that each person who is baptized must crucify the wicked conditions contrary to nature which possessed Adam and drove him from his glory to an evil rebuke and eternal shame.

Therefore, it is necessary for the intellect to struggle courageously, to hate everything that is seen by people, and to become their enemy to the end with a very bitter hatred. These are the principal evils that dominated all the sons of Adam-gain, honor, repose, pride in what is abandoned, beautification of the body in order to render it healthy and shapely, and the seeking of good clothes.

These things feed the sensual pleasure which the dragon placed in Eve's mouth. We, too, know that we are children of Adam from the evil thoughts which have made us enemies of God. Blessed, then, is the one who has been crucified, who has died, been buried, and arisen in newness, when he sees himself in the natural condition of Jesus, following his holy footprints which were made when he was incarnated for the sake of his holy saints. Therefore, it is to God that belong humility, baseness, poverty, detachment, forgiveness, peace, enduring reproach, not caring for the body, not fearing the conspiracies of evil people, and the greatest of these knowing everything before it occurs, and tolerating people with calmness.

So, one who has reached these and eliminated the condition that is contrary to nature, shows that he is truly from Christ, and is the son of God and brother of Jesus, for to him is due glory and worship to the ages of ages. Amen.

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