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

Saint Isaac of Nineveh, also Isaac the Syrian, Isaac of Qatar and Isaac Syrus
Early 7th Century
c. 700

Syrian Monk, Bishop, Theologian and Ascetic Hermit

Author Quotes

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.

The saints in heaven will not supplicate with prayer when their intellects have been consumed up by the Spirit, but rather with awe struck wonder they dwell in that gladdening glory.

What is the sign that a man has attained to purity of heart, and when does a man know that his heart has entered into purity? When he sees all men as good and none appears to him to be unclean and defiled, then in very truth his heart is pure. Our soul cannot yield spiritual fruit unless our heart is dead to the world. Blessed is the man who realizes his weakness, for this knowledge becomes the foundation, the root and the beginning of every boon. For as soon as a man understands and truly feels his weakness, he immediately puts a restraint on the vain pride of his soul which obscures reason, and thus he gains protection.

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.

There is no knowledge that is not impoverished, however rich it should be; but heaven and earth cannot contain the treasures of faith.

When a man comes to know that he can fall away from God as a dry leaf falls from a tree, then he knows the power of his soul.

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.

There is no prayer so quickly heard as the prayer whereby a man asks to be reconciled with those who are wroth with him. For when he charges himself with the offence, this prayer is immediately answered.

When a sailor voyages in the midst of the sea, he watches the stars and in relation to them he guides his ship until he reaches harbor. But a monk watches prayer, because it sets him right and directs his course to that harbor toward which his discipline should lead. A monk gazes at prayer at all times, so that it might show him an island where he can anchor his ship and take on provisions; then once more he sets his course for another island. Such is the voyage of a monk in this life: he sails from one island to another, that is, from knowledge to knowledge, and by his successive change of islands, that is, of states of knowledge, he progresses until he emerges from the sea and his journey attains to that true city, whose inhabitants no longer engage in commerce but each rests upon his own riches. Blessed is the man who has not lost his course in this vain world, on this great sea! Blessed is the man whose ship has not broken up and who has reached harbor with joy!

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.

There is nothing which even Satan fears so much as prayer that is offered during vigilance at night. And even if it is offered with distraction, it does not return empty, unless perhaps that which is asked for is unsuitable. Before the war begins, seek after your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your physician; and before grievous things come upon you, pray, and in the time of your tribulations you will find Him, and He will hearken to you.

When temptation overtakes the deceitful man, he does not have the presence of mind to call upon God, or to expect salvation from Him, since in the days of his ease he stood aloof from God's will.

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.

There is nothing which even Satan fears so much as prayer that is offered during vigilance at night. And even if it is offered with distraction, it does not return empty, unless perhaps that which is asked for is unsuitable.

When we want to speak of passions collectively, we call them the world; when we want to distinguish them according to their different names, we call them the passions.

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.'

This is the fruit of humility. And once a person has become humble, straightaway mercy encircles and embraces him; and once mercy has approached, immediately his heart becomes aware of God helping him. Then his heart is filled with faith, and from this he understands that prayer is the haven of help, the fountain of salvation, a treasury of assurance, a saving anchor in time of storm, a source of recovery at times of sickness, a staff for the weak, a shelter in time of trials, an illumination to those in darkness. [paraphrased]

When you approach your bed, say to it, 'This very night, perchance, you will be my tomb, O bed; for I know not whether tonight instead of a transient sleep, the eternal sleep of death will be mine.' And so, as long as you have feet, run after work, before you are bound with that bond which cannot be loosed again once it is put on.

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.

This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.

When you fall down before God in prayer, become in your thought like an ant, like the creeping things of the earth, like a leech, and like a tiny lisping child. Do not say anything before Him with knowledge, but with a child's manner of thought draw near to God and walk before Him, that you may be counted worthy of that paternal providence which fathers have for their small children.

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.

Through the toil of prayer and the anguish of your heart commune with those who are grieved at heart; and the Source of mercy will be opened up to your petitions.

Whenever in your path you find unchanging peace, beware: you are very far from the divine paths trodden by the weary feet of the saints. For as long as you are journeying in the way to the city of the Kingdom and are drawing near the city of God, this will be a sign for you: the strength of the temptations that you encounter. And the nearer you draw close and progress, the more temptations will multiply against you.

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.

Author Picture
First Name
Saint Isaac of Nineveh, also Isaac the Syrian, Isaac of Qatar and Isaac Syrus
Birth Date
Early 7th Century
Death Date
c. 700
Bio

Syrian Monk, Bishop, Theologian and Ascetic Hermit