Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

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

Syrian Monk, Bishop, Theologian and Ascetic Hermit

"Humility collects the soul into a single point by the power of silence. A truly humble man has no desire to be known or admired by others, but wishes to plunge from himself into himself, to become nothing, as if he had never been born. When he is completely hidden to himself in himself, he is completely with God."

"Conduct thyself towards thy parents as thou wouldst wish thy children to conduct themselves towards thee."

"Be slow to give your friendship, but when you have given it, strive to make it lasting."

"If you love knowledge, you will be a master of knowledge. What you have come to know, pursue by exercise; what you have not learned, seek to add to your knowledge, for it is as reprehensible to hear a profitable saying and not grasp it as to be offered a good gift by one's friends and not accept it. Believe that many precepts are better than much wealth , for wealth quickly fails us, but precepts abide through all time."

"Gratefulness on the part of the recipient spurs on the giver to bestow gifts larger than before. He who embezzles petty things is also false and fraudulent concerning things of importance."

"Do not reckon as a truly wise man that one whose mind is subject to fear on account of temporal life."

"What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. "

"When that person considers all human beings are good, and no created thing appears impure or defiled. Then a person is truly pure in heart."

"There is no sin which cannot be pardoned except that one which lacks repentance, and there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement. For the portion of the fool is small in his eyes."

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity."

"Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others. Be crucified, but do not crucify others. Be slandered, but do not slander others."

"Love is the child of knowledge."

"Be at peace with your own soul then heaven & earth will be at peace with you. Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you, And you will see the things that are in heaven, for there is but one single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within your soul... Dive into yourself and in your soul and you will discover the stairs by which to ascend."

"Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others. Be crucified, but do not crucify others. Be slandered, but do not slander others. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity. Suffer with the sick. Be afflicted with sinners. Exult with those who repent. Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone. Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all. Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly. Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them. And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character. "

"A dog that licks a rasp drinks its own blood and does not know its own harm because of the sweetness of the blood; and a monk who stoops to drink vainglory, consumes his life and does not perceive his harm because of the fleeting sweetness."

"A man can never learn what divine power is, while he abides in comfort and spacious living."

"A man cannot receive spiritual knowledge unless he is converted and becomes like a little child. Only then does he experience that delight which belongs to the Kingdom of the Heavens. By 'Kingdom of the Heavens' the Scriptures mean spiritual divine vision."

"A man who craves esteem cannot be rid of the causes of grief."

"A man who sits in stillness and who receives experience of God's kindness has little need of persuasive argument, and his soul is not sick with the disease of unbelief, like those who are doubtful of the truth. For the testimony of his own understanding is sufficient to persuade him above endless words having no experience behind them."

"A heart full of sorrow on account of its feebleness and impotence regarding outward physical deeds takes the place of all physical works. Deeds of the body performed without sorrow of mind are like a body without a soul."

"A gift free of trials is a disaster to those who receive it."

"A merciful man is the physician of his own soul. Like a violent wind he drives the darkness of the passions out of his inner self."

"A mind that has found spiritual wisdom is like a man who finds a fully equipped ship at sea, and once he has gone aboard, it brings him from the sea of this world to the isle of the age to come. In like manner, the perception of the future age while in this world is like an islet in the ocean; and he who approaches it toils no longer amid the billows of the appearances of this age."

"A serpent guards its head when its body is being crushed, and a wise monk guards his faith at all times, for this is the origin of his life."

"A small but always persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling persistently, hollows out hard rock."

"As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold, so in comparison God's use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy."

"As a man whose head is under water cannot inhale pure air, so a man whose thoughts are plunged into the cares of this world cannot absorb the sensations of that new world."

"As children are not born without a mother, so passions are not born without distraction of the mind, and sin is not committed without parley with the passions."

"As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful. That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability."

"As grass and fire cannot coexist in one place, so legality and mercy cannot abide in one soul."

"As it is not possible to cross over the great ocean without a ship, so no one can attain to love without fear. This filthy sea, which lies between us and the paradise of the heart, we may cross by the boat of repentance, whose oarsmen are those of fear. But if fear's oarsmen do not pilot the boat of repentance whereby we cross over the sea of this world to God, we shall be drowned in the sordid abyss."

"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. As long as you have hands, stretch them out to Heaven in prayer, before your arms fall from their joints, and though you desire to draw them up, you will not be able. As long as you have fingers, cross yourself in prayer, before death comes loosening the comely strength of their sinews. As long as you have eyes, fill them with tears before that hour when dust will cover your black clothes and your eyes will be fixed in one direction in an unseeing gaze and you will not know it. Yes, fill your eyes with tears as long as your heart is controlled by the power of discernment and before your soul is shaken by her departure from it and the heart is left like a house deserted by its owner."

"Awesome is the man who conceals the greatness of his labor by self-reproach; at such a man the angels marvel."

"Be a herald of God’s goodness, for God rules over you, unworthy though you are. Although your debt to Him is so very great, He is not seen exacting payment from you; and from the small works you do, He bestows great rewards upon you. Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in things concerning you."

"Be every man's friend, but in your mind remain alone."

"Be persecuted, but persecute not; be crucified, but crucify not; be wronged, but wrong not; be slandered, but slander not. Have clemency, not zeal, with respect to evil. Lay hold of goodness, not legality."

"Be persecuted, rather than be a persecutor. Be crucified, rather than be a crucifier. Be treated unjustly, rather than treat anyone unjustly. Be oppressed, rather than be an oppressor. Be gentle, rather than zealous. Lay hold of goodness, rather than justice. [paraphrased]"

"Be persecuted, rather than be a persecutor. Be crucified, rather than be a crucifier. Be treated unjustly, rather than treat anyone unjustly. Be oppressed, rather than zealous. Lay hold of goodness, rather than justice."

"Before the war begins, seek out 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 listen to you."

"Before you stumble, call out and plead; before you make a vow, have ready what things you promise, for they are your provisions afterwards."

"Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics for they, more than anything else, can equip the spirit of blasphemy against you."

"Conquer evil men by your gentle kindness, and make zealous men wonder at your goodness. Put the lover of legality to shame by your compassion. With the afflicted be afflicted in mind. Love all men, but keep distant from all men."

"Do not approach the words of the mysteries contained in the divine Scriptures without prayer and beseeching God for help, but say: Lord, grant me to perceive the power in them! Reckon prayer to be the key to the true understanding of the divine Scriptures."

"Do not disdain those who are handicapped from birth, because all of us will go to the grave equally privileged."

"Do not hate the sinner. We are, indeed, all laden with guilt. If for the sake of God you are moved to oppose him, weep over him. Why do you hate him? Hate his sins and pray for him."

"Ease and idleness are the destruction of the soul and they can injure her more than the demons."

"Faith is the door to mysteries. What the bodily eyes are to sensory objects, faith is to the eyes of the intellect that gaze at hidden treasures."

"Flee from discussions of dogma as from an unruly lion; and never embark upon them yourself, either with those raised in the Church, or with strangers."

"For unless those who travel on the road go forward day by day, shortening their journey - and, on the contrary, should they stand in one place - the road before them will never diminish and they will never arrive at their destination. So it is with us also. If we do not constrain ourselves little by little, we shall never have the strength to abstain from bodily things so as to gaze toward God."

"God rejoices when a man offers Him a wise prayer."