Tag Archives: St. Isaac the Syrian

Faith vs. Knowledge Part 2, Podcast airing July 16th on Pearls of Great Price, OCN


 

 

Faith vs. Knowledge

Part 2

It is not that knowledge is blameworthy, but that faith is higher…

 

 

What are the distinctions in knowledge; in which degree (when knowledge returns to its primary aim – the spiritual life) it comes into its nature and by its good discipline (fasting, alms, vigils, holiness… love for one’s neighbor, humility of heart, forgiving those who have sinned, recollection of good things, investigation of the mysteries concealed in the Holy Scriptures, the mind’s occupation with good works, the bridling of the soul’s passions, and the rest of such virtues) becomes a stepping–stone for faith…. when it is that knowledge unites with faith and becomes one with it… when it is inflamed by the Spirit, acquiring the wings of dispassion; and when it is exalted above servitude to things earthly into the realm of its Creator?

If only more folks that are into seeking in the New Age and Eastern religions knew about the depth of our faith! That is why I wrote my first book, The Pearl of Great Price. Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of all my seeking thanks to saints like St. Isaac the Syrian. 

“There are three intelligible degrees in which knowledge ascends and descends…. and becomes the cause of either harm or help.

The first degree of knowledge (Common Knowledge):

When knowledge cleaves to the love of the body, it gathers up the following provisions: wealth; vainglory; honor; adornment; rest of the body; special means to guard the body’s nature from adversities; assiduity in rational wisdom, such as is suitable for the governance of the world and which gushes forth the novelties of inventions, the arts, sciences, doctrines; and all other things which crown the body in this visible world. This is called common knowledge, for it is naked of all concerns for God. And because it is dominated by the body, it introduces into the mind an irrational importance, and its concern is totally for this world.

It is not that most of us purposely exclude God, but we are so programed by our worldly knowledge that we forget about God. We think our survival is dependent on us! Part of this is true, for we need to work and be responsible in life, but how hard it is to remember that all is created and sustained by God – not us. When in our survival mode…

This measure of knowledge does not reckon that there is any noetic power and hidden steersman over a man whatsoever, nor any divine care that shelters and takes concerned for him… Nevertheless, it cannot be without continual cares and fear for the body. Therefore it is appraised to faintheartedness, sorrow, despair, fear of the demons, trepidation before men, the rumor of thieves and the report of murders, anxiety over diseases, concern over want and lack of necessities, fear of death, fear of sufferings, of wild beasts, and of other similar things that make this knowledge like a sea more turbulent by great waves at every hour of the night and day.

When we are thinking in the above manner this should be a clear tip off to us that we have stepped out of connection with God and have fallen into worldly knowledge and concerns without turning to God first.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree that uproots love, is planted in this very knowledge. In this knowledge are produced and are found presumption and pride, for it attributes every good thing to itself, and does not refer to God.

The second degree of knowledge (the knowledge of actions):

But when knowledge renounces the first degree and turns toward deep reflections on the love of the soul, then it practices the aforementioned good deeds with the help of the soul’s understanding, in co-operation with the senses of the body, in the light of the soul’s nature (this knowledge takes into account the existence of God and the soul). This knowledge makes straight the pathways in the heart which lead to faith, wherewith we gather supplies for our journey to the true age.

We are learning to act for and with God. We are being purified of that knowledge that obstructs faith – memories, beliefs and patterns of behavior that we learned.

But even so, this knowledge is still corporeal and composite; and although it is the road that leads us and speeds us on our way toward faith, yet there remains a degree of knowledge still higher than it. If it goes forward, it will find itself raised up by faith with the help of Christ… it is called the knowledge of actions, because by concrete actions, through the senses of the body, it accomplishes its work on the external level.”

I think that most of us are waging our spiritual battles in the mist of these first two degrees of knowledge. To achieve the third degree of knowledge, St. Isaac says we need to leave the world, but if we have families and work in the world, how can we do so? By entering the closet of our soul in prayer. My next several podcasts will focus on prayer and practical suggestions from the Holy Fathers about how to enter the closet of our soul and find our deep heart in Christ. Then we can begin to access…

The third degree of knowledge, which is the degree of perfection where:

“…knowledge becomes more refined, acquires that which is of the Spirit… When knowledge is raised above the earthly things and the cares of earthly activities, and its thoughts begin to gain experience in inward matters which are hidden from the eyes; and when in part it scorns the recollections of things (whence the perverseness of the passions arises), and when it stretches itself upward and follows faith in its solicitude for the future age, in its desire for what has been promised us, and in searching deeply into hidden mysteries: then faith itself swallows up knowledge, converts it, and begets it anew, so that it becomes wholly and completely spirit.

The Fathers call these stages natural, supranatural, and contranatural. These are three directions in which the memory of a rational soul travels up or down So long as a man still abides in the nature of the flesh, he is in continual transition from one (state) to another…”

I will add that as the soul travels up and down this journey in faith, we are also simultaneously experiencing purification, illumination and maybe even God given moments of theosis. I know we all would prefer to be done with our struggles, but the challenging news is that for most of us, the process of regeneration by grace will continue until our last breath. That is why we need faith and hope. We can begin to understand the process of regeneration by grace more clearly in hindsight, in God given moments of illumination and consolation we can see what God was teaching us. Then we fall back into our trials and struggles for a time with worldly knowledge and our passions. This is the cycle that is repeated over and over again until our soul is perfected in God.

But we call faith that light which dawns in the soul by grace… This faith manifests itself not by the tradition of the hearing of the ear, but with spiritual eyes it beholds the mysteries concealed in the soul, and the secret and divine riches that are hidden away from the eyes of the sons of the flesh, but are unveiled by the Spirit to those who are brought up at Christ’s table in the study of His laws. He said, ‘If ye keep My Commandments, I will send you the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, and He shall teach you all truth.’

The Comforter shows a man the holy power that dwells within him at every moment, and the protection, of the noetic force that shelters him always and drives away from him all harm, that it should not touch his soul or his body. The luminous and noetic mind visibly perceives this (holy power) with the eyes of faith… This power is the Comforter Himself Who, in the strength of faith, consumes the soul as with fire. The soul then rushes forward, despising every danger because of her trust in God, and on the wings of faith she soars aloft, taking leave of visible creation… she is ever found in the awestruck wonder of solicitude for God…

Thank you St. Isaac of Syria and by your prayers may we too experience the gift of faith.

If you missed my podcast – Part 1 of Homily 52 – I encourage you to listen to it when you have the chance.

Here is the Link to the second half of the full text of Homily 52

May God bless you!

In Christ,

Veronica

Faith vs. Knowledge Part 1, Podcast Airing on OCN, July 2nd


" I have lifted up my eyes to the mountain where comes my help. My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth.

Mt Lassen

 

 Faith vs. Knowledge

Part I

Why is it so challenging sometimes to have faith?

What does worldly knowledge

have to do with our lack of faith?

Let’s find out!

 

 

 

 

I am so inspired about our podcast today! When my husband read Homily 52 by St. Isaac the Syrian to me about a year ago I felt as if the Lord had given me an answer to multiple pleas and prayers. I had been struggling for years to understand how to have faith – especially with regards to my health issues and my spiritual life. Reading and re-reading this homily has changed my life!

Wonderful is God in his Saints! Let us begin our study of Faith vs. Knowledge from St. Isaac the Syrian…

“It is well known that knowledge cannot exist without investigation… But faith requires a way of thinking that a single, limpidly pure and simple, far removed from any deviousness or invention of methods… This should be a clear tip off to us that we are not in the right frame of mind, not present to faith when our thinking becomes too complicated, worldly solution oriented and logical. The home of faith is a childlike thought and a simple heart.

Knowledge keeps within the boundaries of nature (St. Isaac is referring to our earthly/scientific nature here) in all its paths; but faith makes its journey above nature. (Faith is part of our spiritual nature.) Knowledge (what we understand in a worldly context) does not allow itself to experience anything that is ruinous to nature (this means anything that is a leap of faith, requires stepping out of what we know and putting our faith in the providence of God), and it keeps far away from it; but faith readily submits itself to this and says, ‘Upon the asp and the basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and the dragon.’ Faith is fearless!

Fear accompanies knowledge; but confidence accompanies faith. The more a man journeys in the pathways of knowledge, the more he is shackled by fear and cannot be found worthy of freedom from it; but he who follows faith straightway becomes a free man and a ruler of himself, and as a son of God he freely wields all things with authority…

When I read this for the first time how my heart leapt! Of course we can surmount our earthly sorrows and struggles if we put our faith in Christ! I understood that my fears are based not only on my past, but, in what I have learned in the world to survive, which does not support the life of my spirit.

But knowledge can do nothing without matter. Knowledge is not so bold as to attempt anything that has not been given to nature. How so? The liquid nature of water cannot support upon its back the footsteps of a body; the man who comes too close to fire burns himself; and whosoever should rashly oppose nature in this fashion brings himself into peril… But faith transgresses them with authority, saying: ‘If thou go through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, and the rivers shall not overflow thee.’ Faith has many times worked such things before the eyes of all creation…

Christ walked on water, He and is Saints have healed countless people, Christ fed 5,000 with only a few loaves and fishes, and more… He fed and healed their soul.

If knowledge were given the opportunity to attempt such things, it would in no wise be persuaded. (This is where I hear myself saying, “You cannot do this Veronica because of this and that…. Just what the devil wants me to think and believe, but it is not true. I can choose to not listen to this voice that has spoken to me for years.) For it is by faith that men have entered into the flames and bridle the burning power of the fire, walking unharmed as the midst thereof, and they have trodden upon the back of the sea as on dry land. All these are above nature and opposed to the ways and means of knowledge….

Do you see how faith has shaken the foundations of knowledge and proven it futile in all its ways and laws? Do you see how knowledge keeps within the limits of nature? Do you see how faith passes above nature in traveling on the pathway of its journey? Yes! This is why Christ came to earth!

The ways and means of knowledge governed the world for a little more or less than 5000 years, and man was in no wise able to raise his head from the earth and perceive the power of his Creator. For this was not until our faith shone forth and freed us from the gloom of earthly labors and futile slavery that seeks fruitless distraction.

How much time have I spent in my life with fruitless distractions – to take me away from the pain of my seeming failures or disappointments in life? Am I not ready to focus my mind and heart on something higher? Yes!

There is no knowledge that is not needy, however rich it might be; but heaven and earth cannot contain the treasures of faith. The man whose heart is upheld by the confidence of faith will never be in want; and when he has nothing, by faith he possesses all, as it is written: ‘All things whatever you shall ask in prayer, ye shall receive’, and again, ‘The Lord is at hand, have care for nothing.’”

So let us now go to Elder Joseph, Monastic Wisdom to further help our spiritual understanding of what St. Isaac is saying to us…

Let us return to our starting point on faith, the fear of the Lord….

 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, says the wise Solomon, and the Fathers agree. And I say to you, ‘Blessed and thrice blessed is the man that fears the Lord.’ (Ps.111:1) (When a person truly fears God and has dedicated his life to God – he knows that God is capable of working anything in his life, especially that which is beyond our understanding, for that person trusts and knows God in his heart. He believes that God is greater than his mind. I am still working on this one!)

From this divine fear, faith in God is born. Then a person believes wholeheartedly that since he has completely dedicated himself to God, God intern assumes all solicitude for him… So when this faith takes root, that kind of knowledge is completely abolished which gives rise to doubt about everything, decreases faith, and many times eliminates it (for it has nature on its side, since we were brought up with it). But once faith is victorious after many trials, it turns and gives birth to spiritual knowledge, or rather is given as a gift, which does not oppose faith, but flies with its wings and explores the depths of the mysteries. And these two: faith and knowledge, knowledge and faith, are thence forth inseparable sisters.

Elder Joseph is reminding us that we have many trials to endure for the acquisition of faith – so take courage – our sufferings have a purpose!

If you leave everything to God, behold that you have acquired faith, and certainly, without a doubt, you will have Him as your helper. So even if you are tried 1 million times and Satan tempts you in order to dull your faith, choose death 1 million times and do not comply with human knowledge. And in this manner the door of mysteries will open. Then you will marvel that although you were formerly bound with the chains of human knowledge, now you fly above the earth with divine wings and breathe another air of freedom, which others lack.

Conversely if you see that human knowledge reigns in you, and if at the slightest danger you lose your head in despair, know that you still lack faith. Therefore, you do not yet have all your hope in God, and do not yet trust that He is able to save you from every evil. Take care to correct yourself here, as we have said, so that you are not deprived of such a great good.” Elder Joseph, Monastic Wisdom

May we pray to St. Issac and Elder Joseph to help us learn to surmount our worldly knowledge and acquire faith!

God bless you,

Veronica

Link to the first part of the full text of Homily 52

Ps

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Part 2 of Homily 52 by St. Issac the Syrian, the degrees of knowledge


Rainbow from our upper deck

 

 

 

 

 

No matter how many times I read Homily 52, especially concerning the degrees of knowledge, I am reminded how captured I am by what I know and how challenging, yet fulfilling and inspiring staying connected to one’s faith is by comparison.

What I know is so ingrained in my being! Lord have mercy!  Glory to God and His Saints! Who we are is not what we know according to the world, but what God has blessed us to know by His grace.

In Christ,

Veronica

Homily 52, Part II, by St. Issac the Syrian

Question:  Whom does he resemble that has been deemed worthy to taste the sweetness of faith but afterwards turns again to unspiritual knowledge?

Answer:   He resembles the man who has found a pearl of great price and exchanges it for a copper obol, who has abandoned self–sufficient freedom and turned to the ways of destitution, filled with fear and slavery.

It is not that knowledge is blameworthy, but that faith is higher; and if we find fault, it is not knowledge that we blame. Far be it! Rather it is to distinguish the erring modes by which it goes against nature, and how it becomes kindred to the orders of the demons–which distinctions we shall clearly make hereafter; and how many steps there are in which knowledge journeys; what is the difference in each of them; by what conceptions it is awakened in each mode when it abides therein; in which of these modes (when it walks therein) it opposes faith and goes forth outside of nature; what are the distinctions in knowledge; in which degree (when knowledge returns to its primary aim) it comes into its nature and by its good discipline becomes a stepping–stone for faith; and how far the distinctions of its degree reaches; how it passes from these modes to higher ones; which are the modes of that other degree that is first in honor; when it is that knowledge unites with faith and becomes one with it and from it receives the vesture of fiery intellections; when it is inflamed by the Spirit, acquiring the wings of dispassion; and when it is exalted above servitude to things earthly into the realm of its Creator, with the aid of other modes. But for the moment it is suitable that we should know only that faith and its working is higher than knowledge.

Knowledge is perfected by faith and acquires the power to ascend on high, to perceive that which is higher than every perception, and to see the radiance of Him that is incomprehensible to the mind and to the knowledge of created things. Knowledge is a step whereby a man can climb up to the lofty heights of faith; and when a man has reached faith, he no longer has need of knowledge. ‘Now,’ it is said, ‘we know in part and we noetically perceive in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.’ Faith, therefore, now shows us, as it were before our eyes, the reality of that future perfection. It is by our faith that we learn those things that cannot be comprehended, not by the investigation and power of knowledge.

These are the works of righteousness; fasting, alms, vigil, holiness, and the rest of such works performed by the body. Love for one’s neighbor, humility of heart, forgiving those who have sinned, recollection of good things, investigation of the mysteries concealed in the Holy Scriptures, the mind’s occupation with good works, the bridling of the soul’s passions, and the rest of such virtues, are performed in the soul-all these require knowledge, for knowledge guards and teaches their order. All these are known as virtues, but they are still only steps by which the soul ascends to the more lofty height of faith.

The way of life proper to faith is more exalted than the working of virtue, and it is not labor, but perfect rest, consolation, words in the heart, and it is accomplished by the intellections of the soul. All these wondrous modes of spiritual discipline–the practice of which in the spiritual life is awareness, delight, fruition of the soul, burning love, joy in God, and the rest–and whatsoever things in this discipline are bestowed upon the soul accounted worthy of the grace of that yonder blessedness, and whatsoever things are subtly indicated in the Divine Scriptures, all these things are accomplished through faith by God, Who is boundless in His gifts.

A difficulty:  But if any says, if all these good things, and the aforementioned works of virtue, the abstention from evils, the discernment of those subtle thoughts that sprout up in the soul, the battle with thoughts, the struggle with the inciting passions, and the rest of such things which even faith itself cannot manifest its power in the soul’s actions–if it is knowledge that accomplishes all these good things, then how can knowledge be considered to be opposed to faith?

Solution:   We say that there are also three intelligible degrees in which knowledge ascends and descends, and according to the variation of the modes wherein it walks, it submits to change and becomes the cause of either harm or help. There are three degrees: body, soul, and spirit. And although knowledge is single in its nature, yet it becomes more gross and more subtle and changes its provisions and the activities of its conceptions in relation to the noetic and sensible realms. So hearken and learn the order of its activity and causes whereby it harms or helps. Knowledge is a gift bestowed by God on the nature of rational beings in their very creation. It is naturally simple and undivided, even as the light of the sun: but according to its activity, knowledge undergoes changes and additions.

On the first degree of knowledge:

When knowledge cleaves to the love of the body, it gathers up the following provisions: wealth; vainglory; honor; adornment; rest of the body; special means to guard the body’s nature from adversities; assiduity in rational wisdom, such as is suitable for the governance of the world and which gushes forth the novelties of inventions, the arts, sciences, doctrines; and all other things which crowned the body in this visible world. Among the properties of this knowledge belong those that are opposed to faith, which we have stated an enumerated above. This is called common knowledge, for it is naked of all concerns for God. And because it is dominated by the body, it introduces into the mind and irrational importance, and its concern is totally for this world.

This measure of knowledge does not reckon that there is any noetic power and hidden steersman over a man whatsoever, nor any divine care that shelters and takes concerned for him. It takes no account of God’s providential governance; but on the contrary, it attributes to a man’s diligence and his methods every good thing in him, his rescue from what harms him, his natural ability to avert the plights and many adversities that secretly and manifestly accompany our nature.

This degree of knowledge presumes that all things are by its own providence, like those men who assert that there is no divine governance of visible things. Nevertheless, it cannot be without continual cares and fear for the body. Therefore it is appraised to faintheartedness, sorrow, despair, fear of the demons, trepidation before men, the rumor of thieves and the report of murders, anxiety over diseases, concern over want and lack of necessities, fear of death, fear of sufferings, of wild beasts, and of other similar things that make this knowledge like a sea more turbulent by great waves at every hour of the night and day. For knowledge does not know how to cast its care upon God through the confident trust of faith in Him; wherefore in all things that concern it, it is constantly engaged in devising devices and clever contrivances. But when in some instance the modes of its contrivances prove fruitless, it strives with men as though they hindered and opposed it, since it does not see in this the mystical hand of providence.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree that uproots love, is planted in this very knowledge. It investigates the minute faults of other men and the causes thereof, and their wickednesses; and it arms a man for stubbornly upholding his opinion, for disputation, and aids him in cunningly employing devices and crafty machinations and other means, which dishonor a man. In this knowledge are produced and are found presumption and pride, for it attributes every good thing to itself, and does not refer to God.

Faith, however, attributes its works to grace. For this reason it cannot be lifted up with pride, as it is written: ‘Not I, but the grace of God which was with me’; and also, ‘Knowledge puffeth up,’ which the blessed Apostle said of this same knowledge, since it is not mingled with faith and hope in God, but he said it concerning true knowledge, far be it!

By humility, true knowledge makes perfect the soul of those who have acquired it, like Moses, David, Esaias, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the saints who have accounted been worthy of this perfect knowledge to the degree possible for human nature. And by diverse theorias and divine revelations, by the lofty vision of spiritual things and by ineffable mysteries and the like, their knowledge is swallowed up at times, and in their own eyes they reckon their souls to be dust and ashes.

But that other knowledge is puffed up, even as is meet, since it walks in darkness and values that which belongs to it by comparison with things of earth, and it knows not that there is something better than itself. And so all (who claim to such knowledge) are seized by the uplifting of pride, because they measure their discipline according to the standard of the earth in the flesh, they rely upon their works, and their minds do not enter into in comprehensible matters.

But as many as reflect upon the waves of the glorious splendor of the Godhead, and whose labor is on high, their minds do not turn aside with interventions and vain thoughts. For those who walk in the light cannot go astray, and for this reason all those who have strayed from the light of the knowledge of the Son of God, have turned away from the truth, journey in these pathways just mentioned.

This is the first degree of knowledge; in it a man follows the desire of the flesh. We find this knowledge blameworthy and declare it to be opposed not only to faith, but to every working of virtue.

On the second degree of knowledge:

But when knowledge renounces the first degree and turns toward deep reflections on the love of the soul, then it practices the aforementioned good deeds with the help of the soul’s understanding, in co-operation with the senses of the body, in the light of the soul’s nature. These deeds are: fasting, prayer, mercy, reading of the divine Scripture, the modes of virtue, battle with the passions, and the rest. For all these good things, all the various excellences seen in the soul and the wondrous means that are employed for serving in Christ’s court in the second degree of knowledge, are made perfect by the Holy Spirit through the action of its power. This knowledge makes straight the pathways in the heart which lead to faith, wherewith we gather supplies for our journey to the true age.

But even so, this knowledge is still corporeal and composite; and although it is the road that leads us and speeds us on our way toward faith, yet there remains a degree of knowledge still higher than it. If it goes forward, it will find itself raised up by faith with the help of Christ, that is, when it has laid the foundation of its action on seclusion from men, reading of the Scriptures, prayer, and other good works by which the second degree of knowledge is made perfect. It is by this knowledge that all that is excellent is performed; indeed, it is called the knowledge of actions, because by concrete actions, through the senses of the body, it accomplishes its work on the external level.

On the third degree of knowledge, which is the degree of perfection:

Here now how a knowledge becomes more refined, acquires that which is of the Spirit, then comes to resemble the life of the unseen hosts which perform their liturgy not by the palpable activity of works, but through the activity accomplished in the meditation of the understanding. When knowledge is raised above the earthly things and the cares of earthly activities, and its thoughts begin to gain experience in inward matters which are hidden from the eyes; and when in part it scorns the recollections of things (whence the perverseness of the passions arises), and when it stretches itself upward and follows faith in its solicitude for the future age, in its desire for what has been promised us, and in searching deeply into hidden mysteries: then faith itself swallows up knowledge, converts it, and begets it anew, so that it becomes wholly and completely spirit.

Then it can soar on wings in the regions of the bodiless and touch the depths of the unfathomable sea, musing upon the wonders and divine workings of God’s governance of noetic and corporeal creatures. It searches our spiritual mysteries that are perceived by this simple and subtle understanding. Then the inner senses awakened for spiritual doing, according to the order that will be in the immortal and incorporeal life. For even from now it has received, as it were in a mystery, the noetic resurrection as a true witness of the universal renewal of all things.

These are the three degrees of knowledge wherein is brought together a man’s whole course in the body, in the soul, and in the spirit. From the time when man begins to distinguish between good and evil until he takes leave of this world, his soul’s knowledge journeys in these stages. The fullness of all wrong and impiety, and the fullness of righteousness, and the probing of the depths of all the mysteries of the spirit are wrought by one knowledge in the aforementioned three stages; and in it is contained the mind’s every movement, whether the mind ascends or descends in good or in evil, or in things midway between the two.

The Fathers call these stages natural, supranatural, and contranatural. These are three directions in which the memory of a rational soul travels up or down, as has been said: when the soul works righteousness in (the confines of) nature, or when through her recollection she is caught away to a higher state than nature in the divine vision of God, or when she goes out of her nature to herd swine, as did that young man who squandered the wealth of his discretion and laborers for a troop of demons.

A recapitulation of the three degrees of knowledge:

The first degree of knowledge renders the soul cold to works that go in pursuit of God. The second makes her fervent in the swift course on the level of faith. But the third is rest from labor, which is the type of the age to come, for the soul takes delight solely in the mind’s meditation upon the mysteries of the good things to come. But since a man’s nature is not yet completely elevated above the state of morality and the heaviness of the flesh, and is not yet perfected in the spiritual state that transcends this other state that is liable to aberration, it is unable to attain to the perfection that knows no cessation in its liturgy; and while a man is in this world of deadness, he cannot entirely take leave of the flesh’s nature.

So long as a man still abides in the nature of the flesh, he is in continual transition from one (state) to another. At one time, as a poor man and a pauper, his soul performs her service in the second, middle degree, working virtue that is inherent in her nature by means natural to the body. At another time, like those who have received the Spirit of adoption in the mystery of freedom, the soul employs the gift of the Spirit, given that according to the beneficence of its Bestower; but afterward she again returns to the loneliness of her works, that is, those wrought by the body. The soul keeps watch over the body, lest the crafty one take her captive through the enticements found in this age, and by troubled and erring thoughts. So long as the soul is closed behind the veil of the door of the flesh, she has no confidence, for there is no perfect freedom in this imperfect age.

Every working of knowledge is for the sake of activity and training; the working of faith, however, is not performed in deeds, but is accomplished by spiritual insights to the naked activity of the soul, and it transcends the senses. For faith is more subtle than knowledge, just as knowledge is more subtle than palpable deeds. All the saints who have been found worthy to attain to this spiritual discipline (which is awestruck wonder at God) pass their lives by the power of faith in the delight of that discipline which is above nature.

By faith we mean not that wherewith a man believes in the distinctions of the Divine and worshipful Hypostases, in the singular and unique nature of the very Godhead, and the wondrous dispensation to mankind to the assumption of our nature, although this faith is also very lofty. But we call faith that light which dawns in the soul by grace, and by which the testimony of the mind establishes the heart in freedom from doubt through the full assurance of hope that is remote from all conceit. This faith manifests itself not by the tradition of the hearing of the ear, but with spiritual eyes it beholds the mysteries concealed in the soul, and the secret and divine riches that are hidden away from the eyes of the sons of the flesh, but are unveiled by the Spirit to those who are brought up at Christ’s table in the study of His laws. The He said, ‘If ye keep My Commandments, I will send you the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, and He shall teach you all truth.’

The Comforter shows a man the holy power that dwells within him at every moment, and the protection, of the noetic force that shelters him always and drives away from him all harm, that it should not touch his soul or his body. The luminous and noetic mind visibly perceives this (holy power) with the eyes of faith, and the saints gain greater knowledge of it through experience. This power is the Comforter Himself Who, in the strength of faith, consumes the parts of the soul as with fire. The soul then rushes forward, despising every danger because of her trust in God, and on the wings of faith she soars aloft, taking leave of visible creation, and as though drunken, she is ever found in the awestruck wonder of solicitude for God; and with simple, uncompounded vision, and with invisible perception of the Divine nature, the understanding becomes accustomed to attending to reflection upon that nature’s hiddenness. For until the coming of that which is the perfection of the mysteries, and until we be found worthy of their manifest revelation, faith administers unspeakable mysteries between God and the saints. Of these may we be deemed worthy of the grace of Christ, here as an earnest, but there in the substance of truth in the kingdom of the Heavens together with those who love Him. Amen.