"O Thou Who hears the cries of the world, come to us."
On Those who Live in the Neighborhood of God and Pass all Their Days in a Life of Knowledge
from the Mystic Treatises of Saint Isaac of Nineveh
Until a man becomes humble, he does not receive the wages of his service. Remuneration is not given for service, but for humbleness. He that wrongs the latter, looses the former.
He who has taken upon him the service of excellence is inferior to him who has first taken upon him the excellence of service. Excellence is the mother of afflictions; from afflictions humbleness is born. The gift is given for humbleness. Consequently the remuneration does not belong to excellence, nor to pains for its sake, but to humbleness which is born from it. Now if humbleness fails, the other ones are vain. The service of humbleness is the observance of the commandments of our Lord. The excellence of service is steadiness of mind, which is established by humbleness and watchfulness. Where the power necessary for the performance of the former one fails, the latter is received instead of them. So Christ does not seek the service of the commandments, but the steadiness of the soul, for the sake of which He also has laid commandments upon rational beings. The body works with the right and with the left part, equally. But the mind, as is becoming, is either justified or condemned.
Some serve life with left-hand things, through wisdom from God; and some acquire sin (1) under the appearance of acquiring divine things. Shortcomings in sundry things in which those who are watchful are entangled, are permitted by God in order to guard their righteousness, that their trespass and failures may become to them a cause of humbleness.
Humbleness protects many men for their service, not only withholding them from haughtiness, but by recollection of their trepasses they become humble and receive higher wages.
Without blows a gift cannot be kept. A gift without temptations is found to cause the destruction of those who have received it.
If thou hast served well before God, and He has given thee a gift for thy steadiness regarding Him, in order to spur thee on the more and to give thee joy in thy service, then let Him give thee knowledge so as to know how it is necessary to humble thyself; otherwise he would appoint a prosecutor or take it agin from thee, lest there be a chance for its being lost. It is not to every one to guard riches without damage.
The soul that takes upon itself the trouble of excellence and lives in the veracious fear of God cannot be without daily afflictions. Virtues and afflictions are interwoven.
He who abandons troubles abandons excellence entirely. Who clings to excellency, clings to afflictions. If thou desirest excellence, thou givest thyself over to all afflictions. Excellence is the mother of afflictions; afflictions are the mother of humbleness. For God does not desire that the soul should be without care. And he that desires this, his mind is found to be without God's will. By care I do not mean care concerning bodily things, but concerning the oppression that persecutes virtues. For before we reach true knowledge, which is the revelation of hidden things, we have to come near to humbleness through temptations. He that is found to be without afflictions in his excellence, for him a door unto haughtiness is opened. How can he who desires this excellence be without afflictions in his mind? It is not possible that the mind remain in humbleness if there is no reason for blows. And it is nor possible that without humbleness it should remain in perpetual supplication unto God, in serenity.
(to be continued)
1) "Sin" is grossly misinterpreted in both eastern and western scriptures to mean a heinous, odious or wicked act. In biblical terms, when rendered from the Greek, which some of this original scripture was first inscribed, the word given is hamartano. Its literal translation is "to miss the mark". Seen in the light of this proper interpretation, a "sin" can even be spiritual effort that has habitually fallen short of the intended goal. The emphasis here should be on the word "habitual". The importance of this truth can be understood most plainly when remembering the words of the great Sage Sri Ramana Maharshi: "The obstacles to the realization of the Self are the habits of the mind." (Talks #13)