St. Isaac of Nineveh on the Work and Mounting of the Cross

Extracted and modernized from Mystical Treatises Homily Two

trans. A. J. Wensinck, Uitgave der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, 1923

The service of the cross is a double one. This in accordance with its twofold nature which is divided into two parts: patience in face of bodily troubles, which is accomplished through the instrumentality of the irascible energy of the soul; this is called practice, and, second, the subtle intellectual service, intercourse with God, constant prayer and so on, which is performed with the desiring part, and is called contemplation. Practice purifies the affective part by the strength of zeal; contemplation clarifies the intellectual part by the influence of love the soul, which is the natural appetite.

Any one, who, before being trained in the former part, passes to the latter, on account of the pleasures it affords, desiringly - or negligently - causes God's anger to blow against him because, before having mortified his members on earth, before healing the illness of his deliberations by endurance under the labors and the shame of the cross, has dared to occupy his mind with the glory of the cross. This is what has been said by the ancient saints: if the mind desires to ascent the cross before the senses have become silent on account of weakness, the anger of God will strike it.

By the fact of the ascension of the cross causing anger he does not point to the first part, namely the bearing of troubles patiently (which is the crucifying of the body) but to the contemplative ascension which is the second part, and which is truly subsequent to the healing of the soul. For he who hastens to meditate with his heart vain imaginations concerning future things, while his mind is still stained by reprehensible passions, will be reduced to silence on his way by punishment, because, before having purified his mind by means of the trials met in subduing the carnal desires, on account of what he has heard and read merely, he has hastened headlong to tread a path full of darkness, being blind...For divine things present themselves of their own accord, without thy perceiving them, if the place of the heart is pure and undefiled.

If the small pupil of the soul has not been purified, do not venture to look at the globe of the sun, lest thou be bereft even of the usual site, which is simple faith and humbleness and confession of the heart and light service in accordance with they power, and thou be case into one of the intelligible places, which is the darkness without God, like him who presumed to enter the banquet in dirty clothes.