As a handful of sand thrown into the great sea, so are the sins of all flesh in comparison with the mind of God. And just as a strongly flowing spring is not obstructed by a handful of dust, so the mercy of the Creator is not stemmed by the vices of His creatures.
As a man who sows in the sea and expects to reap a harvest, so is he who remembers wrongs and prays. As the flame of fire cannot be checked from rising upward, so the prayers of the merciful are not hindered from ascending to Heaven. The current of a stream runs swiftly in a narrow place, and likewise the force of anger whenever it finds a place in our mind.
The man who has acquired humility in his heart is dead to this world. He who is dead to the world had died to the passions. For to the man who has died in his heart to his kinsmen, the devil is dead. He who has found malice, with it has found him who originally found it. [Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, from Homily 51]
St Isaac’s words here remind us of the core of our faith. One of the effects of sin is that we can feel so depressed by its weight that, like Macbeth, we can feel that we might as well go on and go back as we have come so far; this is the Devil speaking. However big our sin is in our eyes, to God it is small in relation to the love He has for us. If we, in a sort of perverted pride, insist on the importance of our sins and harden our hearts to repentance, then we take the wide road to hell. The beginning of wisdom is the humility to repent; the second step is the willingness to work with God and to try to avoid further occasions of sin. Even though we know we shall fail, the only real failure is refusing to try. It isn’t the being knocked down which is wrong – it is the refusal to get up again.
If we, however, cannot forgive others, if we remember their wrongs against us, then we, ourselves, are in the wrong. If we nurture something as unGodly as hatred, we align ourselves with the father of lies, who was a murderer from the beginning.
St Isaac reminds us that “There is no sin that cannot be forgiven except the one without repentance”. We are not God, we cannot judge as He does. But we can see what Christ says and we can try to follow His example. Even a convicted thief could be saved at the last – and why, because he repented of his sins, he confessed his belief in Christ and he did his best to witness to his Lord. There is an example there, so awesome of God’s measures of mercy that, in our sinful pride we can reject it. Let us not.
St Isaac, pray for us sinners.