Lessons From Dead Guy #2: St. Isaac of Syria

So far on this journey through ancient traditions of the church I am discovering so much beauty and truth that resonates with my heart. Truth that I have known prior but only in obscurity. #LessonsFromDeadGuys number two is focusing on a few pages penned down by St. Isaac of Syria. He was the 7th century Bishop of Assyria and is the last “saint” chronologically recognized by every apostolic church. Long story short, he is a really cool dude and I recommend checking him out!

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness, and there the blessed Paul partook of supernatural nourishment. When he tasted there of the tree of life, he cried out, saying “Eye hath not see, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Adam was barred from this tree through the devil’s counsel.

The tree of life is the love of God from which Adam fell away, and thereafter he saw joy no longer, and he toiled and labored in the land of thorns. Even though they make their way in righteousness, those who are bereft of the love of God eat in their work the bread of sweat, which the first-created man was commanded to eat after his fall. … But when we find love, we partake of heavenly bread, and are made strong without labor and toil. The heavenly bread is Christ, Who came down from Heaven and gave life to the world. This is the nourishment of the angels. The man who has found love eats and drinks Christ every day and hour and hereby is made immortal. “He that eateth of this bread,” He says, “which I will give him, shall not see death unto eternity.” Blessed is he who eats the bread of love, which is Jesus! He who eats of love eats Christ, the God over all, as John bears witness, saying, “God is love.”

Wherefore, the man who lives in love reaps life from God, and while yet in this world, he even now breathes the air of the resurrection; in this air the righteous will delight in the resurrection. Love is the Kingdom, whereof the Lord mystically promised His disciples to eat in His Kingdom. For when we hear Him say, “Ye shall eat and drink at the table of my Kingdom,” what do we suppose we shall eat, if not love? Love is sufficient to nourish a man instead of food and drink. (I.46, pp. 357-358)

There is so much really to be said about these few words. So much to unpack and explore through and maybe we will be able to later on but for now I really want to focus on one particular idea found in St. Isaacs’s words. The idea that we are in fact breathing the breath of eternity. We treat heaven with such strange language and concepts in the western church. Ideas like Heaven being some far off place that we live as disembodied spirits, surrounded by clouds, and just chilling for eternity. We approach heaven like some distant reality that we have yet to even taste. It ultimately insults the glorious truth of the eternal state. We are a generation obsessed with the idea of “getting to Heaven”,or “God carrying us to heaven”, or Jesus being our “free ticket” to Heaven. We get so focused on tomorrow that we forget today. We get so busy trying love for tomorrow that we miss out on all that is beautiful, truthful, and fulfilling in this present moment. It makes it easy to misalign our responsibilities and scriptural truth when we think the only thing that matters is getting to heaven. Jesus is coming to make all things new and He has started with you and me! He has implanted life into our very beings! He has full revealed the immense love of God for us and His creation! A creation we are called to be stewards of and enjoy to the fullest capacity. We so desperately need an awakening to this reality in the American church. Heaven is just as much now as it shall be then. C.S. Lewis said the present was the most like eternity because it is all that there is. The past is gone, the future not yet, but the present is here and bursting with that which is eternal. The Kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus has come near!

Despite preaching it, I never really understood our “Get right or get left theology”. Because it is not really at all scriptural or truly edifying. The gospel is not work harder or you will miss the boat. The Gospel is the truth that we have been reconciled to God and it is high time we abandon our fruitless efforts at righteousness an enter into the Kingdom of He that is making all things new! We were never designed to go to God! That is one of the most breathtaking truths about His vast love! He has always been coming to us! And in Christ, He brought all of Heaven with him!

When we partake of Christ we have transcended the confines of destruction and punishment and have stepped full force in to perfect union with our creator. He breathed new life into our lungs! And because love refuses to let anything die He raised us up with Christ! We have become the resurrected! Awakened to new life in eternal connection with the heart of our creator.

We are called to believe and partake of love which is the very fabric and nature of the Triune God and His imperishable Kingdom! We are to abandon the bread that we have made from the labor of our hands and the sweat of our brow and feast on the free gift of God that is in Christ! He is true drink! He is true food! Our communion with Him establishes us in the eternal reality of all that is ours in this age and the age to come. It is this very reality by which we live, move, and have our being!

So breathe! Breathe in deeply the love of your God! He gave His body broken for your whole-ness, His blood for your cleansing! He has made you new and set you a seat at the table of His love feast! So eat, drink, and be merry! Be the conduit for eternity that you were always made to be! Allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into your home, workplace, community, and all that surrounds you! The fullness of Heaven lives in you!

Through whom, to whom, for whom all things exist!
-Ryan

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