By: St. Justin Popovich
It is by the ascesis of faith that the treatment and cure of a soul which is sick with the passions is begun. Once faith begins to live in a man, the passions begin to be uprooted from his soul. But “until the soul becomes intoxicated with the faith in God, until it comes to feel faith’s power,”* it can neither be healed of the passions nor overcome the material world. There is both a negative side to the ascesis of faith, freedom from sinful matter, and a positive side, oneness with God.
The soul, which was dispersed by the senses among the things of this world, is brought back to itself by the ascesis of faith, by fasting from material things and by devoting itself to a constant remembrance of God. This is the foundation of all good things. Freedom from enslavement to sinful matter is essential for advancement in the spiritual life. The beginning of this new way of life is found in the concentration of one’s thoughts on God, in incessant pondering on the words of God, and in a life of poverty.
Through faith the mind, which was previously dispersed among the passions, is concentrated, freed from sensuality, and endowed with peace and humility of thought. When it lives by the senses in a sensual world, the mind is sick. With the help of faith, however, the mind is delivered from the prison of this world, where it has been stifled by sin, and enters into the new age, where it breathes in a wondrous new air. “The sleep of the mind” is as dangerous as death, and it is therefore essential to rouse the mind by faith to the performance of spiritual works, by which man will overcome himself and drive out the passions. “Drive out self, and the enemy will be driven from your side.”
*All quotations are in the text from The Ascetic Writings of Our Holy Father Isaac the Syrian, ed. Nicephoros Theotokis (Leipzig: 1770), re-edited by Joachim Spetsieris (Athens: 1895).
Excerpt taken from the book: Man and the God-Man, by- St. Justin Popovich