With today’s spiritual counsel, St. Isaac the Syrian, the great monastic father and the source of wisdom and spiritual experience, comes to strengthen all of us in our struggle against temptations and in our understanding of sin. He reminds us that we must acquire hate for sin and its pleasure if we want to be freed from the passions.
Until a man begins to hate the causes of sin, sincerely and from the heart, he cannot be free from the feeling of enjoyment produced by an act of sin. This is the most grievous fight of all (that is, with enjoyment of sin), which resists a man even at the cost of blood. Thereby man’s freedom in the singleness (exclusiveness) of his love for virtue is put to the test.
In this struggle lies the force of sin, by which the enemy is determined to disturb the souls of the chaste, compelling them to experience what they had never in any way accepted in themselves.
And this is the time of invisible endeavour, which can be very hard if the attacks, strengthened by an acquired habit, gain great power over those who have been accustomed to surrender to defeat by consenting to their own thoughts.
We cannot prevent causes for passions from being in us, and so we are tempted even against our will. We do not wish to sin, but we often accept with pleasure the causes which lead to sins ; then these causes become instrumental in making sins active. He who loves what causes passions involuntarily becomes a slave to passions. He who hates his sins will cease to sin; and he who confesses them will receive absolution.
It is impossible for a man to get free from the habit of sin if he does not first acquire a hatred of sin; and it is impossible to receive absolution before a confession of sins. While a man bears within himself the poison of intoxication with his sins, everything he does seems fitting to him. And when nature leaves its rightful place, it is no matter whether intoxication be with wine or with lusts, for one and another alike drive it from its proper state-each will produce an identical inflammation in the body; the means may be different, the result is the same.
St. Isaac the Syrian – Directions on Spiritual Training