Conversations with Abba Isaac: Saint Paisios and Positive Thinking
There are few, if any, who have been more devoted to Abba Isaac than the Blessed Elder Paisios who recently was incorporated into the registry of Saints (1/13/15). Not only did the Holy Elder deeply love the teachings of Abba Isaac, but even more importantly, he lived and incarnated all that the great Abba Isaac taught.
Saint Paisios has written, “You will be greatly assisted by Abba Isaac of Syria, because he helps us understand the deepest meaning of life. Furthermore, he helps the man who believes in God to drive away every complex, great or small. A little studying of Abba Isaac transforms the soul with its many spiritual vitamins.”
There is one specific vitamin that is found in Abba Isaac that Saint Paisios often spoke of, a vitamin that is capable of preserving us from every spiritual illness and delivering us from every complex. The vitamin that Abba Isaac gives to us and Saint Paisios so often spoke of is Positive Thinking.
Positive Thinking is twofold, just as the greatest of the commandments is twofold. Our Lord said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Just as Love, like the Holy Cross, has a vertical beam (Love for God) and a horizontal beam (love for neighbor), Positive Thinking concerns both our thoughts about God and our thoughts about our neighbor.
Abba Isaac once wrote, “Renew my life with a transformation of mind and with positive thoughts which You, in Your grace, stir within me.” This prayer was answered in the life of Saint Paisios when he was still a child and had his mind forever changed by a positive thought that God stirred within him. He found himself in great distress and was questioning his faith because a man who “did not have any positive thoughts in his mind” mocked him for believing in God and told him that Christ was only a man. Saint Paisios tells us that,
Feeling exhausted, I lay on the ground to rest. Suddenly, a positive thought, full of responsive gratefulness, entered my innocent soul:
– Hold on for a second! Wasn’t Christ the kindest man ever on earth? No one has ever found anything evil in Him. So, whether He is God or not, I don’t care. Based on the fact that He is the kindest man on earth and I haven’t known anyone better, I will try to become like Him and absolutely obey everything the Gospel says. I will even give my life for Him, if needed, since He is so kind.
All my thoughts of disbelief disappeared and my soul was filled with immense joy. The power of my grateful thought dissolved all the ambiguous ones. When I started believing in Christ and decided to love Him as much as I could, solely out of responsive gratefulness, I experienced a miracle which firmly sealed my grateful thought. Then, I thought: I do not care anymore if someone tells me that God does not exist!”
That this thought was a gift from God is confirmed by Abba Isaac who tells us that, “A good thought falls into the heart only by a divine gift.” God gave this gift to the young Paisios who had a heart filled with gratitude and Philotimo because, in the words of Abba Isaac, “That which leads the gifts of God to a man is a heart that is continually moved to thanksgiving.”
Elder Pasios reminds us of the horizontal nature of Positive Thinking when he writes, “You should always have good thoughts for everyone,” and that, “The entire foundation of the spiritual life is for people to think of others and put themselves last, not to think of themselves.” Likewise, Abba Isaac tells us that a man has attained purity “when he considers all men good, and no man seems to him impure or profane, then he is truly pure in heart.”
Following the teachings and examples of Saints Isaac and Paisios, let us pray to the Lord with the words of Saint Nicholas Kavasilas that He will, “Divert the eye of the soul from vain things by having the heart always filled with good thoughts, so that it at no time may give place to evil thoughts by being empty.”
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