“These have been intense days, for various reasons. Because it was a long-awaited meeting that remained uncertain until almost the end. For the complexity and uncertainty, under various aspects, of the context in which we have lived these days. The joy of meeting again after three years of suspension, and the richness and variety of presences made this meeting a truly special moment. I think I can say, having listened to several of you, that the decision to reduce the number of participants also created an atmosphere of familiarity, although some absences due to the war in Ukraine saddened us ”.
With these words the prior of the monastery of Bose, fr. Sabino Chialà, closed the XXVIII International Ecumenical Convention of Orthodox Spirituality dedicated to the figure of Isaac of Nineveh and his spiritual teaching after three years of suspension for covid 19, in which “we measured and still measure all our fragility and impotence in the face of to the enigma of an evil that afflicts us in various ways. We are all hurt… and often disoriented by what we see in the present and also in the future, which seems more uncertain than ever.
The pandemic prevented us from finding each other for three long years. Then, towards the end of last year, some easing of the distancing measures encouraged us to rethink our conferences. Everything was ready when other clouds gathered on the horizon: the war in Ukraine ”.
And he highlighted the need to deepen the writings of Isaac of Nineveh, because he invites us not to lose hope: “For the theme of the Conference, this year we have entrusted ourselves to one of the great teachers of the spiritual life of all times: Isaac of Nineveh, or Isaac the Syrian.
A figure who has nurtured generations of Christians of all times, conditions and latitudes; of every Church and beyond. A father who, despite belonging to one of the oldest and most geographically remote Churches, has conquered everyone, as his translated writings show (unique case!) In all the languages spoken by Christians, even those no longer practiced such as Sogdian ( which was spoken in the region of present-day Uzbekistan) …
But Isaac is also the herald of hope… at the heart of fragility. In an era of great political and religious upheavals, following the expansion of Arab domination, which in the Middle East was replacing the Byzantine and Persian ones, he was able to see in the folds of that history so precarious and uncertain (like ours ) the reflection of a certain hope. And right at the heart of that world so threatened, God, friend of men, announced that he does not abandon his creature, who does not fail in his promise ”.
That of the prior was an opening to the ‘future’: “It is certain that we have seen the power of communion that this father has been able to generate over the centuries and that we have once again seen at work among us.
The composition of our assembly has never been as rich as this year: together with various representatives of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, three Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church, the Reformation Churches and the Anglican Church.
And then again, young and old, as never before … Isaac was able not only to attract us here, but also to help us discover that fraternity that unites us despite our divisions. We can continue to wonder why the eloquence of his word …
But in the meantime we cannot fail to see its effects on us, and to see once again, with amazement, how these words spoken by a loner to loners remain eloquent for the human being of all times, conditions and latitudes. For this and for another reason, at the end of our days of conference, the feeling that most inhabits us is that of thanksgiving, first of all to the Lord, in whose name we have gathered ”.
Meanwhile, the last day of the conference saw two very interesting reports. In the first, prof. Pablo Argárate, lecturer at the University of Graz, dealt with the eschatology of Isaac of Nineveh: an eschatology that does not ignore realities such as evil, sin and death, on the contrary takes them as a starting point without making them realities. immutable.
Evil, sin and death have not always existed and a time will come when they will no longer exist, while in front of them, before and after them, God’s love for every creature is eternal and indefectible: the same hell, which is the extreme denial of this love cannot in any way overcome it.
The second report was delivered by Chrysostomos Stamoulis of Thessalonica, and he answered an insistent question during the days of the conference: what can Isaac say to the man of the 21st century? Stamoulis observed that if Isaac was a monk who lived in the seventh century, who wrote for other monks, there is no ontological difference between us contemporaries and those who lived before the industrial and technological revolutions that marked the last two centuries, as well as the desert. inhabited by Isaac and the city both belong to the world created and loved by God.
The love and compassion for every creature announced by Isaac are as valid today as they were 14 centuries ago, and today as then they can contradict some deeply rooted practices and beliefs.
Particularly scandalous can be Isaac’s call to humility, ‘Grow up and you will see the glory of God in you’, in a world that is, on the contrary, aimed at self-affirmation; but, precisely because it is scandalous, it is a precious message.
While at the opening of the conference the prior of Bose stressed the need not to despair: “Don’t despair! Don’t turn your back! Do not be frightened and paralyzed by the misfortunes, sin, contradictions and nonsense that we see spreading in us and among us …
Here is one of the teachings that Isaac gives us and that we want to hear today. It is also one of the reasons why we believed that he would be the best guide for our new meeting, and for this new beginning ”.
(Photo: Monastero di Bose)