Isaac of Syria

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Icon of St. Isaac of Syria
Our venerable father Isaac of Nineveh, also known as Isaac of Syria, is a 7th century saint known for his strict asceticism and ascetic writings.

St. Isaac was born in the region of Qatar on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. When still quite young, he entered a monastery with his brother. His fame grew as a holy man and teacher. He was subsequently ordained bishop of Nineveh, the former capital of Assyria to the north, but requested to abdicate after only five months. He then went south to the wilderness of Mount Matout, a refuge for anchorites. There he lived in solitude for many years studying the Scripture, but eventually blindness and old age forced him to retire to the monastery of Rabban Shabur, where he reposed and was buried. His feast day is January 28.

He is not to be confused with the other St. Isaac the Syrian, Abbot of Spoleto, who lived during the mid-sixth century (April 12).

Orthodoxy

St. Isaac is fully accepted as a saint in the Orthodox Church, though during his lifetime, he was canonically a member of the Church of the East, a church that has been associated with the Nestorian heresy, although that charge is widely doubted today. His writings nevertheless came to be extremely popular in Orthodox monastic circles and are well-known for their Orthodoxy. Veneration for him grew, and he came to be incorporated into the Orthodox calendar of saints. His inclusion is thus an indication that the Church does not regard canonical boundaries as being the litmus test of Orthodoxy.

Quotations

"Be persecuted, rather than be a persecutor. Be crucified, rather than be a crucifier. Be treated unjustly, rather than treat anyone unjustly. Be oppressed, rather than zealous. Lay hold of goodness, rather than justice."

"A small but always persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling persistently, hollows out hard rock."

"The Lord's Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations. In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath. For he who said that `God rested on the seventh day,' signified the rest [of our nature] from the course of this life, since the grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and the eighth is the departure from it." -- The Ascetical Homilies, I

"Why do you trouble yourself in a house that is not your own? Let the sight of a dead man be a teacher for you concerning your departure from hence."

"The knowledge of the Cross is concealed in the sufferings of the Cross."

"The man who follows Christ in solitary mourning is greater than he who praises Christ amid the congregation of men."

"Why do you increase your bonds? Take hold of your life before your light grows dark and you seek help and do not find it. This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits."

Sources and external links

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