Sunday, February 10, 2008

Linking to the Syrian Saints

Today the Orthodox Church also celebrates the memory of two great ascetic Fathers, Saints Isaac and Ephraim the Syrians. A good number of valuable resources about these saints can be found online, for which I'll provide a brief guide.

An excellent sermon on St Isaac, giving an overview of his life and teachings, can be found here. Excerpts from an essay by Fr Justin Popovic on St Isaac's theory of knowledge can be read here. This link leads to a selection of brief excerpts from the saints writings; here is a series of his aphorisms. Here is a lecture by Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) on St Isaac's teaching on prayer. Finally, this website is entirely dedicated to St Isaac.

Turning to St Ephraim the Syrian, one can find a brief introduction to his works here, with links to translations of his writings on the upper left. A short life of St Ephraim is here. This link leads to the liturgical service in his honor. A very good selection of links (a few of which are dead, unfortunately) can be found here. Finally, a succinct academic study of St Ephraim can be read here.

Here is St Ephraim's spiritual testimony, which all who honor his memory would do well to heed:
I Ephrem am dying and writing my Testament,
To be a witness for the pupils who come after me:
Be constantly praying, day and night;
As a ploughman who ploughs again and again,
Whose work is admirable.
Do not be like the lazy ones in whose fields thorns grow.
Be constantly praying, for he who adores prayer
Will find help in both worlds.
The icon above depicts the burial of St Ephraim.

2 comments:

The Student said...

Saint Ephrem has always held a special place for myself since my awareness of all the hymns that he has written. As well, reading his commentary on Creation, seemed to add a different influence to the usual writing of the Western Fathers in how he describes creation and how various things come into being. Truth as picturesque has never appealed to me so much as it has through his hymns. As well, Archimandrite Vasileios has helped draw me closer to Saint Isaac. Both of these Saints stand out for me more than any other

Felix Culpa said...

These two saints (as well as other early Syriac writers) have a vividly lyrical quality that stands out even in English translation. It's hard to read them without being personally affected.

I forgot to mention this in the post, but Sebastian Brock's books are excellent, especially "The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian" and "The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life," both published by Cistercian Press.