Yesterday we remembered the two saints who are probably the most prominent representatives of the Syriac traditions in the Western churches- St. Ephrem and St. Isaac. A translation by Sebastian Brock of St. Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise was the very first Patristic work I ever purchased; I don’t recall now why I bought that particular one out of all the Patristic translations I could have picked from.
I don’t recall the first time I came across St. Isaac, but I do know that his writings have impacted me greatly (not greatly enough of course- if I could really assimilate just a handful of his teachings on prayer, peace, silence, and the like- I’d probably not be blogging!). That St. Isaac was and is shared across not only his native Church of the East but also among the Miaphysites, the Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholicism (and I would imagine some Protestant as well) is encouraging and a hopeful sign of the possibilities that- still- inhere within Christianity. Granted, his reception into the Miaphysite and later Chalcedonian communions involved a little ‘fixing up,’ but that does not detract from the importance and significance of his cross-traditions reception.
St. Ephrem and St. Isaac, pray to God for us!
From St. Isaac:
An illustration of what is hidden in seedlings can be seen through the labours which the saints and other godly persons endure in themselves for the sake of God. For under ordinary appearance of seeds at the time when the land is tilled April’s own transformation keeps hidden the abundance of ineffable transformations and the beauty of the glorious variegated colours which it will (in due course) bring out and display, as a wonderful vesture and adornment for the earth that had been nurturing the seeds within herself.
This symbolic significance which can be recognized in tiny seeds holy people engrave spiritually in their minds at times when their ministry is depressing and darkened, as a demonstration that the Creator’s power will be made known in them, and they wait expectantly to see in themselves, as a result of the strength of these ordinary labours, an ineffable transformation which will become perceptible as a result of them, through the working of the Holy Spirit which they will receive subsequently in accordance with the progress of their ascetic conduct.
(From the CSCO translation by Brock, part ii, chapter xxiii.)