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Pearls from Saint Isaac of Syria  

This Holy Father of the 7th century, was born in the region of Qatar on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Gifted with a keen intellect, he thirsted also for spiritual knowledge, and, when still quite young, entered a monastery with his brother. He gained considerable renown as a teacher and came to the attention of the Katholikon Giwargis (George), who ordained him bishop of Ninevah, the former capital of Assyria some distance to the north. For reasons not entirely clear, he requested to abdicate after only five months, and went south to the wilderness of Mount Matout, a refuge for anchorites. There he lived as a solitary for many years, in strict asceticism, eating only three loaves a week with some uncooked vegetables. His constant study of the divine writings strained his eyes, and eventually blindness and old age forced him to retire to the monastery of Shabar, where he died and was buried.

       It was already towards the end of his life in the wilderness that, out of love for his neighbor, he felt compelled to share the experience he had gained. The result was a collection of incomparable texts on the spiritual life, from which we have gathered the following pearls. 

Other texts by Saint Isaac can be found in Early Fathers from the Philokalia, Faber & Faber 1954; The Ascetical Homilfies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, Holy Transfiguration Monastery 1984; and On Ascetical Life, SVS Press 1990.

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