Tag Archives: Holy Transfiguration Monastery

Isaac of Nineveh (c. 613 – c. 700)

Also known as Saint Isaac the Syrian, Isaac of Nineveh was a Middle-Eastern Christian monk and spiritual-writer who commanded the way of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism. The references to his life and work in this blog are largely from the magnificent two-volume hard-bound series, Encyclopedia of Monasticism (Vol 1 A-L) edited and compiled by William M. Johnston, published in 2000. It seems really hard to fathom, but today’s hellish war–ravaged Syria in Classical Times was a seedbed for truly brilliant and luminous ascetical spiritual writing that was the vanguard of Orthodox Monasticism and Spirituality. Abba Isaac entered the monastic-life while still quite young and who’s erudite grasp of the Ascetical Way over time eventually attracted the attention of prominent religious figures who recommended that he be ordained Bishop of Nineveh. Being exclusively of an ascetical and solitary temperament the administrative duties of this post drained him of energy and so only after five-months he abdicated this position and then retired to the wilderness of Mount Matout which was a spiritual refuge for anchorites. He later moved to the monastery of Rabban Shabur where he spent the rest of his life in Blessed Solitude. There is an anonymous West Syrian source that claims that in old age he eventually went blind and was later referred to as the “Second Didymos”, after the beloved Didymos the Blind, another spiritual ascetic of great stature. His blindness was attributed to his incessant devotion to study. Abba Isaac’s literary legacy was comprised of ascetical and mystical homilies written in Syriac. His mystical homilies influenced many monastic writers and even Dostoevsky was deeply influenced by them and even became the “source material” for his character of the Elder Zosima in his epic novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880). read more

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