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the cross of a saint
06-06-2007, 08:36 AM,
the cross of a saint
On Tuesday 5th June the Syriac Orthodox Church celebrated the dukhrono
(commemorative feast) of St Jacob of Edessa (d708).
Born in a village in the province of Antioch, St Jacob became a monk as a young man, eventually being ordained a priest and, in 684, he was enthroned as Metropolitan of Edessa, in those days a splendid city, but today a backwater in south east Turkey called Urfa.
St Jacob placed his formidable intellect at the service of the Church and he is considered one of the greatest minds in Orthodoxy. Among other things he wrote the first systematic treatise on Syriac grammar, devising
a system of vowel signs for that language, revised the translation of the Old Testament, supplying extensive marginal notes and glosses, spent eleven years writing commentaries on the Greek versions of Holy Scripture, energetically promoted the study of Greek, thus becoming an important like in the chain of transmission that spread Greek learning among the Arabs, translated many works into Syriac, wrote and enforced strict rules for monks, and revised the Anaphora of St James.
However, St Jacob, like all of us, had a heavy cross to bear, namely an inflexible rectitude and a fiery temper, which made it impossible for him to be effective as a Church administrator. Not for him the quiet word in private, nor the judicious turning of a blind eye. On the contrary, he once publicly burnt a book of canon law because so many of the clergy infringed
its rules.
Quite how St Jacob dealt with his cross is not recounted, but that his prodigious intellectual gifts should be offset by a very imperfectly formed temperament seems to have been God's way of forcing him to struggle with himself and counteract pride. certainly the fruit of St Jacob's labours show us that his tree was blessed by grace.
It would be interesting to know about other saints and their struggles with the negative sides of their nature, because this would give us a helping hand with our own inner fight.

Kirk Yacoub
10-06-2007, 10:31 AM,
Dear Kirk,

Thank you for this - and for raising an interesting point. When I was young, at Sunday School we were introduced to the Saints, who were, uniformly, painted as patterns of human beings who were already close to being perfect; I can remember being quite deterred, thinking that if I lived to be very old (oh, about 25!) and prayed a lot, I would never be that good. It quite cheered me up when I came across St. Augustine's confessions and found that I was not the only one whose behaviour had grieved the Lord I claimed to love and serve.

St. Cyril of Alexandria is often portrayed in much of the literature about him as a short-tempered, rather autocratic chap, much given to argumentation and polemic; but on closer examination one sees that what fired his argument with Nestorius was feat for the immortal souls of those who were put into peril by the false teachings of the patriarch of Constantinople. Zeal in the service of the Lord indeed.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

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