a prayer by St Philoxenos of mabbugh:1
Combative times summon forth combative men, and there was none more
combative in the defense and propagation of the Christian faith than St Philoxenos of Mabbugh, a great Father of the Syriac Orthodox Church. By the time he was consecrated as Bishop of Mabbugh, a town some 80 kilometres north-east of Aleppo, in 485, the fierce and fanatical Christological disputes that raged around the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon were in full swing. Philoxenos, who greatly revered St Cyril of Alexandria, brought his learned, eloquent, and fiery voice to rail against not only the Chalcedonians, but the Nestorians as well. As a consequence, in 519, he was ousted from his post as Bishop and exiled to Thrace. In 523
he was martyred in the city of Gangra, Paphlogonia.
His writings include the great compendium of his "Ascetic Discourses", a mighty work aimed primarily at monks, but of great value to every Christian. The fiery power of his knowledge, eloquence and faith are irresistible. His portrait of a glutton, for instance, and the inevitable consequences of a life of gluttony, are vivid enough to put the fear of God into even the most incorrigible couch potato.
However, St Philoxenos was not only a man of fire and thunder, he could express his faith in words of great humility. Witness his prayer to be said before reading the Holy Gospel:
"O Lord, grant me knowledge that I may understand the
salvivic words of Your Son, the Christ. Remove from the
face of my mind the veil of all evil desires. Cause Your
Holy Light to shine into my heart, that with the eye of my
soul I may discern the mysteries of the Holy Gospel. Teach
me, O Lord, the truth of faith in You and observance of
Your commandments, that I may bring forth fruit well
pleasing to You, gaining the talent that will please Your
blessed will. Amen."
Such a prayer is proof that St Philoxenos was not an intellectual know-all
with a proud and violent tongue, but rather that he was filled by the humility that recognises that only God can cleanse, teach, and help us,
that only God's grace can help the frail human tree bring forth pleasing