The Monk Isaac the Syrian

Commemorated on April 12

      The Monk Isaac the Syrian lived during the mid-VI Century. He arrived in the Italian city of Spoleto from Syria. The monk asked permission of the church wardens to remain in the temple and he prayed in it for all of two and an half days. One of the church wardens began to reproach the monk with hypocrisy and struck him on the cheek. The punishment of God then befell the church warden. The devil threw him down at the feet of the saint and cried out: "Isaac, cast me out!" Just as the monk bent over the man, the unclean spirit fled.
      News about the occurrence quickly spread throughout the city. People began to throng to the monk, offering him help and the means for building a monastery. But the humble monk refused all this. He left the city and settled in a desolate place, where he built himself a small cell. Around the ascetic gathered disciples, and thus was formed a monastery. When his disciples inquired of the elder, why he had shunned the gifts, he answered: "A monk in acquiring possessions is no longer a monk".
      The Monk Isaac was endowed with the gift of perspicacity. About this Sainted Gregory Dialogus (Comm. 12 March) relates in his "Conversations about the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers". One time the Monk Isaac bid the monks to leave behind their spades in the garden for the night, and in the morning he asked them to prepare food for the workers. It seems that robbers, as many as there were spades left behind, had come to rob the monastery. The power of God forced them to change their evil intent. They took in hand the spades and began ardently to work, such that at the arrival of the monks all the ground had been dug up. The monk greeted the toilers and invited them to refresh themselves with food. Then he gave them an admonition to quit their thievery, and gave them permission always to come openly and make use of the fruits of the monastery garden.
      Another time there came to the monk wanderers, attired in rags, and they besought clothing of the saint. He bid them to wait a bit, and sent a monk into the forest, where in the hollow of a tree the wanderers had hidden their fine clothes, wanting to deceive the holy hegumen. The monk dispatched brought back the clothes, and the Monk Isaac gave them to the wanderers. Seeing, that their fraud was uncovered, the moochers fell into great distress and shame.
      It happened likewise, that a certain man sent the monk his servant with two baskets of food. The servant hid one of these baskets along the way. The monk took the offered basket and quietly said: "I accept the gifts, but thou however ought not to touch the basket hidden by thee into it has creeped a snake, and if thou reach out thy hand, it wilt bite thee". Thus wisely and without malice the saint unmasked the sins of people, desiring salvation for all.
      The Monk Isaac died in the year 550. This saint mustneeds be distinguished from another ascetic, the Monk Isaac the Syrian, Bishop of Ninevah, who lived during the VII Century (Comm. 28 January).

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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The Monk Isaac the
Syrian

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