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
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.