O Beneficent One, whose door is open to evil ones and to sinners, grant me to enter and see Your beauty while I marvel.

O treasure of blessings, from which even the unjust are satiated, may I be nourished by You because You are entirely life for him who partakes of You.

Cup which inebriates the soul with its draught, and it forgets its sufferings; may I drink from You, become wise in You, and recite Your story.

O You, who ungrudgingly magnify our unworthy race, my word extols beautiful things with Your psalms.

Son of Greatness, who became a little child, grant my feeble self to speak concerning Your greatness.

Son of the Most High, who wanted to be with earthly beings, may my word be raised on high and speak to You.

You, our Lord, are an eloquent word which is full of life and a great discourse which gives riches to the one who hears it.

Everyone who speaks about You is speaking because of You, since You are word and rational mind and conscience.

Neither the thoughts of the soul stire without You, nor do words move the lips except in You.

Lips give no sound without Your command, nor is there hearing in the ear without Your favour.

Behold, Your riches are lavished on those far and near; Your door is opened for the good and the evil ones to come into You.

Everyone is rich in You, and You are enriching everyone without measure; may my discourse be enriched by You with beauty and may it speak to You.

Son of the Virgin, grant me to speak concerning abour Your mother, while I acknowledge that the word concerning her is too exalted for us.

St. Jacob of Serug, Homily Concerning the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, Mary

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I recieved the little volume On the Mother of God in the mail today, and have so far only perused into the first few lines of Jacob’s first homily in the collection. It is beautiful, stirring stuff, like so much else in the Syrian Orthodox tradition- it’s a shame that so little of this tradition ever makes it onto the radar screen of people in the rest of Christendom; apart from St. Ephrem the Syrian, and to a somewhat lesser extent, St. Isaac of Nineveh, “Oriental Orthodoxy” is pretty invisible in the West. Of course, ancient and medieval Christianity, East and West, isn’t exactly household knowledge in the West, even among Christians- which is one of the most tragic things about the state of (post)modern Christendom.

The more I read- and re-read- the Fathers and Mothers of the ancient and medieval Church the fresher and more relevant they sound, transcending the normal categories of “conservative” and “liberal” theology/culture/politics. They embrace text and image, with no hang-ups about art and beauty; reading St. John of Damascus I thought how incredibly wonderful it is to belong to a Tradition that not only embraces art, but celebrates it and sees in it a sacred connection with the Incarnation of God Himself! But anyway, that’s another topic for another time…

I shall post a couple more excerpts of Jacob’s homilies on our Lady as I work through them. I hope you, good reader, will be encouraged to pursue the rich fount of Syrian Orthodoxy and other Oriental Orthodox traditions; there is much to recieve there.

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