Mar Jacob of Sarug on Resurrection Sunday


The following is a liturgical sermon from “The Teaching” by Mar Jacob of Sarug.  I have built the translation on the excerpted translated by Fr. Andrew Younan that is available on Kaldu.  The parts that I added, I have translated and included in brackets [].

St. Jacob is a father of our church (repose early 6th Century), being from the area around Edessa where he studied.  I believe he is venerated in both the Eastern and Western “Syriac” churches having stayed away from the Christological controversies of his day.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia {under James of Sarugh}, from his “letters to the monks of the convent of Mar-Bassus it is evident that he was always a Monophysite.”

Be that as it may, we use this sermon of his in our church during our celebration of the resurrection {during the Easter Vigil before the mass}.

It really is a memorable event.  During the service, the reading from the Apostle Paul begins with the statement that Christ is risen by St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 15:20), at which the congregation bursts into a proclamation and celebration of the resurrection of Christ.  Then “The Teaching” is read.  During the teaching, we listen to what is being told to us and do it.  Specifically, when told to “give peace to one another,” we do so, and then when told to “clap your hands together, glorify greatly, exult majestically” we do so.

A blessed joyfulness moves me today, in which I repeat the words of the prophet: “this is the day the Lord has made! Come, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
This is the day which is unlike any before, and which none after will resemble!
This is the Great Feast; the boast of its kin!
This is the great joy that is given today to the Church {lit. the churches}!

Welcome {lit. come in peace}, O New Day, on which the power of darkness is undone!
Welcome, O Day unlike any other, which destroys the power of the aged night!
Welcome, O Radiant Day, bringing the beautiful News!
Welcome, O Consoler of the mournful, O Gladdener of the sorrowful, O Gatherer of the lost, O Conveyor of the far, O Renewer of the weary, O Encourager of the fearful, O Planter of good seed in the hearing of the disciples!
Welcome, O Day which has no evening, O Happy Morning which twilight never saddens!
Welcome, O Day which death does not overcome, O Rising which meets no fall!
Welcome, O First-Born of Days, with whose gifts both worlds are adorned!

Death is brought down and Life arises; Sheol is shut closed and Baptism opened; the Left Hand is deserted and the Right Hand thunders.

[The other day the Shepherd was struck down, and his sheep scattered.
Today, the wolves flee and the flock rejoices.]

[The other day, Judas accepted a bribe; Caiaphas counseled and was heard; Annas denounced; the scribes stirred up; Pilate sat; Our Lord embraced a column; Andrew ran away; Simon renounced; John was distant; Thomas hiding; James dumb; and all the disciples scattered away {lit. gone away to all corners}.]

[But this day, Caiaphas is ashamed; Annas reproached; Judas strangled; money rejected; the scribes do not talk; the heads of the assembly {synagogue} hide their faces; the Levites blame one another; Pilate is amazed; there are no sectarians and guards; and the assembly of wolves is scattered; the shepherd talks among his sheep, and the flock smells his fragrance and is warmed; Mary gladdened; Salome happy; Magdalene bearing tidings of peace; the disciples raise their heads; the apostles go forth from their hiding places; Simon and John ran to the cemetery; Matthew and Bartholomew rejoice in their happiness; Andrew and James have lost their distress; Thomas confessing; Pilate glorifying]

[The way to the grave thundering and the way to Golgotha desolated; mourning passed to the left, and consolation arrived from the right.  The door of the grave {has become} the bridal chamber of the slain one;] Therefore, let us all cry out and say: O Death, where is your sting? Where is your victory, O Sheol?

Today, the guards accepted a bribe and said: “his disciples took him as we slept.”
After this, he was seen by Mary Magdalene and others. With unveiled faces, the Apostles said: “we know that Christ has risen from among the dead, and indeed will not die again – death has no power over him.”

Indeed, we have been called to this joy, and invited to this feast: let us embrace each other in love; let us kiss each other in friendship. Let us give peace to one another; peace without deceit; peace without hypocrisy; peace from an undivided mind; [peace not like that of Iscariot, whose recompense was being strangled,] that peace that our Savior sent to the assembly of Apostles in the upper room. Peace be with you all [with one accord], for peace is the undoing of old enmity, and to peace we have been called; for peace we have gathered, as we do every year.

May the Resurrection be upon you! And life in Christ! Our Lord has freed us from death, and made mortals into immortals. [From earthly {lit. Adams} to Christians; from earthly to heavenly; from animal to spiritual.]

[Instead of contentious, we are now calm; instead of quarrelsome,  calm; instead of wrathful, gentle; instead of accursed, merciful; instead of rash, innocent; instead of pompous, reverend; instead of arrogant, humble; instead of oppressors, receivers of grace; instead of gluttons, abstainers; instead of drunkards, ascetics {lit. “nazarites”, who abstained from wine}; instead of lustful, chaste; instead of lazy, diligent; instead of sinful, righteous;] instead of wicked, just; instead of evil, good.

Let us love one another with all our heart, because to this peace have we been called, my beloved: clap your hands together, glorify greatly, exult majestically, give praise spiritually, to him who this day has arisen from among the dead, and in his Resurrection has raised us all, amen.

And, just as he promised the thief, one of our kind, that “today you will be with me in Paradise,” may he make us worthy to accept his heavenly revelation, and share in his heavenly kingdom amen.

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10 Responses to “Mar Jacob of Sarug on Resurrection Sunday”

  1. Ian Climacus Says:

    Another Saint for me to follow-up on…; some Googling reveals he is known as the ‘flute of the Spirit’.

    And thank you for your translation, and Fr Andrew’s: what a blessing you are to the Church, and those like me who read the fruits of your labours. And what a wonderful sermon to hear each Easter — and I love the participatory aspects you mentioned; many hymns/Psalms say ‘clap your hands’: how wonderful to do it!.

    It was a great encouragement to read this at the mid-point of my Lenten journey to Christ’s Resurrection: as with many [most probably] Eastern sacred writings I love the comparisons between before and after, between those who did evil and those who did good [and nice, and rare!, to hear St Bartholomew mentioned!]; the poetic imagery which I think touches the heart and mind where straight theology [important as it is] does not often penetrate mine; the use of Psalms and other Biblical texts [showing my ignorance I often do not realise how Scripturally-imbued they are] or the Liturgy [I recall “With unveiled faces” from the Chaldean Liturgy I think…]; and the call to amend our life, while rejoicing in the Feast.

    As an aside, on Fr Andrew, as I have hitched my wagon to the Russians while living up here, and thus today (Julian calendar) is also the Annunciation, I was reminded of the fine “Dialogue Between the Watcher and Mary” by Mar Narsai in Fr Andrew’s book on Theodore of Mopsuestia as I read the Matins Canon today [church here is every second week so I try and read some of the services on the “off weeks”…] which also has a dialogue between Mary and Gabriel; I will read, or rather pray, Mar Narsai’s hymn before I go to bed.

  2. antgaria Says:

    If you have the dialogue from the Matins available, I’d love to see it… or if it’s on the internet, {which I’ll search later tonight}, please point me to it.

    Since you’ve hitched your wagon to the Russians up there, I was wondering if you had read anything about/by St. Silouan the Athonite. He had written Adam’s Lament, something that really was memorable to me. It can be found in this book:

    If you have read it, any thoughts?

    As far as spiritual poets, I think you hit the three major Syriac ones with Ephrem, Jacob and Narsai. Interesting enough, both Narsai and Ephrem share the same name “Harp of the Spirit”.

    I’m called away and must run…

    • Ian Climacus Says:

      It starts at page 11 here. And writing here has rekindled a desire to record hymns and spiritual writings, so a new blog has been created which I will work on. [the old one has been deleted]

      I will answer your question on St Silouan tonight; ‘m rapidly reaching the end of my lunch break. 🙂

    • Ian Climacus Says:

      Having had dinner, I’m ready to respond now, though I cannot say much as I have not read it.

      St Silouan seems beloved across jurisdictions. I have not read the book you referenced, but dare I say it is another of those on my ‘to-buy’ list; and Adam’s Lament sounds very interesting. I have only heard good things about it.

      I have read his disciple’s/pupil’s [Archimandrite Sophrony] work His Life Is Mine which was very profitable, though will need many re-reads to get more from it as I no doubt missed a great deal.

      • antgaria Says:

        That is a good work too… Archimandrite Sophrony writes the first half of the book I referred to. The first half is him writing about the staretz, while the second half is the staretz own writings.

        Anyways, the lament can be found reproduced at:

        Memorable from that one is the statements of Adam that say to the effect of “I can no longer be mindful of the earth.” … but that can cause a whole conversation apart from this post.

        Thanks for the link to the dialogue! Totally reminded me of Mar Narsai’s. We share more with each other than some people would have us do.

  3. Ian Climacus Says:

    Thanks for the link to the lament; I will read it soon.

    And, yes, the Matins Odes and Mar Narsai’s dialogues have a lot in common: the doubts/fears of Mary, the wonder of Gabriel; the call of all to praise at the end… We do indeed share more than some would say we do.

  4. Ian Climacus Says:

    [oops…meant to Reply your post…]

  5. Ian Climacus Says:

    An Eastern Orthodox slant, given its source, but Episode 76 from AFR’s “A Word from our Holy Fathers” is on Mar Jacob’s dialogue between Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.

    As referenced, yet another book for me to buy…

    • antgaria Says:

      Yes! I’ve heard all the episodes from “A Word from our Holy Fathers” until 2010 when they stopped. Now that you sent me the link again, I see they started it up again late last year… I know what I’m gonna be listening to in the next few weeks. 🙂

      The SVS press on the Mother of God is a great little book. 🙂 The hymns are short enough where you can easily just read one a day, and reflect on what has been read. 🙂

      • Ian Climacus Says:

        Our tastes are very similar… I had listened to a few episodes in 2010: and as you said, it stopped. I stumbled across it again, saw new episodes and downloaded them all.

        I am recalling how large and wonderful your library is! 😀

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