Isaac the Syrian, also called Isaac of Nineveh, lived and wrote during "the golden age of Syriac Christian literature" in the seventh century. Cut off by language and politics from the Churches of the Roman Empire and branded "Nestorian," the Church of the East produced in isolation a rich theological literature which is only now becoming known to outsiders. Yet over the centuries and in all parts of Christendom, Isaac's works have been read and recommended as unquestionably orthodox.
Now, at last, to my great delight, we have at our disposal a single book in English, offering us a balanced and comprehensive overview of Isaac's life, background and teaching. Wisely, Fr. Hilarion Alfeyev has allowed Isaac to speak for himself. The book is full of well-chosen quotations, in which Isaac's true voice can be heard.
Saint Isaac of Syria was an ascetic, a mountain solitary, but his writings are universal in scope. They are addressed not just to the desert but to the city, not just to monastics but to all the baptized. With sharp vividness he speaks about themes relevant to every Christian: about repentance and humility, about prayer in its many forms, both outer and inner, about solitude and community, about silence, wonder, and ecstasy. Along with the emphasis that he places upon "luminous love"--to use his own phrase--two things above all mark his spiritual theology: his sense of God as living mystery; and his warm devotion to the Saviour Christ.