The Arabic original can be found here. Photos can be found here, here, here, and here.
With the guidance and blessing of His Emminence Metropolitan Boulos, a practical theological symposium about Saint Isaac the Syrian was held on Friday, October 22, organized by the nuns of the Monastery of the Annunciation in Aleppo. It was part of the celebrations under the patronage of St. Simeon the Stylite which are organized annually by the archdiocese.
The symposum was richly attended by prominent Antiochian personalities from among the clergy and monastics and all those attending profited from learning about the life of Saint Isaac the Syrian, his asceticism, his theology, and his unique place in the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church in general.
The symposium was exceptionally well-atteneded. Representatives came from the leaders of the other confessions as well as members of our own flock in Aleppo whose number was around 350 participants who enriched the symposium with their coments and questions. A dinner was served, which a large number of the faithful shared with the attendees and guests.
The symposium began with a word from His Eminence, the shepherd of the archdiocese, and the program was presented by Sister Paula from the nuns of the Monastery of the Annunciation. Then the work of the symposium began, which was divided into three sessions, two in the morning and the third in the evening. In each session, there were three talks.
The first sessions was called "Saint Isaac the Syrian in the Patristic and Scriptural Tradition" and was chaired by His Emminence Ephrem Kyriakos, Metropolitan of Tripoli and al-Koura. Participating in it were:
His Emminence Metropolitan Boulos, with a talk entitled "The Life, Personality, and Works of Saint Isaac the Syrian in the Orthodox Tradition." He talked in it about the life of Saint Isaac, his origins, and his practice of monasticism according to the testimony of saints and theologians. He explained the basic points of the saint's theology, which has remained a valuable treasure and resource for Christians.
Chorepiscopus Joseph Shabo, assistent to His Emminence Yuhanna Imbrahim, metropolitan of Aleppo for the Syrian Orthodox, gave a talk entitled "The Life, Personality, and Works of St. Isaac the Syrian in the Syriac Tradition." In it he talked about the life of St. Isaac in the Syriac tradition and the most important works which influenced the saint's writings as well as the most important writers who studied and wrote about the works of St. Isaac.
Archimandrite Mousa al-Khasi, assistent to the metropolitan of Aleppo gave a talk entitled "The Use of the Bible in the Works of St. Isaac the Syrian." In it he talked about the place and importance of the Bible in the works of St. Isaac the Syrian and its influence on the the saint's writings. The clearest approach that St. Isaac takes to the Bible is as an otherworldly Christological book which is understood within the Christological life within the Church. It is explained by the Spirit which dwells in her and it becomes a means for God and the faithful to address and draw near to each other. The gifts of God are active in their daily life on earth and they remain until the Second Coming when they will live through it the otherworldly salvation of Christ.
There followed after the session a discussion about its topics, and the crowd asked questions to the participants.
After a short pause, the work of the conference resumed with the second session, entitled "Saint Isaac the Syrian and the Spiritual Life." It was chaired by Fr. Sim'an Nasri, and in it participated:
His Emminence Ephrem Kyriakos, metropolitan of Tripoli and al-Koura gave a talk entitled "The Contribution of St. Isaac the Syrian to the Contemporary Monastic Tradition." In it he explained the saint's thought about monastic solitude, which is distancing oneself from the world and unity with God. He also explained that the world goes at a pace accelerated by technology, but the monk is outside the world and even as he is contemporary to the world because he has risen above the material world.
Archimandrite Pandeleimon Farah, abbot of the Monastery of the Dormition- Hamatoura, gave a talk entitled "Spirituality and Social Life in the Works of St. Isaac the Syrian." He talked in it about the orders in the Church which are the clergy and the laity. The monk belongs to the rank of the laity, but he is also different from them. He explained the way of life that is explained in the "rule" of St. Isaac and commented on its way of living within the monastic life, as within the society of the faithful.
Brother Gregorius Estefan of the Monastery of St. Michael- Biq'ata gave a talk entitled "The Levels of Spiritual Knowledge according to St. Isaac the Syrian." In it he explained the three stages of knowledge-- bodily, psychic, and spiritual. He also explained faith's relationship to knowledge. Knowledge begets faith and faith is the basis of knowledge. Knowledge is the wall that preserves man's way, while faith is the heavenly way.
After the session there was time for discussion and questions, then there was a meal in the church hall.
At six in the evening, vespers was celebrated by Fr. Pandeleimon Farah and the choir of the Monastery of the Dormition- Hamatoura chanted.
After vespers came the third session, entitled "Saint Isaac the Syrian in the Life of the Church." It was chaired by Fr. Ghassan Ward and speaking in it were:
Archimandrite Andraous Morcos, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Anthony the Great- Mexico gave a talk entitled "St. Isaac the Syrian in Orthodox Hymns and Liturgy" in which he explained the liturgical services and the various traditions associated with the feast of St. Isaac the Syrian.
Archimandrite Youhanna al-Telli, abbot of the Monastery of St. George- Seidnaya, gave a talk entitled "The Pastoral Aspect of the Works of St. Isaac the Syrian." In it he talked about pastoral thinking according to the writings of St. Isaac the Syrian and he approached pastoral thought from the perspective of the monastic thought of St. Isaac.
Sister Anna Kafa of the Monastery of the Annunciation-- Aleppo, gave a talk entitled "Iconographic Portrayals of St. Isaac the Syrian." In it she showed examples of Byzantine icons which portray St. Isaac the Syrian.
After the session there was time for questions and discussion, and then the conference closed.
The next morning, Sunday, October 23, orthros and the divine liturgy were celebrated in the presence of all the participants and guests at the conference, as well as members of the archdiocese. It was served by Metropolitan Ephrem and Metropolitan Boulos, as well as a number of priests. The choir of the Monastery of the Dormition-- Hamatoura chanted. Then the participants went on a pilgrimage to the ruins of the Monastery of St. Simeon the Stylite to be blessed by the patron of the archdiocese. Afterwards, they had dinner and then departed.
The conference had particular resonance because it dealt with one of the great saints of the East who enriched the Orthodox heritage with his writings and left a treasure and inheritance for the Christians of every age.