Ascetic figures hierarchs and theologians from the first Christian centuries

The third group that figures prominently in the calendars of all Syrian Churches are early hierarchs and theologians. Some of them are indigenous Syrians such as St Ephrem, 'the harp of the Spirit', whose hymns greatly enriched the Syrian liturgy. Most of them have an ascetic slant, as already indicated. St Jacob, who was Bishop of Nisibis during the early fourth century, is famous as an ascetic as well as a teacher. The same is true for most of the Greek fathers, among whom may be mentioned Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, and John Chrysostom, a native of Antioch and later Bishop of Constantinople, who entered the calendars of the Syrian Churches in the form of a vita, even when there was no extended hagiographic tradition in Syriac.

Naturally not all famous ascetics became hierarchs. Antony the Great, for example, whose Syriac Life had a great impact on the formation of Syrian monasticism, or Symeon Stylites, the forefather of a considerable number of later Syrian stylites. A particular case is Mor Awgen. According to his legend, he was an Egyptian monk who became one of the fathers of Mesopotamian monasticism under the Persian King Shapur II in the fourth century. Although today he figures prominently in the East Syrian as well is in the West Syrian tradition it is not certain that there is any historical truth to his life story.

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