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Sunday, April 8, 2012

St. Stephen the Sabaite

Hymns of the Christian Church.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Greek Hymns

Art Thou Weary?

St. Stephen the Sabaite. Tr. J. M. Neale (725–794)

ART thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distrest?
“Come to Me,” saith One, “and coming
Be at rest!”

Hath He marks to lead me to Him, 5
If He be my Guide?
“In His Feet and Hands are wound-prints,
And His side.”

Hath He diadem as Monarch
That His Brow adorns? 10
“Yea a Crown, in very surety,
But of thorns.”

If I find Him, if I follow,
What His guerdon here?
“Many a sorrow, many a labour, 15
Many a tear.”

If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?
“Sorrow vanquished, labour ended,
Jordan past.” 20

If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?
“Not till earth, and not till Heav’n
Pass away.”

Finding, following, keeping, struggling, 25
Is He sure to bless?
“Angels, Martyrs, Prophets, Virgins,
Answer, Yes!”

("guerdon" see Note at bottom)

St. Stephen the Sabaite Butler's Lives of the Saints, feast day March 31. Not shown in all editions where edited or abridged by later editors. St. Stephen is written in the Lamb's Book of life where no one will blot his name out. That is the important place.

A few days ago was the feast of St. Stephen of Mar Saba (or Mar Sabas), monk (d. 794). Although he died on March 30, he is remembered on March 31 in the Russian Orthodox Church, and April 13 in the Greek Orthodox Church.

There is little information about Stephen of Mar Saba online, so what I know is taken mainly from Butler's Lives of the Saints: New Concise Edition. Stephen was the nephew of St. John Damascene, Doctor of the Church and mentor to Stephen at the famed monastery of Mar Saba (near Bethlehem) for 15 years. He led a semi-eremetical life but was also a valued spiritual counselor. Among other things he counseled compassion for nature, and himself fed birds and gazelles, and even saved worms that had stranded themselves in his cell. Like St. Francis of Assisi he has been depicted with birds perched on him. His view was that those who did not care for nature would soon stop caring for humans as well.

Stephen's disciple, Leontius of Damascus, wrote the Life of Stephen of Mar Sabas (ASIN 904290691X), which has been recently translated by J.C. Lamoreaux. The book is nearly out of print, and quite expensive, but may be available through inter-library loan. I suspect there is also a longer account of his life in the full edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints, which is more readily available.

To know the Lord is the principle of good. Abide in his knowledge and you will draw close to God. There is nothing of value except the soul's gain, but the soul's gain is to be found only in the love of God.

—St. Stephen of Mar Saba

Note: guerdon is a reward or recompense.

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