Opening portion of the “Life” of Mar Aba

I thought that I would turn some of the German translation of the life of Mar Aba into English, since many of us find German hard to read.

1.  History of the wonderful and divine struggles of the holy witness Mar Aba, the Catholicos, the Patriarch of the East.

(Introduction: if we honour great men with statues, how much more then is it fitting to honour the witnesses to Christ, especially Mar Aba.)

Mar Aba was originally a pagan, and surpassed most heathens in his (zeal for) paganism.  He also was learned in Persian literature.  Because he was very learned in literature, the nobles of his area recognised that he was very learned and perceptive, and invited him to join them, and they considered that he was suitable for the civil service and gave him an official position.  And since the Blessed One listened to them, they made him an Arzabed; he went in and out with them, and was respected by many.  He was a hard, bitter pagan; he reviled the Christians and taunted the Sons of the Covenant.[1]  But as he crossed the Tigris, Jesus threw his net over him and caught him in it.  For the Lord is accustomed to do as he did to the blessed Paul, when he went to Damascus to persecute his followers, to chain them and deliver them to death.  He transformed him from a persecutor into a persecuted; he was chained, suffered and died for him.  Similarly Jesus sent to the saint, as he went from the village of Chale to his home, and sat with others in a boat (κέρκουρος), a student (σχολάριος) as teacher, a mortified ascetic, a humble and gentle man, modest and humble in his appearance (σχῆμα), named Joseph, with the surname Moses.  On his rod he had the sweet and pleasant bait of the spiritual life, to entice the saint from death to life.

  1. [1]This group (Syriac bnay qyāmâ) were a monastic-like group who combined asceticism with an politically and socially active life.  See also Wikipedia article.

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