By Armando Elkhoury
This study deals with the life story of Jacob of Sarug (A.D. 451-521) and the various typologies of the Church scattered in his copious mimre. Jacob of Sarug is one of the most prolific, distinguished, and influential Syriac authors, yet a systematic examination of his symbolic language referring to the Church remains a desideratum. The following research satisfies this want which stems from the fact that the Church is next to Jesus Christ in importance, as her subject is prominent in Jacob’s poetic works. The work presented herein complements and contributes to the scholarly works already published in the theological field of Syriac Ecclesiology. Moreover, it is a foundational study for further researchers and theologians wishing to investigate Jacob’s comprehension of the Church.
This study shows that the question about the person of Jacob of Sarug shall remain unsatisfactorily answered, for his life stories discovered in extant manuscripts are hagiographical. Next, it reveals the Church as a building on Golgotha based on the actions of Melchizedek, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. Then, it explains Jacob’s depiction of the Church as a fisherman and life-giving fishnet. Next, it deals with the topic of the Church as the Garden of Eden on Earth in whose midst is the Tree of Life. Lastly, this study explicates the notion of the Church as the Virgin Bride of Christ.
The Church as such emerges as a permanent reality solidly founded on the cross, a sacramental and missionary Church, and sacrifice is central to her understanding. The Mysteries and the proclamation of the Good News are essential to the continuation of her Lord’s mission. Moreover, she is a return to the Garden of Eden which anticipates God’s promise of salvation in the afterlife.
Finally, Christ will always be united to her no matter what, for she is in effect his created body. Therefore, she remains with him wherever he is, and her actions mimic his deeds. She follows him to Sheol, breaks down its gates, frees Adam, resurrects with her Lord, is victorious over sin and death, and nothing overcomes her.
Chorbishop Seely Beggiani, S.T.D. was Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary from 1968 to 2013, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America from 1967 to 2014. He has researched and written on a variety of subjects including systematic theology, Maronite Church history, Maronite liturgy, Syriac theology, and Eastern Christian Spirituality.
His doctoral dissertation at The Catholic University of America in 1963 is entitled: The Relations of the Holy See and the Maronites from the Papacy of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) to the Synod of Mount Lebanon in 1736. His book, Early Syriac Spirituality: with special reference to the Maronite Tradition, was published by Catholic University Press in 2014. Among his published articles during the past 50 years are: “A Case for Logocentric Theology,” Theological Studies 32 (1971): 371-46, “Theology at the Service of Mysticism: Method in Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite,” Theological Studies 57 (1996): 201-23, “The Typological Approach of Syriac Sacramental Theology,” Theological Studies 64 (2003): 543-557, and “The Incarnational Theology and Spirituality of John the Solitary of Apamea,” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 21.2 (2018):391-421. In retirement, Chorbishop Beggiani is preparing a manuscript for publication entitled: “A Thematic Introduction to Syriac Spirituality.” He continues to offer courses in Maronite and Syriac studies at the Maronite Seminary and to offer lectures to various audiences.
Chorbishop Seely Beggiani, Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary, granted me permission to publish his dissertation entitled The Relations of the Holy See and the Maronites from the Papacy of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) to the Synod of Mount Lebanon in 1736. You can download the pdf file by clicking here.