• Susan Ashbrook Harvey

    Susan Ashbrook Harvey is Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of Religion and History at Brown University, where she has also served as the Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in the Humanities.

  • Creation, Order, Beauty: Jacob of Serugh on Liturgical Aesthetics

    December 15, 2021, tentatively at 10:00 am ( Washington, DC Time)

  • Abstract

    In his magisterial Homily 71, On the Six Days of Creation, Jacob of Serugh tied close examination of the Genesis creation accounts (Gen 1:1 – 2:3) together with extensive liturgical references. Moreover, he brought these two thematic streams – creation and liturgy – to a culminating celebration of “Beauty” as an attribute. Elsewhere, beauty, for Jacob, was often a moral category. The Virgin Mary’s free will was the measure of her beauty; the widowed Tamar’s deceit of her father-in-law Judah (Gen. 38) was an act “ugly” in its plain doing, but “beautiful” in its intention and meaning.  What, in Jacob’s view, made liturgy “beautiful”?  What measure of aesthetics did he bring to liturgical performance and participation, such that it might befit village, monastery, or city, with or without material wealth to adorn its presentation?  How did Jacob’s theology of creation inform his liturgical aesthetics?

  • Select Bibliography

    Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and the Lives of the Eastern Saints. The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 18. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

    ”Jacob of Serug. Homily on Simeon the Stylite”, Pages 15-28 in Ascetic Behavior in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook. Edited by Wimbush, Vincent L.. Studies in Antiquity and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

    Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination. The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 42. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

    Harvey, Susan Ashbrook and Münz-Manor, Ophir, Jacob of Sarug’s Homily on Jephthah’s Daughter. Texts from Christian Late Antiquity 22, Homilies of Mar Jacob of Sarug 16. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2010.

    ”Women and Children in Syriac Christianity: Sounding Voices”, Pages 554-566 in The Syriac World. Edited by King, Daniel. Routledge Worlds. London: Routledge, 2019.