St. Jacob of Nisibis

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Jacob of Nisibis (died 337), also known as Mar Jacob of Nisibis, was the Bishop of Nisibis until his death.  He was lauded as the “Moses of Mesopotamia”, and was the spiritual father of the renowned writer and theologian Saint Ephrem the Syrian.  He is venerated as a saint by the Church of the East, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, and Eastern Catholic Churches.  Saint Jacob became a Confessor of the Faith for his suffering during persecution by Emperor Maximian.  The Chronicle of Edessa states that the saint constructed the first church in Nisibis in c. 313–320.  Saint Jacob attended the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and opposed Arius. Saint Jacob was present at the siege of Nisibis by Shapur II, Shahanshah of Iran, in 338.  The Martyrologium Hieronymianum relates that he died on 15 July, the thirtieth day of the siege.


  • Homilies

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Quotes and Excerpts:

An Anthology of Historical Sources
Volumes 1-4
Lawrence J. Johnson
Liturgical Press Collegeville, Minnesota


Homily on Habib the Martyr

But Habib, when questioned, was not afraid,
Was not ashamed, and was not frightened by the menaces he heard.
Lifting up his voice, he confessed Jesus, the Son of God—
That he was His servant, and was His priest, and His minister.
At the fury of the pagans, roaring at him like lions,
He trembled not, nor ceased from the confession of the Son of God.
He was scourged, and the scourgings were very dear to him,
Seeing that he bore a little of the stripes of the Son of God.
He was put into bonds, and he looked on his Lord, whom also they had bound;
And his heart rejoiced that in the path of His sufferings he had begun to walk.
He ascended the block, and they tore him with combs, but his soul was radiant with light,
Because he was deemed worthy that on him should come the agony of the sufferings of crucifixion.



In the pathway of death had he set his face to walk,
And what could he desire to find in it but sufferings?
The fire of sacrifice was betrothed to him, and for her did he look;
And she on her part sent him combs, and stripes, and pains, to taste.
All the while that she was coming, she sent him sufferings, that by means of them
He might be prepared, so that when she met him she might not dismay him.
Sufferings purged him, so that, when the blazing fire should put him to the proof,
There might not be any dross found in his choice gold.
And he endured the whole of the pains that came upon him,
That he might have experience of suffering, and in the burning stand like a brave man.
And he accepted rejoicing the sufferings which he had to bear:
For he knew that at their termination he should find death.
And he was not afraid, either of death or of sufferings:
For with that wine of the crucifixion his heart was drunk.


He was cast into the fire, and the blaze kindled around him;
And his mother looked on, and grieved not at his burning.
Another eye, which gazes upon the things unseen,
Was in her soul, and by reason of this she exulted when he was being burned.
On the gems of light which are in martyrs’ crowns she looked,
And on the glory which is laid up for them after their sufferings;
And on the promised blessings which they inherit yonder through their afflictions . . .
On these did the martyr’s mother look when he was being burned,
And she rejoiced, she exalted, and in white did she go forth with him.
She looked upon him while the fire consumed his frame,
And, forasmuch as his crown was very noble, she grieved not.


Homily on the Martyrs, Guria and Shamuna

Shamuna and Guria, martyrs who made themselves illustrious in their afflictions,
Have in love required of me to tell of their illustrious deeds.
To champions of the faith the doctrine calls me,
That I should go and behold their contests and their crowns.

With the marks of combs and scourges which thickly covered them.
They showed their love, not by words of the mouth alone,
But by tortures and by the rending of their limbs asunder.
For the love of the Son of God they gave up their bodies:
Since it beseems the lover that for his love he should give up himself.

Shamuna and Guria gave up their bodies for His sake
To sufferings and tomes and to all the various forms of woe.
At Him they looked as He was mocked by wicked men,
And thus did they themselves endure mockery without a groan.
Edessa was enriched by your slaughter, O blessed ones:
For you adorned her with your crowns and with your sufferings.
Her beauty are you, her bulwark ye, her salt ye,
Her riches and her store, yea her boast and all her treasure.
Faithful stewards are you:
Since by your sufferings ye did array the bride in beauty.
The daughter of the Parthians, who was espoused to the cross,
Of you makes her boast: since by your teaching lo! she was enlightened.

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