The Luminous Eye

ephrem_the_syrianBlessed is the man who has acquired a luminous eye with which he will see how much the angels stand in awe of Thee, O Lord, and how audacious is man.

St. Ephrem the Syrian

The Seraph could not touch the fire’s coal with his fingers, but just brought it close to Isaiah’s mouth: the Seraph did not hold it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do both.

St. Ephrem the Syrian

I received in the mail today my awaited copy of The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian by Sebastian Brock. Recommended by one of the readers on the blog – it will make rich fare in this season of fasting!

I look forward to the spiritual feast and, God willing, to sharing some thoughts with everyone as I make my way through. I can already see that it makes me wish I had studied Syriac. As is, I’ll have to settle for my Hebrew. St. Ephrem pray for us!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





9 responses to “The Luminous Eye”

  1. Matthew Avatar

    I just received the same thing within the last week and am very excited. I’ve been taking distance course from Holy Trinity Seminary and haven’t had the time to get into it. I’ve loved reading the hymns, St. Ephrem on creation and other various writings of St. Ephrem and St. Isaac. I look forward to your musings as I’ve enjoyed the many you’ve posted in the past. Thank-you for all you’ve been doing on-line

  2. Moses Avatar

    Father or Matthew, what exactly is the book about?

  3. fatherstephen Avatar

    It’s about the writings of St. Ephrem (which being in Syriac tend to have a slightly different flavor than the Greek fathers) looking particularly at a number of themes within his writings. Most of his theological writings, interestingly, are poems (frequently sung as hymns). In that, he is like St. Gregory the Theologian who was also a theological poet. We have too few if any today.

    I personally think, for instance, that Fr. Alexander Schmemann was a poetic theologian. It’s not that he wrote poetry, but his writing is far more poetic than most theologians. Oddly, I did not conclude this until I read his journals. There, the soul of a poet seems obvious.

  4. david peri Avatar

    I received my copy couple weeks ago. A great book to read and understand theology is a new way…in poetry. St Ephrem is as Orthodox as the other church fathers…as much as Saints Athanasius, Basil and the two Gregorys. We do not understand theology only in the basic doctrines; but in poetry it goes beyond these boundaries because, as the Brock mentions, Ephrem´s approach to theology, avoids–indeed abhors–definitions which he regards as boundaries that impose limits..(unquote).

    Brock´s book is excellant reading if you can grasp what he is doing. Many people may have a hard time because our theological thinking is geared for straight-forward, neat packages of doctrine which is typical of Western Christianity.

    The latest podcast from in the U.K. has the latest feature that may give another insight. You can access this on

  5. John Avatar

    I look forward to hearing more from this book. I can also recommend “The Spiritual Psalter of St. Ephrem the Syrian.” It is a great treasure.

  6. Jonathan Avatar

    I started reading the same book a week or so ago, hope to complete over Christmas break. A copy of St. Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise was actually the first Patristic work I ever bought.

    I’ve two books you might want to look at some time Father. One is the Syriac Fathers on Prayer put out by Cistercian Press if I recall correctly; the other is On the Mother of God by Jacob of Serug and is a Popular Patristic volume. The Jacob of Serug volume is particularly beautiful and insightful.

  7. Wei Hsien Avatar

    I hope you’ll enjoy it, Father! It’s one of my favorite books, and the section on St. Ephrem’s theological method is worth the price of the whole.

  8. Canadian Avatar

    I have just recently joined a discussion group on the Ancient Christian East at We are reading the hymns of St. Ephrem. The images from his writing come at you in waves, each line is pregnant with meaning. You just get one in your mind and there is another, then another. His writing reminds me of the style I hear in the Troparion and Kontakion hymns in Orthodoxy. Beautiful. Read slow!
    Pax Christi.

  9. Collator Avatar

    Another volume dealing with similar themes is Robert Murray, _Symbols of Church and Kingdom_, which looks at the Syriac writers preceding Chalcedon, but focuses on St. Aphrahat and St. Ephrem. It was highly recommended to me by several people, so I bought it last spring, but haven’t read it yet.

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