Saint Jacques de Nisibe
Evêque de Nisibe, en Mésopotamie (+ 350)
Ascète célèbre, il fut le maître spirituel de saint Ephrem. Devenu évêque, il fonda l'Église de Nisibe (Nusaybin, au sud-est de la Turquie). Saint Athanase d'Alexandrie loua son zèle ardent à combattre l'arianisme.
D'abord ermite, il connut une telle réputation qu'il fut choisi comme premier évêque de Nisibe. Il siégea au premier concile œcuménique de Nicée. A son retour dans sa ville, il fonda une école exégétique qui fut bientôt célèbre par l'enseignement de saint Ephrem.
À Nisibe en Mésopotamie, l’an 338, saint Jacques, premier évêque de cette ville. Présent au Concile de Nicée, il dirigea son peuple dans la paix, l’enseigna et le défendit contre l’assaut des ennemis de la foi.
Saint Jacob Armenian-Apostolic Church, Troinex, Geneva
Our Patron Saint James of Nisibis
A beloved and prominent saint not only to the Syriac, Church but also to the Armenians. He was born, raised, worked and died in the city of Nisibis which today is known as Nusbyien a city in Southeastern Turkey. He passed his early years studying and with spiritual upbringing. In his young adulthood he withdrew to the desert to live and pray as an ascetic. When the bishop of Nisibis died two candidates emerged from two conflicting groups of the population. However, with the advice of the hermit Maroukeh, everyone focused on James the hermit and summoned him from the desert and ordained him bishop in 320 A.D. in Amida.
The life of St. James is filled with incidents of miracles, which simply witnesses the fact of the broad popularity of this spiritual leader. He had been a disciple of the hermit Maroukeh and he in turn had been a teacher of Ephraem the Syrian Priest, a great patristic writer. He was present in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea where according to tradition he enjoyed great respect from the Emperor Constantine and the attendees of the council. He became one of the great champions of the orthodoxy of the Christian Church against Arius and Arianism, which were condemned at the Council of Nicaea. Two or three times he saved his city from Persian invasion with his prayers. Although subjected to persecutions and tortures prior to becoming a cleric during the persecution of Maximianos, nevertheless he died peacefully at an old age in 338 A.D.
His relics, of which there are many, were taken to Constantinople in 970 A.D. and were the object of great honor in the imperial city. Once Maroukeh (St. James’ teacher and mentor in the monastery where Maroukeh was the abbot) said to St. James that the people had strong doubts about the great flood and the story of Noah’s Ark. Maroukeh said, “The ark rested here on the nearby Cordoyenes Mountains”, known to the Armenians as “Ararat”. St. James was filled with the passion to quash these doubts [that the Ark might not be on Ararat] and hence he went to the mountain of Ararat and rested at the base of the mountain prior to his ascent up the mountain. An angel of God came to him in a dream that he should endure the struggle to ascent to the very top of the mountain, in view of the fact that a piece of the ark was near to where his head rested. James took this piece with great joy and brought it to Maroukeh, who seeing this was filled with joy and taking this put it to his eye and then kissed it. According to the tradition, a cold stream having healing and miraculous qualities appeared in the place where St. James had laid down. In the future a church bearing the saint’s name was built nearby the stream. The piece of the Ark is currently kept in the museum of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
St. Jacob (James) Syrian bishop of Nisibin (d. 338)
Also listed as James of Nisibis (Nusaybin), and Known as "Moses of Mesopotamia". He was born in the city of Nisibis, and was brought up there. From the time of his youth he loved solitude, and chose the monastic life, James became a monk and for a long time he lived in the mountains around about the city of Nisibis (on the border of the Persian and Roman empires), where he carried out strict ascetic exploits: he lived under the open sky, fed himself with tree fruits and greens, and dressed himself in goat-skins (sackcloth) to protect himself from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. For this reason, he was very thin, but his soul was illumined and full of grace. He was worthy to receive the gift of prophecy and the performing of miracles. He also was able to foretell the future and he advised the people of what would happen to them in advance. The monk passed all this time in prayerful conversations with God.
His miracles are numerous. One day he saw some promiscuous women jesting without shame by a spring of water, and they had let their hair down to take a bath. He prayed to God, and the water of the spring dried up, and the women's hair became white. When the women apologized to him and repented for what they had done, he prayed to God, and the water came back to the spring, but their hair remained white.
Another miracle occurred when he was passing by certain people who stretched a man on the ground and covered him as though he was dead. They asked the saint for some money for his burial. When they returned to the man, they found him dead. They came back to the saint and repented for what they had done. St. James prayed to God, and the man came back to life.
During a persecution by the emperor Maximian (305-311) he was glorified by a courageous confession of faith.
When his virtues became widely known, and because of his strict and pious life the inhabitants of Nisibis chose him as their bishop (from 308/9 A.D. till his death in 338 A.D.). Mor Jacob has always been a prominent figure in the Syriac-speaking Church tradition. He acquired a reputation for great learning, ability and holiness. A wise and educated metropolitan, constructed at Nisibis a public school, in which he himself was an instructor. He made a strong impression on the hearts of his listeners by the high morality of his life. Sainted Gregory, bishop of great Armenia, turned to him with a request to write about the faith, and the Nizibite pastor sent to him by way of reply a detailed Discourse (18 Chapters): about the faith, about love, fasting, prayer, spiritual warfare, the resurrection of the dead, the duties of pastors, about circumcision against the Jews, about the choice of foods, about Christ as the Son of God, and so on. His composition distinguishes itself by its persuasive clear exposition and warmth. He was a teacher of Saint Ephrem but his memory is highly honored in the East, especially in Syrian churches, and legends coalesced around his name.
He took a leading role in opposing the Arian heresy at the Council of Nicaea (325) and he was one of the prominent defenders of the Orthodox faith. A fierce opponent of Arianism at the Council (according to the legend repeated in the Syriac and Roman Martyrology, the prayers of James and Alexander of Constantinople were responsible for the death of Arius and his "bowels gushing out"), he was renowned for his exceptional holiness, learning, and miracles. He is honored as a malphono (i.e., theological doctor) by both the Syrian and Armenian Churches. He shepherded the flock of Christ very well, and protected his people from the Arian wolves.
Mor Jacob of Nisibis undertook the construction of a basilica building in Nisibis between 313 and 320, and founding the theological school of Nisibis, which became famous. It was under the bishopric of St. Jacob that St. Ephrem the Syrian flourished. St. Jacob died peacefully in Nisibis in 338. The Syriac Orthodox Church commemorate his day on May 12 and July 15. The Coptic Church on January 26, and the roman Catholic Church in July 15. His relics were saved from the a Persian invasion and were send to Constantinople for safety around the year 970.
To him St. Ephrem directed the poet which in it speaks
of his bishop Jacob, By his simple words he gave milk to his infants.
The Nisibis Church was childlike with him.
As with a child, he loved her and threatened her.
The womb of him who gave birth to the flock bore her infancy.
The first priest gave milk to her infancy.
The wealthy father, laid up treasures for her childhood.
(Hymns on Nisibin 14.16-22)
His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
Jacobus (4) or James, bp. of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, called "the Moses of Mesopotamia," born at Nisibis or Antiochia Mygdoniae towards the end of 3rd cent. He is said to have been nearly related to Gregory the Illuminator, the apostle of Armenia. At an early age he devoted himself to the life of a solitary, and
the celebrity he acquired by his self-imposed austerities caused Theodoret to assign him the first place in his Religiosa Historia or Vitae Patrum—where he is entitled ὁ μέγας. During this period he went to Persia for intercourse with the Christians of that country and to confirm their faith under the persecutions of Sapor II. Gennadius (de Script. Eccl. c. 1) reports that James was a confessor in the Maximinian persecution. On the vacancy of the see of his native city he was compelled by the popular demand to become bishop. His episcopate, according to Theodoret, was signalized by fresh miracles.
In 325 he was summoned to the council of Nicaea (Labbe, Concil. ii. 52, 76). A leading part is ascribed to him by Theodoret in its debates (Theod. u.s. p. 1114). He is commended by Athanasius, together with Hosius, Alexander, Eustathius, and others (adv. Arian. t. i. p. 252). According to some Eastern accounts, James was one whom the emperor Constantine marked out for peculiar honour (Stanley, Eastern Church, p. 203). His name occurs among those who signed the decrees of the council of Antioch, in Encaeniis, A.D. 341, of more than doubtful orthodoxy (Labbe, Concil. ii. 559), but no mention of his being present at this council occurs elsewhere (Tillem. Mém. eccl. t. vi. note 27, les Arensi; Hefele, Councils, ii. 58, Eng. tr.). That the awfully sudden death of Arius at Constantinople, on the eve of his anticipated triumph, A.D. 336, was due to the prayers of James of Nisibis, and that on this emergency he had exhorted the faithful to devote a whole week to uninterrupted fasting and public supplication in the churches, rests only on the authority of one passage, in the Religiosa Historia of Theodoret, the spuriousness of which is acknowledged by all sound critics. The gross blunders of making the death of the heresiarch contemporaneous with the council of Nicaea, and of confounding Alexander of Alexandria with Alexander of Constantinople, prove it an ignorant forgery. In the account of the death of Arius obtained by Theodoret from Athanasius (Theod. H. E. i. 14; Soz. H. E. ii. 20) no mention is made of James, nor in that given by Athanasius in his letter to the bishops. As bp. of Nisibis James was the spiritual father of Ephrem Syrus, who was baptized by him and remained by his side as long as he lived. Milles, bp. of Susa, visiting Nisibis to attend a synod for settling the differences between the bps. of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, c. 341, found James busily erecting his cathedral, towards which, on his return, Milles sent a large quantity of silk
from Adiabene (Assemani, Bibl. Or. tom. i. p. 186). On the attempt, three times renewed, of Sapor II. to make himself master of Nisibis, A.D. 338, 346, 350, James maintained the faith of the inhabitants in the divine protection, kindled their enthusiasm by his words and example, and with great military genius and administrative skill thwarted the measures of the besiegers. For the tale of the final siege of 350, which lasted three months, and of the bishop's successful efforts to save his city, see Gibbon, c. xviii. vol. ii. pp. 385 ff. or De Broglie, L’Eglise et l’Empire, t. iii. pp. 180–195. See also Theod. u.s. p. 1118; H. E. ii. 26; Theophan. p. 32. Nisibis was quickly relieved by Sapor being called away to defend his kingdom against an inroad of the Massagetae. James cannot have long survived this deliverance. He was honourably interred within the city, that his hallowed remains might continue to defend it. When in 363 Nisibis yielded to Persia, the Christians carried the sacred talisman with them. (Theod. u.s. p. 1119; Soz. H. E. v. 3; Gennad. u.s. c. 1.)
Gennadius speaks of James as a copious writer, and gives the titles of 26 of his treatises. Eighteen were found by Assemani in the Armenian convent of St. Anthony at Venice, together with a request for some of his works from a Gregory and James's reply. Their titles—de Fide, de Dilectione, de Jejunio, de Oratione, de Bello, de Devotis, de Poenitentia, de Resurrectione, etc.—correspond generally with those given by Gennadius, but the order is different. In the same collection Assemani found the long letter of James to the bishops of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, on the Assyrian schism. It is in 31 sections, lamenting the divisions of the church and the pride and arrogance which caused them, and exhorting them to seek peace and concord. These were all published with a Latin translation, and a learned preface establishing their authenticity, and notes by Nicolas Maria Antonelli in 1756; also in the collection of the Armenian Fathers, pub. at Venice in 1765, and again at Constantinople in 1824. The Latin translation is found in the Patres Apostolici of Caillau, t. 25, pp. 254–543. The liturgy bearing the name of James of Nisibis, said to have been formerly in use among the Syrians (Abr. Ecchell. Not. in Catal. Ebed-Jesu, p. 134; Bona, Liturg. i. 9) is certainly not his, but should be ascribed to James of Sarug (Renaudot, Lit. Or. t. ii. p. 4). James of Nisibis is commemorated in Wright's Syrian Martyrology, and in the Roman martyrology, July 315. Assemani Bibl. Or. t. i. pp. 17 sqq., 186, 557, 652; Tillem. Mém. eccl. t. vii.; Ceillier, Ant. eccl. t. iv. pp. 478 sqq.; Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. t. ix. p. 289; Cave, Hist. Lit. t. i. p. 189.
Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis
Commemorated on January 13
Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis, was the son of prince Gefal (Armenia) and received a fine upbringing. From the time of his youth he loved solitude, and for a long time he lived in the mountains around about the city of Niziba (on the border of the Persian and Roman Empires), where he carried out strict ascetic exploits: he lived under the open sky, fed himself with tree fruits and greens, and dressed himself in goat-skins. The monk passed all this time in prayerful conversations with God.
During a persecution by the emperor Maximian (284-305) he was glorified by a courageous confession of faith. Because of his strict and pious life the inhabitants of Nisibis chose him as their bishop (no later than the year 314). Saint James was glorified by his ardent zeal for the Orthodox Faith, by great miracles and by the gift of clairvoyance. By his prayers Nisibis was saved from an invasion by Sapor, the emperor of Persia.
Saint James, among the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, was one of the prominent defenders of the Orthodox Faith. A wise and educated pastor, he constructed a public school at Nisibis, in which he himself was an instructor. He made a strong impression on the hearts of his listeners by the high morality of his life.
Saint Gregory, bishop of great Armenia, turned to him with a request to write about the faith, and the Nisibis pastor sent to him by way of reply a detailed Discourse (18 Chapters): about the faith, about love, fasting, prayer, spiritual warfare, the resurrection of the dead, the duties of pastors, about circumcision (against the Jews), about the choice of foods, about Christ as the Son of God, and so on. His composition distinguishes itself by its persuasive clear exposition and warmth.
Saint James died peacefully in about the year 350.
San Giacomo di Nisibi Vescovo
Martirologio Romano: A Nisibi in Mesopotamia, nel territorio dell’odierna Turchia, san Giacomo, primo vescovo di questa città, che partecipò al Concilio di Nicea e governò in pace il suo gregge, nutrendolo e difendendolo dall’assalto dei nemici della fede.
Nel suo magistrale studio su Giacomo, P. Peeters ha esaminato le fonti che forniscono informazioni su questo personaggio, tentando di isolare, tra gli sviluppi leggendari, gli elementi storici certi.
Da tale ricerca risulta che i particolari biografici a noi pervenuti sono assai scarsi. Come aveva già fatto notare G. Cuypers negli Acta SS., occorre leggere con una certa prudenza sia il capitolo della Historia Religiosa che Teodoreto dedica al vescovo di Nisibi, sia ciò che a riguardo narra Elias bar Sinaya nella Cronaca dei Metropolitani di Nisibi.
Il luogo e la data di nascita di Giacomo sono sconosciuti, anche se Teodoreto afferma che nacque nella stessa Nisibi. Verosimilmente intorno al 308 Giacomo fonda la sede di Nisibi e ne diviene primo vescovo. Nel 325 partecipa al concilio di Nicea in cui, secondo san Atanasio, si distingue tra gli ardenti difensori della fede ortodossa. Si sa, d’altra parte, che, secondo una certa tradizione, sant'Efrem avrebbe accompagnato il suo maestro ed amico al concilio.
Secondo quanto afferma BarhadbSabba Arbaya ne "La Causa della Fondazione delle Scuole", Giacomo, al suo ritorno da Nicea, avrebbe fondato la prima scuola di Nisibi; ciò è possibile, pur tenendo presente che la celebre scuola di questo nome fu fondata solo un secolo più tardi, nel 457, da Narsete il Lebbroso.
Allorché Sapore attaccò Nisibi, nel 338, Giacomo era ancora vescovo. Morì nello stesso anno durante l’assedio della città, come afferma il Chronicon Edessenum; e ciò spiega, sembra, perché il vescovo fu inumato entro le mura della città di cui rimase, per sua intercessione celeste, insigne difensore.
Un’altra tradizione vuole che, nel 363, quando Gioviano cedette Nisibi ai Persiani, i suoi abitanti trasportassero le reliquie del santo ad Amida; in tal caso occorrerebbe spiegare come mai, alla fine del X secolo, l’imperatore bizantino Giovanni Tzimisces, abbia ritrovato tali reliquie a Nisibi trasportandole poi a Costantinopoli.
Poiché questo particolare è riportato da alcuni martirologi, conviene aggiungere che, secondo Gennadio, Giacomo sarebbe stato confessore durante la persecuzione di Massimino. Con ancora maggiore circospezione conviene leggere l’episodio narrato nel V secolo da Fausto di Bisanzio nella sua Storia d'Armenia, secondo cui Giacomo avrebbe scoperto l’arca di Noè sul Monte Ararat!
E. Tisserant ha chiaramente fatto il punto sulla pretesa attività letteraria di Giacomo ed, in particolare, sulla attribuzione a lui delle Demonstrationes di Afraate.
Il culto di Giacomo si affermò rapidamente; il Martirologio Siriaco del IV secolo, seguito dal Geronimiano, lo menziona al 15 luglio, data conservata dai martirologi occidentali fino al Romano. Nei sinassari bizantini, invece, lo si incontra al 13 gennaio come, d’altra parte, nel Sinassario Alessandrino di Michele, vescovo di Atrib e Malìg (=18 tubali). Nella Chiesa siriaca, secondo le fonti pubblicate da F. Nau, è commemorato in più di sei date diverse. Nella Chiesa armena, in cui il culto di Giacomo è molto diffuso, soprattutto in base alla tradizione che lo pone in relazione con Gregorio l’Illuminatore, è ricordato il 7 khalots (= 15 dicembre).
Autore: Joseph-Marie Sauget