St. Isaac of Syria is among the most influential ascetic writers in the history of Christianity, in spite of the fact that we know very little of the details of his life. He lived in the mid-to-late seventh century. After he had gained considerable respect as a spiritual teacher in Qatar and Persia, he was made bishop of Nineveh against his will. Very shortly, however, he realized the incompatibility of his ideals with the laxity and willful worldliness of the people that he was supposed to be guiding, and so he resigned his see within five months to go back to the desert life.
He resumed his life of austerity in the desert monastery of Rabban-Shapur, where he wrote his comprehensive instructions for monks and spiritual athletes, which we know as the “Ascetical Homilies.” St. Isaac’s exhortations and counsels cover a wide range of Orthodox Christian mystical and ascetical topics, and have served as a beacon and inspiration to all who seek a life of true prayer, and a handbook of hesychast spiritual practice. This is a contemporary icon of St. Isaac that was painted by the Nun Kypriane at the Holy Annunciation Convent in Patmos, Greece.