From its beginning, Syriac Christianity has been an ascetically motivated faith, associated with both heretical leanings and orthodox contributions. Ephrem the Syrian and his spiritual progeny Isaac, as well as Simeon Stylites, emerged from Syriac soil -- all three named saints in the Eastern Church -- as did the Messalians, a sect eventually anathematized for rejecting the sacramental life in the pursuit of unceasing prayer. The Liber Graduum
(the latin translation of the Syrian ktaba dmasqata
, book of grades/degrees/ascents) abounds with the characteristically symbolic vision of its Syriac heritage, using bold images and typologies, largely biblical. Intentionally anonymous, the author divides his exhortations into memre
(a Syriac literary genre encompassing both homiletic and poetic forms) which focus primarily on the themes of Uprightness and Perfection. Historically, the Liber Graduum
has moved in and out of orthodox sanction due to its association with the Messalians, but recent scholars are quick to point out the attention it affords both prayer and the sacramental life of the Church. Translators Kitchen and Parmentier provide a thorough historical and theological introduction of the text, then leave us to theSteps
themselves, which sound the same depths as the sayings of the Desert Fathers: ''Perfection is tied to love because through love its building rises and is completed and perfected, and through [love, Perfection] grows and is glorified.'' 389 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Intentionally anonymous and lacking concrete details of historical and cultural setting--and for many years suspected of messalianism--this collection of thirty memre discourses] has been long recognized as an important, yet understudied, work of the fourth-century Syriac Church.