John of Dalyatha

Here is the last conference from the colloquium in Ghent. Please see my previous disclaimer concering the accuracy of my reporting and translations!

Brother Benoît Standaert, osb, is a monk of Saint Andrew’s Abbey, Zevenkerken, in Bruges, and author of several books which have been translated into French and Italian, but I am not aware of any English translations.

John of Dalyatha or John “Saba,” which means “the elder,” lived in the eighth century in Dalyatha, a mountainous region where modern Turkey, Iran and Iraq meet.

His life

John lived between 690 and 780 and was thus younger than Isaac of Nineveh whom he quotes. He began his novitiate around the year 710 in the monastery of Mar Yuzadaq and after seven years of formation was allowed to begin his eremitical life in the mountains of Dalyatha where he lived for the greatest part of his life. He had two brothers who were also monks. Towards the end of his life he returned to the region of Qardu in the southeast of modern Turkey. Together with other monks he rebuilt the deserted monastery of Mar Ya’kub where John became abbot. He died at a ripe old age surrounded by his brothers, and before he died he entrusted them with a rule of life.


You who are hidden and concealed within me,
reveal within me
your hidden mystery;
manifest to me
your beauty that is within me,
O you who have built me
as a temple for you to dwell in,
cause the cloud of your glory
to overshadow inside your temple,
so that the ministers of your sanctuary
may cry out, in love for you,
as an utterance which burns in fire and spirit,
in a sharp stirring which is commingled with wonder
and astonishment,
activated as a living movement
by the power of your being.


Prayer of John the Elder (John of Dalyatha)


The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, Introduced and Translated by Sebastian Brock (Kalamazoo, Cistercian Publications, 1987) 362.