This is my report of the second conference from the colloquium on the Syrian Fathers in Ghent last weekend. Please see my earlier disclaimer regarding the accuracy of my reporting and translations!

Dom André Louf, ocso is abbot emeritus of the abbey of Mont des Cats in France and author of several books, including Teach us to Pray, The Cistercian Way and Grace can do more. He is now a hermit and translates Syrian texts. He was responsible for the French translation of the second series of St Isaac’s homilies.

Our information concerning the life of Simeon comes from two Syrian chroniclers who lived several centuries later: Bar Hebraeus (+1286) and Abdisho Bar Brika (+1318). From these we learn that he had been a doctor before becoming a monk, that he lived during the episcopacy of Catholicus Henanisho (685-699), and that he wrote works on medicine, on monastic life and on the mystery of the cell. From these works we can also gather that he lived in the southeast of what is now Iraq, a region that at that time was undergoing a monastic growth and which was home to well known spiritual writers such as Dadisho Qatraya and Isaac of Nineveh. The latter was somewhat older than Simeon.

The designation “of Taibouthèh” refers not to a place, but means “of grace” and refers to one of his writings. Many manuscripts contain such a “Book of Grace” which had previously been ascribed to Isaac of Nineveh, but which recent critical scholarship believes to originate with Simeon. Simeon also refers to the crucial role of grace in his other works and is particularly concerned with the relationship between asceticism and grace.