Our Patron Saint
Mor Yac'ub Burd’ono was born in Tella Mawzalt also known as Constantina (Viranşehir,Turkey) near Nisbis, to the Syriac Orthodox priest Theophilose bar Manu. His parents did not have children for a long time & in fulfillment of a vow made by his parents, he was dedicated to God. At the age of two, St. Jacob was entrusted to the care of Eustathius, abbot of the Monastery (Reesh Dayroyo), in Phesilta. Here he learnt Greek, Syriac & the basics of asceticism. One day his mother visited the monastery wanting to take him with her. He was not willing to go home even for a visit saying, “I am fully dedicated to Christ, my mother has no share in me.” He distributed all the properties that he inherited from his parents among the poor, & reserved nothing for himself. Jacob was ordained deacon & later Priest. He was known for working miracles; sick people came from far & wide to be healed by him. St. Jacob restored sight to the blind, brought rain during a drought, & even made the sun stand still. His fame spread all over the East.
Mor Yac'ub lived during one of the harshest periods of the Syriac Church. After the Church refused the Chalcedonian formula of faith, it came under the oppression of the Byzantine emperors. The Syriac Orthodox Church did not accept the Chalcedonian definition, but along with the rest of the Oriental Orthodox Churches accepted only the Three Holy Ecumenical Synods. Emperor Justinian had resolved to enforce the Chalcedonian decrees universally, & the bishops, clergy & faithful who refused to accept the decrees were punished with imprisonment, deprivation, exile or death. As a result, the Orthodox were deprived of their spiritual leaders & for about ten years many churches had to forgo the sacraments. The faithful were not ready to accept the sacraments from the heretics. Chalcedonians were known as the Melchites/Melkites (from the Syriac Malkoye - the royal party or the Emperor’s men) since the emperor ardently supported them. The wife of Justinian was however a staunch Orthodox Christian, the daughter of a Syriac Orthodox priest. It is important to know that Empress Theodora was enthroned with equal rights & powers as her husband. St. Theodora requested Mor Yac'ub to visit Constantinople, however he didn't want to go. He later received a vision from Mor Severus & Mor John of Tella directing him & so he went. While the Emperor & the courts wished to persecute Jacob, he was welcomed with honour by the Empress. At the personal castle of Theodora, many Orthodox faithful & leaders sought refuge including Coptic Pope Theodosius I.
With the support of the Ghassanid King al-Harith Ibn Jabalah al-Ghassani (The Ghassanids were an ethnic Arab Syriac Orthodox kingdom), Theodora managed to get Mor Yac'ub Burd'ono ordained as "universal bishop" "by Patriarch Theodosius I of Alexandria, Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople & another imprisoned metropolitan to spread the Orthodox faith & ordain clergy. St. Jacob is known by the surname Baradaeus. The surname Baradaeus is derived from ‘baradai’ (clad in rags) or the ragged beggars garb, patched-up out of the old saddle-cloths which he used for his multiple swift & secret journeys across the land. He walked on foot through Asia minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, the adjacent provinces, the borders of Persia & into Alexandria. He both exhorted the faithful & sent encyclicals encouraging them to remain steadfast in the true Orthodox faith. He ordained 2 Patriarchs; Mor Sergius & Mor Paul II, at least 27 bishops & thousands of priests & deacons for the Orthodox Church. The Melchites were furious at the successful efforts of St. Jacob in protecting the true faith, even offering a reward for his capture. But by the grace of God almighty, Mor Yac'ub always eluded the persecutors. He also worked tirelessly to reconcile the Miaphysites & the Chalcedonians but extremism, misunderstanding & ecclesiastical politics hindered his efforts.
Mor Yac'ub wrote an anaphora in fifteen pages beginning with “O Lord, the most Holy Father of peace” & several letters, four of which were published in the Syriac Documents—3 addressed to John of Ephesus & others, & a general letter to the various clergy which is mentioned in his lengthy biography. He continued his work for thirty-five years, tirelessly fighting the good fight for the Church of God, which he diligently supported in the time of great adversity until he died at the Monastery of Romanus or the Monastery of Cassian on July 30, 578AD. According to a short account by Mor Quryaqos, bishop of Mardin, the remains of Mor Yac'ub were kept at the Monastery of Cassian in the confines of Egypt until A. Gr. 933 (A.D. 622), when they were translated to the Monastery of Phaselita, near Tella Mouzalat by Mor Zakkai, bishop of Tella. A portion of the relics of Mor Yac'ub Burd’ono was interred at St. Stephen’s Bes-ania Church, Chelad, Kothamangalam by St. Gregorius Geevarghese Chathuruthil (Parumala Thirumeni).
Although the political & dynastic storms again the Holy Church swept that portion of the world, the efforts of St Jacob preserved the true undefiled Orthodox (Miaphysite) Faith. The Melchites (Chalcedonians, including current EO & Roman Catholics) derogatorily referred to all Miaphysites (including the Coptics, Armenians, Abbyssinians etc) as Jacobites. The term Jacobite was used to insinuate that the Miaphysite Orthodox broke away from the Melchites. The name Jacobite has been associated with the Orthodox Church since the 6th century, it was used by the Melchites to disgrace the noble Church. However, the Syriac Orthodox Church does not consider St. Jacob as the founder of the Church, but one of its greatest fathers. Mor Yac'ub Burd’ono did not introduce any new doctrines to the Church but fought to preserve its True Orthodox faith & Apostolic origins since the Holy Throne was established by St. Peter the chief of the Holy Apostles in AD 37. All Orthodox faithful should gratefully remember St. Jacob Baradaeus as he is responsible for restoring the Church from extinction by his indomitable zeal & untiring activity, as the Church was threatened by the persecution of imperial power. He is one of the most illustrious Church Fathers, known for his godliness & piety; he attained the summit of religious & austere asceticism. Mor Yac'ub Burd’ono was arguably the greatest Apostolic fighter in support of the true Orthodox faith, unceasingly working to protect & promote Orthodoxy in the face of immense persecution. He is honored in the 5th Dypthic (Thubden dQadishe) every Sunday in the Syriac Orthodox Church as "Our venerable and Holy Father Mor Jacob Baradaeus, the upholder of the Orthodox faith"