Voice of the Syriacs

The Voice of the Syriacs is an annual lecture series hosted by the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR). The Voice of the Syriacs will explore aspects of the rich literary, religious, and cultural contributions of Syriac-speaking peoples throughout history and to promote the appreciation and further research in this field.

The lecture is presented by the generous support of an anonymous donor.
  • The 2023 (Inaugural) Lecture Program

    Lending to Lazarus: Wealth, Poverty, and Death in Syriac Christian Thought

    Dr. Maria Doerfler
    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University

    Wealth and poverty are two of the ethical topoi that most preoccupied early Christian authors. Inspired by biblical mandates, Christians wrote, preached, and otherwise sought to motivate their audiences to eschew riches, embrace privation, and provide aid for the needy. Unsurprisingly, given the New Testament’s own preoccupations, death and the literary genres that accompanied it constituted a central locus for these disquisitions. This lecture traces didactic themes surrounding materiel possessions in the context of a collection of funerary hymns ascribed to Syriac Christianity’s most celebrated writers, Ephrem “the Syrian.” Three motifs appear with particular prominence: that of wealth’s indifference, a topic apparent in a series of ekphrastic “tours of tombs”; its detriment, as evidenced by concomitant “tours of hell”; and the occasional opportunity it represented for both the deceased and their survivors. The ethical vision that emerges is, perhaps surprisingly, one of moderation: tolerance for a modicum of personal wealth, combined with an emphasis on the subject’s dependence — on divine mercy, on ecclesiastical leaders, even on the community’s poorest members.

    5PM Wednesday 26th April 2023

    Keane Auditorium (106 McGivney)

    The event is free and open to the public. A buffet dinner will follow the lecture. 

    In order to get an accurate headcount for the dinner, please rsvp here

    To request disability accommodations, contact cua-semitics@cua.edu or 202-319-5084

    The lecture is presented by the generous support of an anonymous donor.