Friday, September 04, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Abba Isaiah 1


(Abba Isaiah) said to those who were making a good beginning by putting themselves under the direction of the holy Fathers, 'As with purple dye, the first colouring is never lost.' And, 'Just as young shoots are easily trained back and bent, so it is with beginners who live in submission.'

Some thoughts:

The reference to the purple dye would have had a lot more meaning to Abba Isaiah's audience than it does to us. We all probably know that it was the most expensive dye ever made in its time, rare and reserved only for royalty. The dye was so expensive in fact that when the 4th Crusaders sacked Byzantium, no emperor after that could raise sufficient funds to restart the dye works and the process is lost to us. Although attempts are being made to re-discover how they did it.

The source for the dye was a particular sea snail and once the snails were gathered, they were left to rot in large vats causing a hideous stench. Considering that modern sanitation was unknown, the aroma was apparently the most impressively hideous smell.
worse than any other. But once the dye was extracted, and the cloth dipped, the color was gorgeous. The ancients believe too that as the dye aged on the fabric it only became more beautiful.

We can see that being compared to purple dye is one powerful metaphor


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