Date of celebration: 09/05
The Prophet Isaiah, son of Amos, was born in Jerusalem around 774 BC. He was the first among the four great Prophets, the brightest and loudest of them. The name Isaiah, Hebrew Yasiayahu, means “God saves”.
According to ancient rabbinical tradition, his father was the brother of King Amasis of the Jews, and his daughter is said to have married King Manasseh. These traditions, legends rather than historical truths, nevertheless indicate the noble origin of Ishai. Isaiah was married and had two children, who are mentioned in his Prophecies. These, apparently by God’s command, had been given symbolic names. The first one’s name was Yasuv and means according to the septuagenarians “the rest will return”, that is, the Jews remaining in captivity will return to their homeland. And the other’s name was Maher Shalaz Hash Vaz and it means “quickly hunt, sharply favor”, in a declaration of the imminent attack on Jerusalem by the Assyrians and Babylonians.
Isaiah was called to his prophetic ministry in 738 BC, the last year of Uzzi’s reign and the first year of Joatham’s reign. He recounts in a fascinating description his calling. Being in the sanctuary, he saw the Lord sitting on a high throne, while the temple was flooded with a brilliant light of divine glory. The six-winged Seraphim stood around the divine throne addressing and contradicting one another, praising God and saying “holy, holy Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory”. Before this magnificent sight Isaiah was overcome with deep emotion and awe, reflected on his unholiness as a man, and exclaimed that, as a man of unclean lips, he deserved to see the King, the Lord of hosts. After this humble confession of his, one of the Seraphim took with the tongs in his hand a burning coal from the altar, on which fragrant incense was burning, touched the lips of Isaiah and said to him: “behold, this has touched your lips and it will take away your iniquities and will completely cleanse and blot out your sins from you.”
The work of the Prophet Isaiah extended during the reigns of Joatham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and perhaps also during Manasseh, by whom, as it is said, he was sentenced to death and executed with a wooden saw, because he publicly reprimanded him for his impiety.
The era in which Isaiah lived was very difficult for the Israelite kingdom. The Jews of that time had been diverted to a life of prosperity, for the satisfaction of which they did not hesitate in the face of any injustice and illegality. The priests were drunkards, the false prophets raged, the rulers were thieves. The false pious ones, who fasted and sacrificed hypocritically and were unjust and merciless, had multiplied and collaborated in corruption.
Such a fall was next to lead to hypocrisy, unfaithfulness to the true God, and defection to idolatry. Because of the sinfulness and disrespect that prevailed, for the purpose of education, the return of the people and obedience to the divine law, God allowed calamities and sorrows, especially the destructive raids of foreign, neighboring and distant peoples.
Thus, the work of the Prophet Isaiah, throughout the period of his activity, was to control sinfulness and irreverence, to severely condemn apostasy and idolatry, to foretell sorrows against the apostate people and to call for repentance and return to God. And in a period of obvious dangers, enemy raids and the slavery of the people, he encouraged the disheartened, rewarmed faith and obedience to God, cultivated the hope of redemption. But what most strongly characterizes Isaiah is mainly his numerous and pure Christological Prophecies. Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he announced the Virgin birth of the Redeemer, as well as His Name “Emmanuel”, which means “God with us”. That is why he was called by the Fathers, “Evangelical Prophet”, and his Prophecies “Kath’ Isaiah Evangelion”.
His holy relic was transferred to Constantinople, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (408 – 450 AD) and deposited in the church of the Holy Martyr Lawrence, which was near Blacherna.