Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 3rd, 2016 by Joel Watts

St. Symeon on learning and doing

Such a man who has been lifted up over all creation is unwilling to go back and be curious about created things. [170] Since he possesses the very Master of the angels he cannot endure inquisitiveness about the essence and nature of the angels who serve Him, because he is aware that it is not pleasing to God that a man should be curious about that which is beyond man. Since we have been commanded not to be curious about the divine Scriptures, even less ought we push our curiosity “beyond that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). Such a man sees God as far as it is possible for a human being to see Him, and to the extent that it pleases God that he should. [180] He is anxious constantly to behold Him and prays that he may see Him forever after death. He is content to enjoy nothing else but the vision of God and asks for nothing else. So he does not want to forsake his Master and his God, who fills him with light and from whom he has the enjoyment of the unending life, and instead turn his attention to his fellow-servants. Such a man on whom God looks, or whom He illuminates from above, himself contemplates God’s exceeding glory. It is impossible for others to see what he is, or what is the glory in which he finds himself, nor can he understand it. Every holy soul is set free from all vainglory, since it is clothed with the royal garment, [190] the most radiant vesture of the Spirit, and is filled with God’s superabundant glory (cf. 2 Cor. 3:10). Not only does it disregard the glory of men, but even if it is honored by them it pays no attention to it. Since God sees the soul and it in turn sees Him, it will in no way ever desire to look on another man or be looked on by him.

Therefore I beseech you, brethren in Christ, let us not desire to learn by mere words that which is beyond utterance; [200] it is equally impossible both for those who teach about such matters and for those who listen to them. Those who teach about intellectual and divine realities are not able to supply clear proofs, strictly speaking, from examples, or to express their truth concretely. Nor are their pupils able to learn by mere words the meaning of that about which they speak. It is by practice and effort and labors that we must be anxious to grasp these things and attain to contemplation of them. May we thus be initiated into [the meaning of] the words that deal with such [realities], and may God be glorified in us when we are in that state! [210] By the knowledge of such things may we glorify Him and He glorify us, in Christ Himself who is our God, to whom is due all glory forever. Amen.1

We have a lot of discussions about orthodoxy and orthopraxy. There also seems to be some discussion on whether or not biblical studies matters to the Church.

No matter what, it has to begin with humility.

  1. St. Symeon, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses (ed. Richard J. Payne; trans. C. J. de Catanzaro; The Classics of Western Spirituality; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), 191–192.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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