Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
June 17th, 2016 by Joel Watts

St. Symeon on vows and the fear of God

And now our disposition is as such as if there were no one will require an account from us of the vows we have made. We pass our time without fear of God and contempt of his commandments. We are arrogant not only toward the rest of the community, but even toward our superiors. We complain, contradict, curse, and are lazy; we do all the things God hates, and which lead our souls to destruction in the fires of hell. – Discourse III, On Faithfulness to Vows. 

St. Symeon did not require that all take vows, only that those who did live into them rather than making them a mockery. His brothers were refusing to feed the poor, to be hungry, to do the things they had sworn to do — all because they no longer felt like God cared about those things, only about the things the brothers wanted to see done.

He chided them for wondering why their community was dying — but knew the answer: the brothers had forsaken God by forsaking their vows and gave place to evil.

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).

Comments

4 Responses to “St. Symeon on vows and the fear of God”
  1. Except, don’t push the brothers too far, and force them into vegetarianism. 🙂

    Wiki:
    “The strict monastic discipline for which Symeon aimed upset several monks in the monastery. Symeon also took a more emotional approach to worship, suggesting that a monk shouldn’t take the sacrament without tears. The introduction of vegetarian meals, along with other unique practices to instill discipline and humility, also caused some displeasure among the monks.
    Fifteen years after becoming abbot, one morning after the Divine Liturgy a group of approximately thirty monks rose against Symeon, who drove them away.”

  2. The gun law posts accumulate 40 replies in the time that a post on vows gets one. Is this a test?
    Vows are holy and worthy of attention. Some people go their whole lives and never take a vow. Promises are between friends and a friend will let a friend out of a promise if it gets hard. Friends do that. A contract is for those with a lack of trust. People can be set free or sent to prison upon testimony given under oath, but an oath is only to the best of our ability. A vow is for something so far beyond our ability, do life changing, so incredible an adventure that it is only possible if God himself is in it. In a vow we call invoke the Holy name and expect him to show up. If we leave a vow, it is not our work but Godself that we abandon.

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      No, it is not a test, but it is probably an unfortunate demonstration on where we are as a society as a whole and as a church specifically.

  3. Canadian says

    It just seems ridiculously unChristlike to always wield hell over everyone’s head for every imaginable internal deviation. And I converted to Orthodoxy.

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