Category: St. Symeon the New Theologian
St. Symeon on the necessity of orthodox ministers
He also, in presuming John Wesley, tells you what orthodoxy is:
Accordingly, as they have given up everything else which those who perform sacred rites ought to have, what is demanded of them is merely this one thing, orthodoxy—and not even this, in my opinion, since someone who in modern times refrains from surreptitiously introducing a dogma into the Church of God is not thereby orthodox, but an orthodox is someone who has achieved a mode of life consistent with right doctrine. – Treatise to a Spiritual Child about Confession and who they are that have received authority to bind and loose as regards
He also delves into how the anointing of ordination may be withdrawn by God and thus pass on to those who take it up.
Humble reception of Authority
St Symeon…. brings me to tears at times.
All too often we focus on the kingdom… forgetting humility or have a humility with the necessary authority.
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. 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. 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, 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; 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 words that deal with such , and may God be glorified in us when we are in that state! 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.
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.
the emergence of the soul’s freedom
Would you believe that every now and then I get into an argument on Facebook? And the more so when I mention I don’t believe in Free Will. Yes, there is free choice, but choice can only be made when we are handed decisions. Fr. John would tend to agree — or, rather, I agree with him that there is no natural freedom. We are born in such a state as to remove freedom.
St. Symeon places freedom’s antithesis into the realm of the passions (i.e., lusts) we inherit as sinful humans (do not think original sin). Freedom, then, slowly comes to us as the Holy Spirit “rips away” those passions and supplies us with medicine:
This activity, which is exercised by the fulfilling of the commandments, washes away—what a marvel!—every stain from the soul. It expels every passion and every evil lust, by which I mean not only those of the body but also of the world. Thus a man will be set free in soul from every earthly desire, and that not only from physical bonds—it is as when one puts off a garment and is completely stripped. Rightly so, for the soul is first stripped of its insensitivity, which God’s apostle calls a “veil,” that “lies on the hearts” of the unbelieving Jews (2 Cor. 3:15), but not on theirs alone. Even now everyone who does not practice the commandments of the new grace with all his might and with a fervent heart has such a veil lying on the understanding of his heart and he cannot be lifted up to the height of “the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). Then, just as he who has been physically stripped naked sees the wounds of his body, so he who has been stripped spiritually may clearly see the passions that cling to his soul, such as ambition, avarice, rancor, hatred of his brethren, envy, jealousy, contentiousness (cf. Phil. 1:15), and all the rest. So he applies the commandments to them as medicines, and trials as cautery, and is humbled and sorrowful, and fervently seeks God’s help. He clearly sees the grace of the Holy Spirit coming to him and tearing all these away from him one after the other and eliminating them until it has entirely freed his soul from them all. The coming of the Paraclete grants freedom to the soul, not merely in part, but completely and totally. Not only does it expel the passions mentioned above, but also all boredom, carelessness, slackness, and ignorance, all forgetfulness, gluttony, and love of pleasure. Thus it renews and restores a man both spiritually and physically, so that such a person seems to be clothed, not with a corruptible and gross body (cf. Wis. 9:15), but with one that is spiritual (cf. 1 Cor. 15:44) and immaterial and even now ready for the rapture (cf. 1 Thess. 4:17). These are not the only effects the Spirit’s grace works in him; it does not even permit such a man to see the objects of sense, but instead makes him, while he sees, to be as though he did not see with the sense. For whenever the mind is united to the objects of intellect it finds itself entirely beyond the realm of sense, even though it appears to be looking at sensible objects.
The Spirit is the “setting right” of our perception — which every theologian and most counselors will tell you, is the key to being healed internally of past wounds.
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.
St. Symeon, Believing is not seeing the Resurrection
Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship, the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One! We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ, and Thy Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify; for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee; we call on Thy name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s Holy Resurrection! For, behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection. By enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed death by death! – Orthodox Liturgical Hymn
St. Symeon makes a great deal of that initial phrase, that tiny word, “beheld.”
Most men believe in the Resurrection of Christ, but very few are they that have a clear vision thereof. Those who do not behold it cannot even worship Christ Jesus as Holy and Lord. As Scripture says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit,” and, elsewhere, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
That most sacred phrase which is daily on our lips does not say, “Having believed in the Resurrection of Christ,” but, “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless One.”
How then, does the Holy Spirit exhort us to say, “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,” which we have not seen, as though we had seen it, when Christ has risen once for all a thousand years ago, and even then without anyone seeing it?
Surely Divine Scripture does not wish us to lie? Far from it! Rather, it urges us to speak the truth, that the Resurrection of Christ takes place in each of us who believes, and that not once, but every hour, so to speak, when Christ the Master arises in us, in splendid raiment and flashing forth rays of incorruption and Divinity. – Discourse 13, St. Symeon the New Theologian, Discourse on the Resurrection.
Believing is not Seeing the Resurrection:
The entire discourse on Christ’s Resurrection is needed and important, especially among those of us who believe that a mere assent to the doctrine suffices. We make it a dividing line between those who believe the resurrection and those who deny the resurrection, feeling a superiority if we do believe. Yet, St. Symeon notes there is another difference, between those have beheld the Resurrection (in a vision) and those who believe.
In reading one of the three canonical saints in the East, he notes there is the blind man who stumbles but manages (the believer), the dead (the unbeliever), and the one who is awake to the mystical, the one who has his or her soul unified with Christ without confusion. He goes on to suggest that the believer who does not do works in accordance with his or her belief is only believing in part. Yet, the one who has truly beheld the Resurrection (v. the Western need to focus on the Crucifixion) will indeed work out their own salvation.
Now, I guess, what does it mean to actually behold the Resurrection in a vision? What is the mystical experience Christians should have in regards to the Resurrection and how does it follow in our individuals lives?