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 The New Theologian, Resurrection
St. Symeon The New Theologian

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?

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4 Replies to “St. Symeon, Believing is not seeing the Resurrection”

  1. 🙂

    I hope you take this in the “spirit of fun”!

    I like to look up these people I have never heard of, to find out more about them. St. Symeon seems to be an ascetic, who probably saw the resurrection after starving himself.

    Relating to “divergent, quasi-leaders” I mentioned in the previous post, St. Symeon seemed to have his own issues about “leaders”…

    From wiki,

    “Symeon, for his part, never backed down from the church authorities. In one of his hymns, he had Christ speaking the following rebuke to the bishops:

    “They (the bishops) unworthily handle My Body

    and seek avidly to dominate the masses…

    They are seen to appear as brilliant and pure,

    but their souls are worse than mud and dirt,
worse even than any kind of deadly poison,
 these evil and perverse men!” (Hymn 58)”

    All I can do is smile, after that one!

  2. Symeon teaches that believer may encounter Christ through the release of uncreated light within themselves. Wesley said that we could experience the witness of the Spirit of God with our spirit. Paul said that the manifestation of the Spirit was giving to all. Realized confirmation!

    1. Being ascetic, a monk, rather anti-establishment with bishops, and “release of uncreated light”, seems to indicate he had sympathies with Gnostics. Just that he encountered Christ, not Gnostic knowledge. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Although I don’t think I am dedicated enough to be an ascetic.

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