St Symeon the New Theologian Source
Commemorated on March 12
Saint Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 949 in the city
of Galatea (Paphlagonia), and he was educated at Constantinople.
His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while
the youth occupied a high position at the imperial court. When he was
fourteen, he met the renowned Elder Simeon the Pious at the Studion
Monastery, who would be a major influence in his spiritual develop-
ment. He remained in the world for several years preparing himself for
the monastic life under the Elder's guidance, and finally entered the
monastery at the age of twenty-seven. St Simeon the Pious
recommended to the young man the writings of St Mark the Ascetic
(March 5) and other spiritual writers. He read these books attentively
and tried to put into practice what he read.
Three points made by St Mark in his work "On the Spiritual Law"
(see Vol. I of the English Philokalia) particularly impressed him. First,
you should listen to your conscience and do what it tells you if you
wish your soul to be healed (Philokalia, p. 115). Second, only by
fulfilling the commandments can one obtain the activity of the Holy
Spirit. Thirdly, one who prays only with the body and without spiritual
knowledge is like the blind man who cried out, "Son of David, have
mercy upon me (Luke 18:38) (Philokalia p. 111). When the blind man
received his sight, however, he called Christ the Son of God
(John 9:38). St Simeon was wounded with a love for spiritual beauty,
and tried to acquire it. In addition to the Rule given him by his Elder,
his conscience told him to add a few more Psalms and prostrations,
and to repeat constantly, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me."
Naturally, he heeded his conscience. During the day, he cared for the
needs of people living in the palace of Patricius. At night, his prayers
grew longer and he remained praying until midnight. Once, as he was
praying in this way, a most brilliant divine radiance descended upon
him and filled the room. He saw nothing but light all around him, and
he was not even aware of the ground beneath his feet. It seemed to
him that he himself became light. Then his mind rose upward to the
heavens, and he saw a second light brighter than the light which
surrounded him. Then, on the edge of this second light, he seemed
to see St Simeon the Pious, who had given him St Mark the Ascetic
to read. Seven years after this vision, St Simeon entered the
monastery. There he increased his fasting and vigilance, and learned
to renounce his own will.
The Enemy of our salvation stirred up the brethren of the monastery
against St Simeon, who was indifferent to the praises or reproaches
of others. Because of the increased discontent in the monastery, St
Simeon was sent to the Monastery of St Mamas in Constantinople.
There he was tonsured into the monastic schema, and increased his
spiritual struggles. He attained to a high spiritual level, and increased
his knowledge of spiritual things through reading the Holy Scriptures
and the writings of the Fathers, as well as in conversation with holy
Around the year 980, St Simeon was made igumen of the monastery
of St Mamas and continued in this office for twenty-five years. He
repaired and restored the monastery, which had suffered from neglect,
and also brought order to the life of the monks. The strict monastic
discipline, for which St Simeon strove, led to great dissatisfaction
among the brethren. Once, after Liturgy, some of the monks attacked
him and nearly killed him. When the Patriarch of Constantinople
expelled them from the monastery and wanted to hand them over to
the civil authorities, St Simeon asked that they be treated with
leniency and be permitted to live in the world. About the year 1005,
St Simeon resigned his position as Igumen in favor of Arsenius, while
he himself settled near the monastery in peace. There he composed
his theological works, portions of which appear in the Philokalia.
The chief theme of his works is the hidden activity of spiritual
perfection, and the struggle against the passions and sinful thoughts.
He wrote instructions for monks:"Theological and Practical Chapters,"
"A Treatise on the Three Methods of Prayer," (in Vol. IV of the English
Philokalia) and "A Treatise on Faith." Moreover, St Simeon was an
outstanding church poet. He also wrote "Hymns of Divine Love,"
about seventy poems filled with profound prayerful meditations. The
sublime teachings of St Simeon about the mysteries of mental prayer
and spiritual struggle have earned him the title "the New Theologian."
These teachings were not the invention of St Simeon, but they had
merely been forgotten over time. Some of these teachings seemed
unacceptable and strange to his contemporaries.
This led to conflict with Constantinople's church authorities, and St
Simeon was banished from the city. He withdrew across the
Bosphorus and settled in the ancient monastery of St Makrina.
The saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1021. During
his life he received the gift of working miracles. Numerous miracles
also took place after his death; one of them was the miraculous
discovery of his icon. His Life was written by his cell-attendant and
disciple, St Nicetas Stethatos. Since March 12 falls during Great
Lent, St Simeon's Feast is transfered to October 12.Source
This is the story of how St. Symeon the New Theologian met his
spiritual father, St Symeon Eulabes (The Pious). "This story
illustrates the close bond uniting the master and the disciple, and
how such love overcomes all fear. It also shows that before choosing
and following a spiritual father one must first believe in him;
It was he (St Symeon the Pious), who invited Symeon to follow him.
'Come, my child I will lead you to God'. When Symeon hesitated, his
spiritual father told him: 'Light a great fire, that I may pass into the
center: do not follow me if I do not remain untouched! 'These words
confused me', Simeon wrote, 'and I did what he had commanded.
And the flame burned and he stood in its center, intact, unconsumed,
and he called me to him. I said I'm afraid master, I am a sinner! He
advanced, came to me and embraced me saying , Why were you
afraid? Why this fear and trembling? This is a great and frightening
wonder: you will see even greater things!' Finally to subdue Symeon's
fear, his spiritual master made him approach: 'He enfolded me with
his arms, and he kissed me again with a holy kiss, and he yielded a
fragrance of immortality. I believed, I chose to follow him, and I
desired to become his slave, his alone."
Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, In The Light of Christ, p.98-99, SVS Press 1986.
That We Must Seek a True Physician of the Soul
"7.Seek out one who is, if you will, an intercessor, physician and a
good counselor. A good counselor, that he may propose ways of
repentance which agree with good advice. A physician that he may
prescribe medicine which is appropriate for each of your wounds, and
finally an intercessor, that he may propitiate God by standing before
Him face to face and offering Him prayer and intercession on your
behalf. Do not try to go and find some flatterer or slave to his belly
and make him your counselor and ally lest, accomodating himself to
your will and not to what God wants, he teach you what you want to
hear and leave you in reality an unreconciled enemy. Nor should you
choose an inexperienced physycian lest, by extreme severity and
untimely operations and cauterizations, he plunge you into the depths
of despair or - and this is the worst possible course - allow you by
inappropriate sympathy to think that you are getting better when in
fact you are still ailing, and so deliver you over to what you had
hoped to avoid, I mean to eternal punishment. For this course of
action does no more than furnish us with the illness that is already
killing the soul. From 'St Symeon the New Theologian On the Mystical Life:
The Ethical Discourses' by Alexander Golitzin : Letter on Confession, p.193,
St Vladimir Seminary Press 2007.
I am held captive by darkness and I see the truth
which is nothing but certain hope.
What kind, therefore, of hope?
Such as eyes have not seen.
In what does it consist?
It is life, which every man desires.
But this life, what is it if not God, the Creator of all?
Love Him and hate the world!
The world is death for what does it possess
that is lasting?
You know my poverty, my abandonment,
You know my isolation, You see my weakness and infirmity.
O God, who have made me,
You do not ignore me, but You have a concern for me
and You know all things.
Look at my humble heart, look at my contrite heart.
Look at me as I approach you in despair, my God.
And from on high give me Your grace, give me Your Divine Spirit!"
From Hymns of Divine Love by St Symeon the New Theologian, Introduction
and Translation by George A. Maloney S.J. p.287 and 209, Dimension Books,
Denville, New Jersey