Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Life and Works

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

A CONTRITE PRAYER TO THE ALMIGHTY GOD

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O God in the highest heaven and Lord of mercy, we bless You, for You always do great and inscrutable things for us, things that are glorious and extraordinary and beyond numbering. You provide sleep for us to give us rest from our infirmities and from the many labors of our toilsome life. We thank You for not destroying us together with our sins, for while we were lying in sinful desperation, You showed Your Loving-kindness as usual and raised us up to glorify Your Kingdom. For this reason we beseech Your unimaginable goodness: Illumine the eyes of our understanding and raise our mind from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with praises for You, that we may be enabled without distraction to sing and chant and confess to You, who are the God glorified in all and by all -- the unbegotten Father, together with the Only-Begotten Son and the All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):

On October 12th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saints Jeventius and Maximus at Antioch; Saint Martyr, Bishop of Tours; Saint Symeon the New Theologian; Holy Maryrs Domnina of Anazarbus and Anastasia of Rome; Holy Martyrs Probus, Tarachos, and Andronicos at Tarsus; Saint Maximilian, Bishop of Noricum; Saint Theodotos, Bishop of Epesus; Saint Jason, Bishop of Damascus; Saint Euphrosyne the Faster of Siberia; Saints Aphilochius, Macarius, Tarasius, and Theodosios of Glushitsa Monastery; Saint Theosevius the God-bearer of Arsinoe in Cyprus; Holy Martyrs Andomachos and Diodoros; Holy Martyrs Malfethos and Anthea; 70 Holy Martyrs beheaded; "Jerusalem" holy Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, Holy Fathers, Holy Confessors, Holy Theologians, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 2:12-15
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 7:36-50

INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:

"The path of Christ is somewhat difficult, but with patience, will, and humility one makes progress. It involves tribulation and suffering, without which it is not possible for one to find the path open for the benefit of his soul." (Saint Raphael of the Greek Island of Lesvos)

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THE LIFE OF SAINT SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN

Commemorated October 12

One of the most beloved Holy Fathers is Saint Symeon the New Theologian, who was the Egoumenos (Abbot) of Saint Mamas in Constantinople. He is one of three great and Holy Fathers whom the Orthodox Church has granted the title of "Theologian", because he is one of a few, in the history of Christianity, to 'know" God. The other two Theologians are Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (390 A.D.).

Saint Symeon was born in Galatia in Paphlagonia (Asia Minor) in 949 A.D. His parents, Basal and Theophana, were Byzantine provincial nobles. Saint Symeon received only the basics of a primary Greek school education until he was about eleven years old. He finished his secondary education at the age of 14 in the court of the two brother emperors Basil and Constantine Porphyrogenetoi. At 14, he met Saint Symeon the Studite, who became his spiritual father and who led him into the life of asceticism and prayer. Although he wanted to enter the famous monastery of the Stoudion at the age of 14, his spiritual father had him wait until he turned 27. During this period of preparation, Saint Symeon's elder continued to counsel and guide him, preparing him gradually for the monastic life even in the midst of worldly cares. Saint Symeon occupied himself with the management of a patrician's household and possibly entered the service of his emperor as a diplomat and a senator. While 'busy in the world' he also strove to live a monk's life in the evenings, spending his time in night vigils and reading the spiritual works of Mark the Hermit and Diadochos of Photike. One of his elder's advice was, "if you desire to have always a soul-saving guidance, pay heed to your conscience and without fail to do what it will instill in you." 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 Saint Simeon the Pious, who had given him St. Mark the Ascetic to read.

Seven years after this vision, Saint Symeon entered the monastery. There he increased his fasting and vigilance, and learned to renounce his own will.

The Enemy (Satan) of our salvation stirred up the brethren of the monastery against St. Symeon, who was indifferent to the praises or reproaches of others. Because of the increased discontent in the monastery, St. Symeon 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 Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers, as well as conversation with holy Gerondes (Elders).

Around the year 980 AD, Saint Symeon was made Egoumenos (Abbot) of the monastery of Saint 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.

There are many books, in English, on the wealth of work by Saint Symeon. These include "Symeon the New Theologian, the Discourses" translated by C.J. DeCatanzaro for Paulist Press; "The First-Created Man, Seven Homilies" translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose for St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; and "Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Life-Spirituality-Doctrine, in the Light of Christ" by Archbishop Basil Krivocheine for SVS Press.

Saint Symeon's words speak to us today, even though he lived a thousand years ago. Of special note is his emphasizes to return to the essence or spirit of the early Orthodox Church, and not merely depend on or shelter under the outward forms of Church life. His burning conviction is that the Christian life must be more than just a routine or habit, but rather it should be a personal experience of the living Christ. Saint Symeon urges both monks and baptized Orthodox Christians back to a living spiritual experience of the Triune, calling himself the "enthusiastic zealot' who has personal, mystical experiences. His spiritual emphasis is, however, misused by many 'charismatic Christians' and others today who claim to have 'gifts of the Holy Spirit', which are probably emotional or 'scholastic' rather than spiritual. The following is a quote from Saint Symeon on Spirituality.

"Do not say it is impossible to receive the Spirit of God. Do not say that it is possible to be made whole without Him. Do not say that one can possess Him without knowing it. Do not say that God does not manifest Himself to man. Do not say that men cannot perceive the divine Light, or that it is impossible in this age! Never is it found to be impossible, my friends. On the contrary, it is entirely possible when one desires it".

Also:

"When a man walks in the fear of God he knows no fear, even if he were to be surrounded by evil men. He has the fear of God within him and wears the invincible armor of faith. This makes him strong and able to take on anything, even things which seem difficult or impossible to most people. Such a man is like a giant surrounded by monkeys, or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes. He goes forward trusting in the Lord and the constancy of his will to strike and paralyze his foes. He wields the blazing club of the Logos (Word) in wisdom." (The Practical and Theological Chapters)

Saint Symeon the New Theologian died in 1022 AD. Since March 12 falls during Great Lent, St. Symeon's Feast is transferred to October 12th.

THE THREE WAYS OF ATTENTION AND PRAYER

(Introduction)

There are three ways of attention and prayer, by which the soul can be lifted and become spiritually exhausted, or crumble and perish. If these three ways are used appropriately and at the right time, the soul will be lifted, whilst if they are used unreasonably and at the wrong time, the soul will perish. Attention therefore should be tied and inseparable to prayer, in the way that the body is tied and inseparable to the soul. Attention should have the lead and mind for enemies as a guard, and fight sin, and resist evil thoughts of the soul. It should be then succeeded by prayer, which will destroy all those evil thoughts which attention fought against earlier, since attention alone is not able to do this.

It is this war of attention and prayer on which both life and death of the soul depend. By attention that we keep our prayer and therefore we progress: if we do not have attention to keep it clear and we leave it unguarded, then it is infected by evil thoughts and we become wicked and hopeless. Hence, the ways of attention and prayer are three, we ought to explain the features of each one and leave the choice to whoever may wish to find salvation.

(The first way of attention and prayer.)

The features of the first way are these: one stands to pray by raising his hands towards the sky together with his eyes and mind. He imagines divine concepts, the good things of Heaven, the armies of the Holy Angels, the residences of the Saints and, in short, he gathers in his mind all that he has heard from the Holy Scripture. He recalls them in the time of prayer looking at the sky, and he exhorts his soul to what seems to be love and eros of God. Sometimes he even has tears and cries. In this way his soul gradually becomes proud without realizing it, thinking that what he does is by the grace of God's compassion for him. Hence he pleads God to always grant him worthy of such deeds which are, however, signs of error...

(The second way of attention and prayer)

The second way is this: when someone concentrates his mind in himself, detaching it from all that is earthly, guarding his senses, and gathering his thoughts so that they are not scattered to the vain things of the world. Sometimes he examines his thoughts and sometimes he pays attention to the words of the prayer he recites. Sometimes he returns to his thoughts that were trapped by the Devil and were drawn to that which is evil and vain, and sometimes with much effort and struggle he comes back to himself, after being defeated and possessed by some weakness...

(The third way of attention and prayer)

The third way is indeed strange and difficult to explain, whilst to those who are not aware of it, it is often incomprehensible, appearing unreal and impossible that any such thing can happen. This is because in these days the third way is not found in many, but rather in very few. As I understand, this virtue abandoned by us together with obedience, since it is the obedience one shows to his spiritual father which makes one truly free, leaving all the cares to him and staying away from the struggles of this world, whilst being a diligent artisan of this third way. (That is, if one finds a real spiritual father who has no error). Thus he who dedicates himself and all the care to God and the spiritual father, by real obedience is no longer living his own life where he does his own wishes, but is free from any struggle of the world or his body...

The beginning of the third way is not by looking up to the sky, raising the hands, having your mind in heaven and asking for help from there. As we have said, these are of the first way and they are false. Nor is it to guard the senses with the mind and concentrate exclusively on this, whilst neither being attentive nor seeing inner wars of the soul conducted by the enemies. These are all of the second way. He who uses them is trapped by the demons and is unable to revenge those who trapped him, whilst the enemies are always fighting him both secretly and openly, making him proud and vain.

But if you, my friend, if you seek your salvation start in his way: after the perfect obedience which we said you should have to your spiritual father, you should then conduct all your deeds with a clear conscience, as if you had God in front of you, for conscience can never be clear without obedience. You should keep your conscience clear towards these things: God, spiritual father, other people and earthly things. Towards God, it is an obligation to keep your conscience clear by avoiding the things you are aware that He neither likes nor give Him any joy. Towards your spiritual father you should do the things he orders you to do, doing nothing more and nothing less, living according to his plan and wish. As for the other people, you should keep your conscience clear by not doing to them any of the things you hate and do not wish them to do to you. Towards the earthly it is your obligation to restrain yourself from abuses, using them all appropriately, food as well as drinking and clothes. In short, you should do everything as if you had God in front of you, making sure that your conscience does not restrain nor condemn you for not doing something right. This is the beginning of the true and firm route of the third way of attention and prayer.

The third way of attention and prayer is then this: the mind should guard the heart in the time of prayer and always stay inside it. From there, from the depths of the heart, it should then lift up the prayers to God once it tries inside the heart and tastes and is soothed--as the Lord is Good!--then the mind will never want to leave the place of the heart. It will there repeat the words of Saint Peter the Apostle: "It is wonderful for us to be here!" [St. Matt. 17:4; St. Mark 9:5; St. Luke 9:33]. Then it will always wish to look inside the heart, remaining there and pushing aside and expelling all the concepts which are planted by the Devil. To those who have not realized this work of salvation and remain unaware of it, this will most of the times seem very hard and unpleasant. But those who have tasted its sweetness and enjoyed the pleasure inside the depths of their hearts, they all cry together with Saint Paul: "What could ever come between us and the love of God" (Romans 8:38-39). [Source; Myriobiblos: Online Library of the Church of Greece]

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George