The Monk Simeon the New Theologian

Commemorated on March 12

      The Monk Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 946 in the city of Galata (Paphlagonia), and he received the basic secular education at Constantinople. His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while the youth occupied an high position at the imperial court. But at age 25 he felt the draw towards monastic life, and he fled his house and withdrew to the Studite monastery, where he entered into obedience under the then reknown elder Simeon the Reverent. The basic ascetic deed of the monk was the unceasing Jesus Prayer in its short form: "Lord, have mercy!" For greater prayerful concentration he constantly sought out solitude, and even at liturgy he stood separately from the brethren, and he often remained alone at night in the church; in order to accustom himself to mindfulness concerning death, he would spend nights in the graveyard. The fruit of his fervour was a special condition of ecstasy: in these moments the Holy Spirit in the form of a luminous cloud descended upon him and made oblivious to his sight everything surrounding. With time he attained to a constant high spiritual enlightened awareness, which was especially evident when he served the Liturgy.
      In roughly the year 980 the Monk Simeon was made hegumen of the monastery of Saint Mamant and continued in this dignity for 25 years. He set in order the neglected management of the monastery and restored order to its church.
      The Monk Simeon combined kindliness with strictness and steadfast observance of the Gospel commands. Thus, for example, when his favourite disciple Arsenios killed ravens which were pecking away at moist bread, the hegumen made him tie the dead birds to a rope, and wear this "necklace" on his neck and stand in the courtyard. In the monastery of Saint Mamant for the atoning of his sin was a certain bishop from Rome, unrepentingly having murdered his young nephew, and the Monk Simeon assiduously brought him around to good and spiritual attentiveness.
      The strict monastic discipline, which the Monk Simeon constantly strove for, led to a strong dissatisfaction amongst the monastic brethren. One time after liturgy, the particularly irked among the brethren pounced on him and nearly killed him. When the Constantinople patriarch expelled them from the monastery and wanted to hand them over to the city authorities, the monk obtained pardon for them and aided them to live in the world.
      In about the year 1005, the Monk Simeon handed over the hegumen position to Arsenios, while he himself settled nearby the monastery in peace. He composed there his theological works, fragments of which entered into the 5 volumed "Philokalia" ("Dobrotoliubie"). The chief theme of his works is the hidden activity of a spiritual perfecting, with struggle against the passions and sinful thoughts. He wrote discursive instructions for monks, "Practical Theological Chapters", "A Tract on Three Forms of Prayers", and "A Tract on Faith". Moreover, the Monk Simeon was an outstanding churchly poet. To him belong the "Hymns of Divine Love" about 70 poems, filled with profound prayerful ponderings.
      The teachings of the Monk Simeon about the new man, about the "divinisation of the flesh", with which he wanted to replace the teachings concerning the "mortification of the flesh" (for which also they termed him the New Theologian), were difficult for his contemporaries to assimilate. Many of his teachings sounded for them unacceptable and strange. This led to conflict with Constantinople church authorities, and the Monk Simeon was subjected to banishment. He withdrew to the coasts of the Bosphorus and founded there a monastery of Saint Marina.
      The saint reposed peacefully to God in the year 1021. While still during his life he received a gift of wonderworking. Numerous miracles occurred also after his death; one of them was a miraculous discovery of his image. His Life (Vita) was written by his cell-attendant and disciple, the Monk Nikita Stethatos.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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