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
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.