Reviews of Orthodox books: Symeon the New Theologian

As promised, here are 2 more Orthodox books I recently read, and I will soon present another one.

When I read Larchet’s book, I ran of course into my most favorite Orthodox Father, Gregory Palamas, but I was truck also by the references to Saint Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022). Here again, I had read his Hymns in French decades ago, so after having miraculously found a copy of its out-of-print English version in the bookstore of a monastery, I decided it was time to re-read it in English:

Hymns of Divine Love The Mystic of Fire and Light

Hymns of Divine Love, by St Symeon the New Theologian (translated by George Maloney)

Symeon has always attracted me because of his experiences with the Divine Light. What’s most remarkable about his writings is the personal aspect of it: exceptionally modern for his time (did you see his dates??), he shared really what happened to him, in a very deep, intimate, and sensual (I mean related to the senses) way, totally unusual for his time –no wonder so many, especially among the hierarchs, did not understand him and gave him all gives of troubles, including exiling him.

Here is an excerpt of Hymn 40:

hymn 40 by symeon

And then I read another by Maloney on Symeon I had not heard about before:

The Mystic of Fire and Light: St Symeon the New Theologian, by George Maloney

Maloney presents here the life and main ideas of the saint. He illustrates his points thanks to may quotations. It is an excellent short book, a great introduction if you don’t know Symeon and are curious to discover him.

Here are some passages I really enjoy, and they will give you an idea of the man:

symeon p5

symeon p11

symeon p12

symeon p14

symeon p53

symeon p54

symeon p174

symeon p183

DID YOU KNOW SYMEON BEFORE THIS POST?
IF YES, WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE HYMN?
IF NOT, WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN HIM?

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4 thoughts on “Reviews of Orthodox books: Symeon the New Theologian

  1. I am somewhat acquainted with Simeon the New Theologian, especially his mysticism of light and personal experience of communion with the Spirit. I was most interested to learn of his emphasis on specific consciousness of the Baptism of the Spirit. This wish for conscious awareness of saving communion drove John Wesley during the early years of his preaching, and it was only his Aldersgate experience, accompanied with the inner sensations of warmth and light, that reassured him of his salvation in the Holy Spirit. I wish that more people knew that Simeon is a direct ancestor to the Western mystical saints such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, right down to evangelical preachers like Wesley and others. Thank you for sharing these wonderful passages of Simeon’s hymn and this text about Simeon–I will seeking them out to read more!

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    • yes his big thing was that if you are not aware of God’s Grace in you, your spiritual life is null. He was opposing the experiential knowledge to the intellectual knowledge – a view not liked by the bishops of his time… I didn’t know about Wesley’s experience, thanks for the reference, I’ll look into it. another evidence that the work of the Spirit is so much broader than our petty narrow divisions!

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    • sorry, I don’t. I have an old out of print copy that I found totally by chance in a monastery book store! Incidentally, I had read Symeon’s hymns in the Greek/French bilingual edition (Sources Chrétiennes) and had copied by hand tons of passages. So when I reread this work in English this time, I discovered that Maloney based a lot his translation on the French translation!

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