Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Symeon the New Theologian, fully Saint Symeon the New Theologian NULL

Turkish Byzantine Greek Orthodox Mystical Monk and Poet

"The more a man enters the light of understanding, the more aware he is of his own ignorance. And when the light reveals itself fully and unites with him and draws him into itself, so that he finds himself alone in a sea of light, then he is emptied of all knowledge and immersed in absolute knowing."

"When a man walks into the sea up to his knees or waist, he can see the water all around him. But when he dives into the water, he can no longer see anything outside, and he knows only that his whole body is in the water. This is what happens to those who plunge into the vision of God."

"I grieve, I exhaust my heart, I pine for you when I bring to mind that we have a Lord so bountiful and compassionate that simply if we have faith in Him He grants us gifts beyond our imagination—gifts we have never heard or thought of and that ‘man’s heart has not grasped.’ Yet we, like beasts, prefer the earth and the things of the earth that through His mercy it yields in order to supply our bodily needs…This is our purpose, for this we were created and brought forth: that after having received lesser blessings in this world we may through our gratitude to God and our love for Him enjoy great and eternal blessings in the life to come. But, alas, far from having any concern for the blessings in store, we are even ungrateful for those at hand, and we are like the demons, or—if truth be told—even worse. Thus we deserve greater punishment than they, for we have been given greater blessings. For we know that God became for our sakes like us in everything except sin, so that He might deliver us from delusion and free us from sin. But what is the use of saying this? The truth is that we believe in all these things only as words, while we deny them where our acts are concerned."

"From sullied lips, from an abominable heart, from an unclean tongue, out of a polluted soul, receive my prayer."

"A person who suffers bitterly when slighted or insulted should recognize from this that he still harbors the ancient serpent in his breast. If he quietly endures the insult or responds with great humility, he weakens the serpent and lessens its hold. But if he replies acrimoniously or brazenly, he gives it strength to pour its venom into his heart and to feed mercilessly on his inward parts. In this way the serpent becomes increasingly powerful; it destroys his souls strength and his attempts to set himself right, compelling him to live for sin and to be completely dead to righteousness."

"Do not say that 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."

"Blessed are they who have the eye of their intellect ever open and with prayer see the light and converse with it mouth to mouth, for they are of equal honor with the angels and, dare I say it, have and shall become higher than the angels, for the latter sing praises while the former intercede. And, if they have become and are ever becoming such while still living in the body and impeded by the corruption of the flesh, what shall they be after the Resurrection and after they have received that spiritual and incorruptible body? Certainly, they shall not be merely the equals of angels, but indeed like the angels' Master, as it is written: "But we know," he says, "that when He appears we shall be like Him.""

"Our holy fathers have renounced all other spiritual work and concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is, on guarding the heart, convinced that, through this practice, they would easily attain every other virtue, whereas without it not a single virtue can be firmly established."

"O grandeur of ineffable glory! O excess of love! He Who embraces all things makes His home within a mortal corruptible man, He by Whose indwelling might all things are governed, and the man becomes as a woman heavy with child. O astonishing miracle and incomprehensible deeds and mysteries of the incomprehensible God! A man carries God consciously within himself as light, carries Him Who has brought all things into being and created them, including the one who carries Him now. He carries Him within as a treasure inexpressible, unspeakable, without quality, quantity, or form, immaterial, shapeless, yet with form in beauty inexplicable, altogether simple, like light, Him Who transcends all light. And, clenching his hands at his sides, this man walks in our midst and is ignored by everyone who surrounds him. Who can then adequately explain the joy of such a man? Will he not be more blessed and more glorious than any emperor? Than whom, or than how many visible worlds, will he not be more wealthy? And in what shall such a man ever be lacking? Truly, in no way shall he lack any of God's good things."

"Nearly all reject the weak and poor as objects of disgust; an earthly king cannot bear the sight of them, rulers turn away from them, while the rich ignore them and pass them by when they meet them as though they did not exist; nobody thinks it desirable to associate with them. But God, who is served by myriads of powers without number, who “upholds the universe by the word of His power,” whose majesty is beyond anyone’s endurance, has not disdained to become the Father, the Friend, the Brother of those rejected ones. He willed to become incarnate so that He might become “like unto us in all things except for sin” and make us to share in His glory and His kingdom. What stupendous riches of His great goodness! What an ineffable condescension on the part of our master and our God."

"If, when all visible reality has passed away, nothing shall exist but God, who is and ever shall be, then those who share in the riches of his grace within this world are already enjoying their riches of the age to come, even though they are still on earth. They groan in the shadows under the weight of their burden."

"Provided they live a worthy life, both those who choose to dwell in the midst of noise and hubbub and those who dwell in monasteries, mountains and caves can achieve salvation. Solely because of their faith in Him God bestows great blessings on them. Hence those who because of their laziness have failed to attain salvation will have no excuse to offer on the day of judgment. For He who promised to grant us salvation simply on account of our faith in Him is not a liar."

"The roof of any house stands upon the foundations and the rest of the structure. The foundations themselves are laid in order to carry the roof. This is both useful and necessary, for the roof cannot stand without the foundations and the foundations are absolutely useless without the roof—no help to any living creature. In the same way the grace of God is preserved by the practice of the commandments, and the observance of these commandments is laid down like foundations through the gift of God. The grace of the Spirit cannot remain with us without the practice of the commandments, but the practice of the commandments is of no help or advantage to us without the grace of God."

"Sit in silence and alone. Bend your head. Close your eyes. Breathe ever more quietly. With the imagination look inside your heart. Carry your intellect, that is your thought, out of your head and into your heart… Try to drive away your thoughts. Keep restful patience and repeat this process very frequently."

"What is the aim of the incarnate dispensation of God's Word, preached in all the Holy Scriptures but which we, who read them, do not know? The only aim is that, having entered into what is our own, we should participate in what is His."

"Woe to those who say, "When shall the day of the Lord come?" and they don't care to know and understand that day. For the Lord's Presence in the faithful has already come, and is continuously coming, and to all those who wish for it, has arrived and is firm."

"When a man walks in the fear of God he knows no fear, even if he were to be surrounded by wicked 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 Word in wisdom."