Thursday, June 10, 2010

Saint Symeon and insight into the nature of the judgement of God

Image from here.

Read Saint Symeon's entry from this blog here.

Discourse V, On Penitence, begins thus:

That it is not enough for us, in order to purify the soul, merely to distribute our possessions and to strip ourselves of our goods without afflicting ourselves. Of Adam's exile, and how, if he had repented after his sin, he would not have been driven out of paradise. How great a benefit his repentance effected after his fall. Of the Lord's second Coming and the condemnation of sinners. Finally, a reproof of those who live in malice and hypocrisy.

This primer paragraph lays out what is to follow in this remarkable discourse.

This particular section grabbed my attention.  Now bear in mind, this in context is in the midst of the Saint's explanation on the grave necessity for repentance for all men and that at the judgement, there will be no room for excuse.  Perfectly will each of us understand the just, good and holy judgement of God on ourselves.

In fact, after this section, he will turn his attention to the condition of the monk and how pitiable it will be when some monks, who adopted voluntary poverty will see go into the Kingdom of Heaven men and women who enjoyed marriage, men and women who enjoyed the fine things in life, etc.  His argument must not be taken to mean that only persons in certain conditions or circumstances may be saved.  This is simply not true.  He explains that for the monk, it is his renunciation of "the world" that gains him victory.  He then explains that "the world" consists not in possesions or things in and of themselves, because we all make use of these things: gold, houses, animals, etc(including monks, though for them, ideally, under different circumstances).[1]

"The world" is sin, and attachment to things and passions.[2]  Further on in this section in Discourse V he explains how saints have spent their time in the midst of these things and yet complete their lives in perfect holiness.  He then quotes Paul,

"The form of this world is passing away, so that those who have wives should be as though they had none, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it"(1 Cor. 7:29).[3]

[ § 15. HOW ALL CONDITIONS OF MEN WILL BE JUDGED. ]*note: the heading titles in this book have been adapted from the French translation as these are not in the original Greek

 To the patriarchs He will likewise oppose the sainted patriarchs: John of the golden words [i.e., Chrysostom], John the Almsgiver, Ignatius, Tarasius, Methodius, and the rest, who not only by word but by deed were the reflection of the true God. Against the metropolitans He will set the saintly metropolitans: Basil, Gregory his brother and his namesake the Wonderworker, Ambrose, and Nicholas. In short, each patriarch, each metropolitan, each bishop, God will judge by the apostles and the holy Fathers who were illustrious before them in each metropolitan see and diocese. He will set them all opposite each other when you hear Him say, "The sheep on the right hand, the goats to the left" (Mt. 25:33). He will say, "The place where these have worshiped and served Me, is it not the same as where you have spent your lives? Did you not sit on their thrones? Why did you not imitate their life and conduct as well? Why have you not been afraid to handle and eat Me, the spotless and undefiled, with unclean hands and yet more unclean souls? Have you not at all shuddered, have you not trembled? Why have you wasted what belonged to the poor on your own pleasures, your friends and your relatives? Why have you sold me, like Judas, for gold and silver? Why, when you had bought me as if I were a worthless slave, did you exploit Me to serve the passions of the flesh? Even as you have failed to honor Me, so I will not spare you. Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity, depart!" (Lk. 13:27).

Thus fathers will be judged by fathers, friend and relatives by friends and relatives, brothers by brothers, slaves and free men by slaves and free men respectively, the rich by those who were rich and the poor by those who were poor, the married by those who have excelled in the married state, the unmarried by those who have lived unmarried. In short, on the awesome day of judgment every sinful man will see one who is like him opposite to him in eternal life, in that unutterable light, and will be judged by him. What do I mean? As every sinner looks on him who is like him, the king upon the king, the ruler upon the ruler, the impenitent whoremonger on the whoremonger who repented, the poor man on the poor man, and the slave on the slave, he will remember that the other one was also a man, with the same soul, the same hands, the same eyes, in short with all other things in common, the same kind of life and the same rank, the same occupation, the same resources. Yet, since he was unwilling to imitate him, his mouth will at once be stopped (Ps.107:42) and he will remain without excuse (Rom. 1:20), without a word to speak! When seculars see seculars and sinful kings see holy kings on the right hand, when those who bear the burden of life see rich men and those who bore that burden among the saints, and all those who will be in torments see men like themselves in the kingdom of heaven, then they will be put to shame and find themselves without excuse, just as that rich man saw Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham while he himself was roasting in the fire (Lk. 16:23).[4]

[1] Classics of Western Spirituality, Symeon the New Theologian-The Discourses, Discourse V: section 17, 728-734

[2] Ibid., 735 and 736

[3] Ibid., 757-764

[4] Ibid., section 15, 639-689


Constantine said...

Thank you Sophocles.

Andreas said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Sophocles said...

A wonderful discourse in the whole of a wonderful book.


I will make a short jaunt to St. Anthony's in Florence this Thursday and Friday. Just throwing it out there.

Andreas said...

I hope you have a fruitful visit. I'll be working (and I live in VA, which doesn't help :)), so I doubt we'll cross paths!

Anonymous said...

a new must read for me thanx bro

Sophocles said...


You're welcome.

Uh, who are you?