Authentic Christian Mysticism: Fighting off your own Monks!

St. Symeon the New Theologian


The Discourses are the collection of St. Symeon’s catechetical sermons given during morning prayer to the monks in his monastery before 1022 AD.

The best story I have read so far about St. Symeon is about him delivering these sermons. One morning a group of 30 monks rose up against him “like enraged dogs” and tried to lay hands on their abbot. St. Symeon was able, by the grace of God, to repel them and keep them at a distance. They ran out of the church breaking the windows as they left. The patriarch sided with Symeon and the rebel monks were sent into exile!

What were in those sermons that could make monks get crazy and try to beat up their abbot? I don’t know but I am getting ready to find out.

The forward to the Paulist Press copy I am reading described The Discourses this way:

They are marked by the saint’s burning conviction that the Christian life must be more than a routine observance of a rule, however strict that rule and exact its observance. To be at all meaningful there must be the personal experience of the presence and the power of the living Christ. The Discourses, page xvii, The Classics of Western Spirituality.

In the introduction it is noted that St. Symeon called himself the “enthusiastic zealot” who burned with a holy zeal to call Christians back to an authentic mysticism, which he considered available to all baptized Christians. St. Symeon shared his own mystical experiences because he felt that God was asking him to do so. Here is his a portion of response to accusations:

We have not written these things for the sake of exhibitionism – may God who has had mercy on us this far not allow it! We have written them because we are mindful of God’s gifts… How can we be silent before such an abundance of gifts, or out of ingratitude bury the talent that has been given to us (Mt. 25:18), like ungrateful and evil servants?

What did he do in exile? He rebuilt a chapel that had laid in ruins and built a small monastic community where he had more solitude than ever before. When the patriarch came to offer him a position as archbishop he said, “no thanks!”

Fights off his own monks, speaks with a personal love for Jesus, shares his own mystical experiences with his monks, goes into exile and likes it better… you have got to love St. Symeon!



Filed under Flames of Wisdom, Poems, Books and Reviews

3 responses to “Authentic Christian Mysticism: Fighting off your own Monks!

  1. s-p

    Wow… its sure a far cry from what people rise up against these days……

  2. You are certainly right, s-p! It is hard to even fathom that degree of intensity and urgency being attached to our Orthodox Christian beliefs in this day and age. I am intrigued now by those sermons, and by St. Symeon himself. Thanks for sharing this, Father James!

  3. Great article on devotion. We need more stories like the one you told. It is nice to hear of people letting go of small things for the expanded spiritual experience.

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