St Symeon the New Theologian on The Life-Giving Death of Christ


This Discourse by St Symeon the New Theologian, written in the 10th and 11th centuries, discusses the implications of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. It calls the reader to examine themselves and the state of their soul in the light of the perfect virtue and knowledge that were made clear through Christ.

Reflecting on Christ’s death on the Cross, St Symeon considers that we too should struggle spiritually even to the point of dying to achieve a single virtue. This level of spiritual warfare is something that might strike us as foreign, but this is required to ensure that ‘our words are not empty words.’ But which virtue is worth such a price? St Symeon prioritises humility above all other virtues, writing that if someone ‘does not acquire this virtue, then neither will he obtain any of the others.’ After achieving humility through repentance, only then can the Christian truly acquire the other virtues and allow Christ to reside within them.

The person carrying Christ inside their heart is described as ‘more blessed and more glorious than any emperor’, yet they cannot rest on their laurels. They are required to be watchful lest they lose the grace of God which is within them, and to avoid reducing this grace to something rational that can be maintained through specific works or spiritual exercises.

The second half of this discourse focuses on one possible result of the union with God made possible as a result of the Crucifixion and Resurrection – the priesthood. St Symeon has strong views on this, urging all who receive thoughts of such a calling to first be shepherds of their own soul before ministering to others. To conclude, St Symeon reminds his readers that following the Resurrection we now have a choice between life and death, and St Symeon exhorts the readers to avoid all things that take us away from life in Christ.

Source: Lychnos April 2022 /May 2022