Orthodox Patristic & Church Fathers Works & Writings (93)
“It shines on us without evening, without change, without alteration, without form. It speaks, works, lives, gives life and changes into light those whom it illuminates. We bear witness that ‘God is light,’ and those to whom it has been granted to see Him have all beheld Him as light. Those who have received Him as light, do so because the light of His glory goes before Him, and it is impossible for Him to appear without light. Those who have not seen His light have not seen Him, for He is the light, and those who have not received the light have not yet received grace. Those who have received grace have received the light of God and have received God, even as Christ Himself, who is the light, has said, ‘I will live in them and move among them.’”
—St. Symeon the New Theologian
Father George Maloney in his Introduction to this volume focuses directly on the special importance of St. Symeon and on how similar the religious situation of his era is to our own. “Concretely, the battle of two opposing views of theology centered around St. Symeon and his mystical apophatic approach of the experiencing of God immanently present to the individual, as opposed to the ‘head trip’ scholastic theology as represented by Archbishop Stephen of Nicomedia, the official theologian at the court of Constantinople. Stephen represented the abstract, philosophical type of theologizing while Symeon strove to restore theology to its pristine mystical tendency as a wisdom infused by the Holy Spirit into the Christian after he had been thoroughly purified through a rigorous asceticism and a state of constant repentance.”
This great spiritual master of Eastern Christianity was an abbot, spiritual director of renown, theologian and important church reformer. These Discourses which form the central work of his life were preached by St. Symeon to his monks during their morning Matins ritual. They treat such basic spiritual themes as repentance, detachment, renunciation, the works of charity, impassiblity, remembrance of death, sorrow for sins, the practice of God`s commandments, mystical union with the indwelling Trinity, faith and contemplation.
Blessed be the Child who today delights Bethlehem. Blessed be the Newborn Who today made the humanity young again. Blessed be the Fruit Who Bowed Himself down for our hunger. Blessed be the Gracious One Who suddenly enriched all of our poverty and filled our need.
St. Ephrem the Syrian
St. Ephrem (c.306-373) was born in the Mesopotamian city of Nisibis toward the end of the third century. An outpost of the Roman Empire, Nisibis and its Christian citizens were to be formed by the reign of Constantine and by the doctrines of the Council of Nicea. There, in the context of a large and sophisticated Jewish population and numerous Gnostic sects, Ephrem sought to defend Orthodox Nicene Christianity. His teaching and writing made him an influential voice in the life of Syriac Christianity through the peaceful years of Constantine`s patronage, the years of persecution after 361 under Emperor Julian, and the conflict between the Persians and the Romans which ultimately forced St. Ephrem to move to Edessa where he stayed until his death in 373.
It was as a poet that St. Ephrem made his greatest impact. Writing in isosyllabic verses called madrashe, he attained a literary brilliance that won him a place of prominence not only in his own tradition, but also in the Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, and Arabic traditions as well. His hymns, praised in the West by Jerome, had a formative influence on the development of the medieval religious drama in Europe. Blending Greek forms with his native style, he wove a highly crafted poetry of rich symbolism, attempting to fit the events of his day into a cosmic framework of God`s redemptive act in Christ.
Here, in a fresh and lively translation, are the Hymns on the Nativity, Hymns Against Julian, and the Hymns on Virginity and the Symbols of the Lord in which that voice may be heard closely and appreciated, wondered at, and enjoyed.