What is the Catholic view of Symeon the New Theologian?


#1

What is the Catholic view of Symeon the New Theologian? What is considered unorthodox of his from a Latin standpoint?


#2

Apparently Catholicism has no serious problem with him himself. Maybe some with some of his writings, if he wasn't into the Filioque, but I don't know much about that.

Anyway, here's Pope Benedict's talk on Symeon the New Theologian. It's part of a series of audience talks on great medieval theologians.


#3

I know he was influenced by the fifth century writer and bishop Diadochus of Photike.

This quote is from wikipedia

"Theologian" was not applied to Symeon in the modern academic sense of theological study, but to recognize someone who spoke from personal experience of the vision of God. One of his principal teachings was that humans could and should experience theoria (literally "contemplation", or direct experience of God).

Diadochus wrote of gnosis, or direct knowledge of God through experience. I struggled with my own infamiliarity with how these words were used - theology and gnosis - and asked about it recently in this thread in the Eastern forum. They turn out to be synonyms for what a western Catholic would call contemplation.

I have no formal answer to the original question of how Roman Catholics view Symeon, nor Diadochus, nor any of their contemporaries. They seem to be more important to Byzantine spirituality. But my own opinion is that this whole school of thought can be thought of as an Eastern Catholic expression of Western contemplative prayer along the lines of St. John of the Cross, just expressed a different way. That is probably a huge generalization and does a great injustice to all mentioned so please forgive me there - I am an amateur.

The only place I have found these author's works in relation to western Catholicism is in relation to Benedictine and Cistercian monasticism, and this in itself gives me reason to believe that they are orthodox, even if they are little understood or appreciated in the West. I am actually >this< close to odering a book titled "Symeon the New Theologian: The Theological and Practical Treatises and the Three Theological Discourses" from Cistercian Publications, and might do so this evening after I pay my bills. :rolleyes:

I suggest posting this question in the Eastern forum. I'd like to hear more.

-Tim-


#4

By the way, just curious... What is your interest?

How do you come about being interested in Symeon's work?

-Tim-


#5

[quote="TimothyH, post:4, topic:272618"]
By the way, just curious... What is your interest?

How do you come about being interested in Symeon's work?

-Tim-

[/quote]

My interest is due to my self-teaching in the realms of theology within all three of the major Christian traditions. I find in Eastern Orthodox spirituality a distinctly heart-based spirituality, very individualistic. I prefer actually the Eastern Christian expressions of the inner life to the Western by and large.


#6

[quote="Mintaka, post:2, topic:272618"]
Apparently Catholicism has no serious problem with him himself. Maybe some with some of his writings, if he wasn't into the Filioque, but I don't know much about that.

Anyway, here's Pope Benedict's talk on Symeon the New Theologian. It's part of a series of audience talks on great medieval theologians.

[/quote]

I just read the talk which you linked and immediately orderd the book of which I spoke.

Thanks!

-Tim-


#7

[quote="TimothyH, post:3, topic:272618"]

I suggest posting this question in the Eastern forum. I'd like to hear more.

-Tim-

[/quote]

Ummm.... yea....

Sorry.

-Tim-


#8

His most controversial teaching is his belief that, regardless of ordination, one needs the grace and direct experience of God in order to absolve sins. He thus warned priests against absolving sins if they had not first received Christ in their hearts, but also believed unordained monks with direct experience of God could absolve.


#9

St. Stymeon the New Theologian is highly revered and his works are closely studied in the Eastern/Byzantine Catholic tradition(s). I'm pretty sure his feast day is also celebrated in some of the Byzantine Catholic Churches, although I don't know the date of his feast. The late Fr. George Maloney, S.J., a Russian Catholic priest, was heavily influenced by the writings of St. Symeon.

While Rome may have some hesitations about this great saint, the Catholic East certainly does not. :D


#10

This teaching was viewed as problematic among the Eastern Orthodox as well and was eventually recognized to be an error on the part of the saint. But that does not detract from the magnitude nor magnificence of his work. :thumbsup:


#11

Are there any St. Symeon Greek Catholic Churches?


#12

Symeon the New Theologian is not in my Melkite Calendar of Saints (though St Gregory Palamas is). I do not consider him to be a good "Theologian". I do not like his Theology on the Sacrament of Penance; it goes against the Early Church Fathers.

"Father who knowest the hearts of all grant upon this Thy servant whom Thou hast chosen for the episcopate to feed Thy holy flock and serve as Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly behold and appropriate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy Church. And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority to forgive sins..." - St Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 3

"It is necessary to confess our sins to those whom the dispensation of God's mysteries is entrusted." - St Basil the Great, Rule Briefly Treated, 288

"Did you commit sin? Enter the Church, repent for your sin, for here is the physician, not the judge. Here one is not investigated; one receives remission of sins." - St John Chrysostomos

‎"They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence*of his servants." - St John Chrysostom, Treatise Concerning the Christian Priesthood, Book 3:5

"All mortal sins are to be submitted to the keys of the Church and all can be forgiven; but recourse to these keys is the only, the necessary, and the certain way to forgiveness. Unless those who are guilty of grievous sin have recourse to the power of the keys, they cannot hope for eternal salvation. Open your lips, them, and confess your sins to the priest. Confession alone is the true gate to Heaven." - St Augustine of Hippo, Christian Combat


#13

[quote="Zekariya, post:12, topic:272618"]
Symeon the New Theologian is not in my Melkite Calendar of Saints (though St Gregory Palamas is).

[/quote]

I want to retract the above statement of mine. St Symeon the New Theologian is listed in the Melkite Calendar contained in the Publican's Prayer Book.

This Melkite App (economikon.org) lists the following Troparion to be sung on October 12. It also says, "The Typicon data is provided courtesy of Rev Peter Boutros' CyberTypicon2012 (typicon.com)."

Troparion for St Symeon the New Theologian in the Third Tone
"Since you received within your pure soul enlightenment from God, O venerable father, you appeared to the world as a blazing light which drives away its deep darkness and moves all to seek the grace of Spirit like a coin which they have lost. O holy Father Symeon, fervently intercede with Him to grant great mercy to us all."

I will, God willing, check my parishes Menaion the next that I am there.

I also recant saying harshly, 'I do not consider him to be a good "Theologian".' He is considered to be a good Theologian by the Church (though he erred in area of the Sacrament of Reconciliation). It was wrong of me to rashly accuse him of not being "good". :blush:

Forgive me. :o

Saint Symeon, pray for us! :byzsoc:


#14

St. Symeon is a Theologian in its purest sense. The idea of Theology being an academic pursuit is an unfortunate latter day development and is foreign to the Church Tradition.


#15

Not to revive an old thread, but St. Symeon the New Theologian is one of the best theologians that the Church has (period). Out of the many theologians that I have studied, including Aquinas, he is the only one who sticks to the mind of the Church Fathers without falling victim to the soft line of heresy. Even Aquinas errs massively in many ways.

As for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it was actually ok in the early Church to confess your sins to your confessor and receive absolution from the Priest afterwards, so he did not err. Only God can forgive sins, only the Priest can mediate that forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean that he HAS to listen to the confession. If the person were to lie about the confessor hearing the confession, it would nullify the sacrament anyways, so lying doesn’t do you any good either. This is the reason why someone who is labeled a confessor, but was not a Priest shows up among some early Saints.


#16

[quote="Adam_Cook, post:15, topic:272618"]
Not to revive an old thread, but St. Symeon the New Theologian is one of the best theologians that the Church has (period). Out of the many theologians that I have studied, including Aquinas, he is the only one who sticks to the mind of the Church Fathers without falling victim to the soft line of heresy. Even Aquinas errs massively in many ways.

As for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it was actually ok in the early Church to confess your sins to your confessor and receive absolution from the Priest afterwards, so he did not err. Only God can forgive sins, only the Priest can mediate that forgiveness, but that doesn't mean that he HAS to listen to the confession. If the person were to lie about the confessor hearing the confession, it would nullify the sacrament anyways, so lying doesn't do you any good either. This is the reason why someone who is labeled a confessor, but was not a Priest shows up among some early Saints.

[/quote]

"The word confessor is derived from the Latin confiteri, to confess, to profess, but it is not found in writers of the classical period, having been first used by the Christians. With them it was a title of honour to designate those brave champions of the Faith who had confessed Christ publicly in time of persecution and had been punished with imprisonment, torture, exile, or labour in the mines, remaining faithful in their confession until the end of their lives. "

newadvent.org/cathen/04215a.htm


#17

[quote="Phillip_Rolfes, post:9, topic:272618"]
The late Fr. George Maloney, S.J., a Russian Catholic priest, was heavily influenced by the writings of St. Symeon.

[/quote]

Just fyi, Fr. Maloney became Orthodox before his death.


#18

[quote="TimothyH, post:3, topic:272618"]
I know he was influenced by the fifth century writer and bishop Diadochus of Photike.

This quote is from wikipedia

"Theologian" was not applied to Symeon in the modern academic sense of theological study, but to recognize someone who spoke from personal experience of the vision of God. One of his principal teachings was that humans could and should experience theoria (literally "contemplation", or direct experience of God).

Diadochus wrote of gnosis, or direct knowledge of God through experience. I struggled with my own infamiliarity with how these words were used - theology and gnosis - and asked about it recently in this thread in the Eastern forum. They turn out to be synonyms for what a western Catholic would call contemplation.

I have no formal answer to the original question of how Roman Catholics view Symeon, nor Diadochus, nor any of their contemporaries. They seem to be more important to Byzantine spirituality. But my own opinion is that this whole school of thought can be thought of as an Eastern Catholic expression of Western contemplative prayer along the lines of St. John of the Cross, just expressed a different way. That is probably a huge generalization and does a great injustice to all mentioned so please forgive me there - I am an amateur.

The only place I have found these author's works in relation to western Catholicism is in relation to Benedictine and Cistercian monasticism, and this in itself gives me reason to believe that they are orthodox, even if they are little understood or appreciated in the West. I am actually >this< close to odering a book titled "Symeon the New Theologian: The Theological and Practical Treatises and the Three Theological Discourses" from Cistercian Publications, and might do so this evening after I pay my bills. :rolleyes:

I suggest posting this question in the Eastern forum. I'd like to hear more.

-Tim-

[/quote]

He who prays is a theologian, and he who is a theologian prays. Evagrius spoke of theology as a practice of prayer and later monasticism followed him. It went to the west through John cassian. The byzantines consider symeon and diadochus saints, so they are saints. Just like Gregory palamas is a saint, so are these other men.


#19

A theologian is not a person with a degree in the East, rather one is a theologian if they have attained an understanding of the Divine in such a way that expands the church's knowledge of the divine in a MYSTICAL way. This is where the difference lies. The West does not take Mysticism very seriously, one of the highest mystics and well-known is St. Francis, and even his Mysticism are downplayed. Franciscan Theology, which is also called Mystical Theology, is the second Theological School behind Thomism and it might as well not exist because only a handful of people actually study it and no one knows about it.

Symeon is what the west needs, but then again Francis is what kept the Church up when it was falling in the 1200s, and they've already forgotten the mystical teaching he gave to them, so who knows. The high intellect of the 1200s and middle ages is gone, now people are looking for the mystical encounter, they are turning to eastern religions like Islam, hinduism and buddhism to find these things because they are lacking in the western teaching. Its not that they don't exist, just no one teaches mysticism, its all dogma, doctrine and a little practical catechesis that puts it all together.

Even the liturgical catechetical movement is a failure, mostly because it requires the people to be a liturgical people and frankly, most are not. Even the Eastern Churches do not do Morning and Evening Prayers like they should, but the participation in the Divine Liturgy is atleast a little better. Symeon, or atleast Francis and the Franciscan School (minus the filioque clause :)) is really the only hope that the west has at saving its congregations. Although when I was a Youth Minister for a Roman church and taught mysticism to my teens, they loved it and learned move, I saw much grace it them, but I got fired for it so maybe this needs to change on the heirarchical level of the church first. :shrug:


#20

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