Monday, April 30, 2012

St. Symeon and Renewal

     For St. Symeon the New Theologian the perception of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit should be a normal activity for Christians. He says," Do not say that without His presence it is possible to be saved. Do not say that one can possess the Spirit even if one is not consciously aware of it. Do not say that God cannot be seen by human beings. Do not say that humans may never see the light of God;Or at least that it is not possible for this generation. My friends this is never impossible.It is more than possible – for those who desire it." In response to this a priest once said that he wondered how many of those in his own church could share in this understanding. For in his experience of ministry many people seem to have never seen the action of the Spirit in their lives. It would appear that even though these people have received the sacraments they have yet to unlock the potential of them. From this point of view this perception that St. Symeon speaks of remains dormant for some.
     Perish the thought that any Byzantine Catholic would not be experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit. In our teachings we find countless references to the "experience" of God that we witness in our everyday lives. However, because we are weak and prone to sin sometimes we miss the reality that our tradition teaches. Even in his time St. Symeon spoke of the unfortunate consequences of those void of the experience of the Holy Spirit.. He says, "If the Holy Spirit is operative within us unknowingly and without our sensing His presence, obviously neither in eternal life which follows will we receive the perception of the Holy Spirit, neither will we behold the light of the Holy Spirit, but we will be dead and blind and unconscious, remaining then as we are now, and thus vain is our hope".
     St. Symeon in one way is telling us that our faith is pretty much dead if we do not perceive the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. This makes even more sense in our time because who would want to become a follower of our church's teachings if it's just mere rules and moral speculations that involve God. Contrary, in the Holy Scriptures and in the early church people were amazed at what the first Christians had. So much so that many were willing to be killed for the experience that they received by becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. This experience was not to be something that remains in our church's past for this gift is for all times and all people.
     Just as it was in St. Symeon's time there are those of us in need of spiritual renewal. There is so much potential that we have as Christians and God is not holding anything back. If for whatever reason we find ourselves having a dull and powerless spirituality St. Symeon invites us to, "come, bow and fall down together with me and do not rise until you have received the gift of God, as I, who am unworthy, have received this gift of grace". Having the active presence of God working in your life is a gift as the saint said. It is a gift that God eagerly wants to give us. We just need to be open to it and seek it.
     Without the action and power of the Holy Spirit we will never see renewal in our churches. No matter how many committees we create or changes we do in our worship we will end up void without the gift of Spirit. This gift if we become open to it is overflowing like a fire that sets everything around it ablaze. In this experience so many other actions and gifts of God become manifest in our churches. Saint Symeon taught us concerning them that we should , "strive that you may have part in His gifts and enjoy them, the gifts of which we, though unworthy, have been partakers through His unutterable goodness". By striving for these gifts we discover the source of how the various ministries and vocations flourish. Never have such things truly flourished under the works of pure human effort like the committees we create. Neither will the spiritual renewal that we seek in our churches.
     Those around us need to see the presence of the Holy Spirit. Unless we have this gift from the Spirit no one will see it. We need to look into our own lives and ask if we truly have what St. Symeon taught. If for some reason we find ourselves lacking we need to realize that God does not want to hold himself back. He is waiting to pour out his presence into our lives if we would be willing to seek it. This of course needs to be an ongoing activity for every person in our Church. There is always more that God wants to give. In this regard renewal for some of us or our churches might be just a prayer away. Perhaps God is just waiting for us to seek it out.

Some of the teachings I used from the saint can be found (here)


  1. Renewal is vital, yes, but what about its precursor, repentance? Perhaps this is the fundamental problem, not just in our churches but in all churches. How often do we fall before our Lord and ask him for a spirit of repentance? I believe that this is what blocks the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Asking God to reveal to us all the areas of our lives where we need to change is extremely difficult and painful.

    1. (Romans 2:4) its the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. I would say they go hand and hand. Repentance is ongoing and so is renewal.