Niketas Stethatos: Do You Honor Your Spiritual Parents? Part 1

Feast of St Symeon the New Theologian

Symeon_square_4.jpeg“CAN YOU prove here and now,” asked the patriarch, “that when you celebrate your father’s memory in the same way as the long-established saints, you are acting in accordance with the teachings of the fathers and apostles, and thus demonstrate that you are yourself acting lawfully in strict accordance with the holy laws?”

“If, as you my master have requested,” replied the saint, “I can’t provide from the whole of holy scripture these proofs that you’re pressing me for, then let my accuser indeed be proved true and credible in his allegations against me, and may I be liable to every penalty.”

Then the patriarch said, “Tell us whatever you can right now that supports you from divine law. We’ll be listening attentively.”

When Symeon, that wise man in divine matters, began to speak, he said something like this, with confidence from the depths of his soul:

Who does not know, O holy synod, Christ’s words recorded in the gospels that proclaim explicitly, “He who receives you receives me,” and “he who rejects you rejects me and he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me?” And again, he who receives a saint as a saint shall receive a saint’s reward, and “he who receives a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”

And what do the apostles who actually saw the Word for themselves say in their Constitutions? Did they not say this? “You shall glorify the person who speaks the word of God to you, and shall remember him night and day, and honor him as someone who has become the source of your well-being.” And again,

For if the holy Bible says about our parents in the flesh, “Honor your father and mother so that it may go well for you,” and “Whoever curses his father or his mother, let him die,” how much more does the Word exhort us to honor our spiritual parents, and to love them as benefactors and ambassadors before God? For they have regenerated us through water, and filled us with the Holy Spirit, they have nursed us with the milk of the Word, they have fed us with teaching, they have steadied us with their admonitions, they have deemed us worthy of the saving body and precious blood, they have released us from our sins, they have made us sharers in the holy and sacred Eucharist, and rendered us partakers and fellow heirs of the promise of God. Revering them, honor them with every kind of honor, for they have received from God the power of life and death.

And what does John Chrysostom say in his eulogy of Philogonios?

If “whoever curses his father or his mother is put to death,” it is clear that whoever praises them will have the benefit of life. Thus if our natural parents ought to enjoy such affection from us, how much more should our spiritual parents do so, especially when our praise does not make those who have passed away any more splendid, but does make us better, who have gathered together, and who speak and hear it? For the person who has ascended into heaven has no need of human repute, having departed to a better and more blessed state, but we who, for the time being, are still living here and require much consolation in every way, we need the eulogies of that person, so that we may rouse ourselves to the same zeal. For this reason too, a wise man exhorts us, saying, “The memory of a righteous man comes with a eulogy,” not because those who have departed benefit from this but because those who do the eulogizing benefit very greatly.

—Niketas Stethatos, The Life of St Symeon the New Theologian

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