St Symeon the New Theologian: Do You See the Depths of the Mystery of the Body of Christ?

Feast of St Salome the Holy Myrrhbearer

Symeon_Square_3.jpgIT IS TRUE that the saints become genuinely the members of Christ Who is God of all, and if, as we said, they have as their duty remaining attached and united to His body so that He may be their Head and they—all the saints from the beginning of the world until the Last Day—may be His members, and the many become one body of Christ, as it were a single Man, then it follows that some, for example, fulfill the role of His hands, working even now to accomplish His all-holy will, making worthy the unworthy and preserving them for Him. Others are the shoulders, bearing the burdens of others, or even carrying the lost sheep whom they find wandering in the crags and wild places abandoned by God. These, too, accomplish His will. Others fulfill the role of the breast, pouring out God’s righteousness to those who hunger and thirst for it, providing them with the bread which nourishes the powers of heaven. Others still are the belly. They embrace everyone with love. They carry the Spirit of salvation in their bowels and possess the capacity to bear His ineffable and hidden mysteries. Others, again, take the function of the thighs since they carry in themselves the fecundity of the concepts adequate to God of the mystical theology. They engender the Spirit of Wisdom upon the earth, i.e., the fruit of the Spirit and His seed in the hearts of men, through the word of their teaching. Finally, there are those who act as the legs and feet. These last reveal courage and endurance in temptation, after the manner of Job, and their stability in the good is in no way shaken or weakened, but instead they bear up under the burden of the Spirit’s gifts.

Thus is the body of Christ’s Church bound together in harmony by His saints from the beginning of the world. It is complete and entire in the union of the sons of God, the first-born, whose names are inscribed in heaven. It is to them that God says even now: “Do not rejoice in this, that the demons are subject to you”—which in the frivolous creates rather vanity and presumption—“but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10.20). I shall endeavor to prove from the Holy Scriptures that all the saints are members in Christ, are in process of becoming one body with Him, and that this process will continue indefinitely. Listen first of all to our Savior and God Himself, to how He reveals the union with Himself to be unbreakable and indivisible when He says to His Apostles: “I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (Jn. 14.20), and again: “I do not pray for these only, but also for all who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one” (Jn. 17.20-21). Wishing to assure them concerning the mode of union, He takes up the theme again: “Even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that these also may be one in Us” (Jn. 17.21). Making it still clear, He adds: “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfectly one” (Jn. 17.22-23). And a little later: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me” (Jn. 17.24). And again: “That the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn. 17.26). Do you see the depths of this mystery? Do you understand the infinite transcendence of super-abounding glory? Do you grasp that the mode of this union transcends our intelligence and our every concept?

O, brothers, the wonder! O, the inexpressible condescension of that love for us of God Who loves mankind! The union which He has by nature with the Father He promises that we may have with Him by grace, if we desire it, and that we may be in the same relation with respect to Him, if we keep His commandments. O, fearful promise! That the glory which the Father gave the Son, the Son gives in turn even to us by divine grace. O, grace unsurpassed! That the love with which God the Father loved His only-begotten Son and our God, that the same love will be, He says, in us, and that He Himself, the Son of God, will be in us. And this follows naturally, for now He has become our kinsman in the flesh, and has rendered us co-participants in His divinity, and so has made us all His kinsmen. Above all, the divinity imparted to us through this communion cannot be broken down into parts, is indivisible, and thus all of us who partake of it in truth must necessarily and inseparably be one body with Christ in the one Spirit.

—St Symeon the New Theologian, First Ethical Discourse

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