St Symeon the New Theologian: Do You See the Light?

Feast of Sts Pelagia the Righteous and Taisia the Harlot of Egypt

Symeon_Square_2.jpgOUR SALVATION is not by the baptism of water alone, but also by the Spirit. Neither is it by the bread and wine alone of communion that we receive the forgiveness of our sins and participation in life, but also by the divinity which mystically accompanies and is unconfusedly mingled with them. We say “mystically” because that divinity is not revealed to everyone, but to those who are worthy of everlasting life, and it makes them sons of the day and of the light who see it. Those who do not see the light, though it shines clearly, are rather instead the people who sit in darkness. Brothers, do not let anyone fool you with empty words; neither let anyone rejoice merely in his faith in Christ. For “Christ,” he says, “if you be circumcised, will be of no advantage to you” (Gal. 5.2); and again: “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas. 2.17). Just as the body without a soul is dead, so faith as well is dead without works. Those who confess that Christ is God and do not keep His commandments will not be reckoned merely as denying Him, but also as insulting Him. Nor this alone, but as even more than those who circumcise their bodies will they be justly condemned as mutilating God’s commandments. How shall he be accounted a son who dishonors his father? How could he walk in the light as in the day who is separated from the light? Brothers, this is impossible!

If someone should say that no one is able to keep the commandments, let him know that he is slandering and condemning God as having ordered us to do what is impossible. This man will not escape the inevitability of justice but, like the man who said: “I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not winnow” (Mt. 25.24), so will he be condemned. He shall be likened to the serpent who said to Adam: “God knows that when you eat of the tree you will be like Him, for this reason He commanded you not to eat of it” (cf. Gen. 3.4). In effect, such a man calls God a liar and a deceiver, and filled with envy. A liar because while He said: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11.30), this man declares that not only is it not light, but indeed unbearable. A deceiver because He came down and made us many promises without wanting to give us anything. And more: jealous at our salvation, He has ordered us to do and keep such things as are impossible for us to fulfill, in order that He may take advantage of this excuse to deprive us of His good things. But woe to those who say such things, unless they repent. Our Master and God has commanded nothing which is burdensome, nothing oppressive. On the contrary, all is at once light and easy. Believe me, I myself know the commandment of God is easy, and the attaining of both Him and His Kingdom.

—St Symeon the New Theologian, The Ethical Discourses



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