Oct 22 2010

Symeon the New Theologian – We awaken in Christ’s body

Published by at 9:02 am under Poetry

We awaken in Christ’s body
by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Stephen Mitchell

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

— from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell


/ Photo by Ktoine /

Symeon doesn’t urge us to merely worship or love the Beloved (Christ within the Christian tradition) from a distance. We melt into the Divine, become one with the Divine, share the same body.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

Some of these lines remind me of the poem attributed to Teresa of Avila, You Are Christ’s Hands with it’s lines– “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, / no hands but yours…”

This poem by Symeon is one I just want to drink in — it feels so deeply healing and generous to the soul.

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian poetry, Christian poetry Symeon the New Theologian

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

Symeon was born into an aristocratic family in Asia Minor (Turkey) and was given the name George. This was when the region was still part of the Christian Byzantine Empire. From boyhood George was groomed for a life in politics. At age eleven, he was sent to the capital Constantinople (Istanbul) to live with his uncle who guided him in his early education.

When he was 14, George met a monk at the the monastery of Studios named Symeon the Pious. George accepted Symeon the Pious as his spiritual director while continuing to prepare for a life in politics.

Somewhere around age 20, George was overcome by an ecstatic state in which, as with many other mystics, he experienced God as a living presence of radiant light.

Despite this radically transformative experience, he spent several more years attempting to fulfill his family’s expectations, eventually becoming an imperial senator. However, his continuing mystical experiences were not compatible with such a public life and, at age 27, he renounced his previous life and became a monk, entering the monastery at Studios to continue under the direct guidance his spiritual director, even taking on the same monastic name — Symeon.

The closeness teacher and disciple shared worried the monastic authorities and the two were separated. The young Symeon was given the choice of remaining at Studios and no longer receiving spiritual guidance from the elder Symeon, or he could go to another monastery and keep his spiritual director.

So as not to lose the guidance of Symeon the Pious, the young Symeon chose to move to the monastery of St. Mamas in Constantinople. There, Symeon was ordained a priest and eventually became the abbot of the monastery, reviving the monastery’s life of prayer and meditation. While abbot of St. Mamas, Symeon wrote extensive treatises (called the Catecheses) as guidelines for the ideal monastic and God-focused life, emphasizing the power of contemplative prayer and meditation.

The mystical spiritual practices that he advocated led to further conflicts with authorities and Symeon was exiled in 1009 to a small hermitage on the far side of the Bosphorus.

Disciples began to gather around Symeon and soon the small hermitage grew into a full monastery. It was there that Symeon wrote his most personal work, Hymns of Divine Love, a collection of poems describing his mystical experiences.

Symeon’s doctrines and poetry emphasize not only the possibility, but the necessity of personally experiencing the Divine. He also stated that one need not be a monk or renunciate, saying that one “who has wife and children, crowds of servants, much property, and a prominent position in the world” can still directly experience communion with the divine.

He is called Symeon the New Theologian to distinguish him from John the Evangelist (called John the Theologian in Greek) and Gregory of Nyzanius (also called Gregory the Theologian in the Eastern Orthodox tradition).

More poetry by Symeon the New Theologian

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Symeon the New Theologian – We awaken in Christ’s body”

  1. Moiranneon 22 Oct 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Ivan,
    My name is Moira, and while I like to think that I am rather unique, I don’t imagine that I would be the only “Moira” on your books. I actually do not think that I have missed out on anything – just to assist you in your search I have listed the more recently recieved poets and the dates on which they have been recieved.

    9th Oct. Tulsidas

    14th Oct. Kobayayashi Issa

    19th Oct. Denise Levertov

    23rd Oct. Symeon the New Theologian

    I have recieved no message here to indicate any problem, but that sequence looks about right to me. Thank you so much once again for the amazing contribution that you make to the world through the beauty and truth of what you place before us at regular intervals.

    Many thanks

    Moira

  2. Caroline Blakemoreon 22 Oct 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Ivan, Yes, that’s me, Caroline. You’re correct in the spelling.

    I so appreciate the work you’re doing. The poem you sent today gives real meaning to the word “divine”, as in this poem is divine. The majority of poets are true mystics. I just read an Elizabeth Bishop poem, From Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge (an Invitation to Marianne Moore). Check it out, you’ll enjoy it.

    I wish you continued Light on your Mystical Path. Caroline

  3. nasihaon 22 Oct 2010 at 11:51 pm

    hello Ivan,
    thank you very much, this is one of my favourite places and yes my name appears fine as usual.
    wishing you a beautiful day. nasiha

  4. Harvey Gillmanon 23 Oct 2010 at 12:31 am

    Yes, my name is correct.

    A wonderful poem. I know nothing about Symeon and will do some research. For many of us in the west who are open to eastern mystical thought and experience and are suspicious of much that passes for Christianity, Christian language can be quite a challenge. This poem therefore is a revelation, for all we may have read of Denys, Julian, John of the Cross, and Teresa.

    Thank you once again for sharing this wisdom.

    Harvey

  5. Dolores O Connoron 23 Oct 2010 at 12:35 am

    Ivan,

    Yes! My name is Dolores!

    Thanks thanks thanks for the poems.

    Today’s poem brings to mind a favourite mantra of mine, “In Him (you)I live move and have my being”…
    Yes… this poem echoes my heart on a Sat. morning … so do many more of your poems.

    And yes, when I get it together, I will forward my contribution in gratitude, for the delights you give me every week…

    I do marvel at your consistency and dedication
    to lifting our hearts .. Bless you!

  6. Jacquion 23 Oct 2010 at 2:15 am

    Thoroughly enjoy your poetry Ivan, this one is especially lovely. Thank you for posting this.

  7. simonbaghon 23 Oct 2010 at 3:33 am

    Hi Ivan,

    love is light the most healing might
    life is the path leading to its height

    Christ the miraculous light that never wanes
    pure spirit of life streaming in our body veins

    christian most recent miracle known as trinity
    a voiceless way leading the mankind to amity

    three in one and, one in three
    trinity true believers’ clear ID
    God, His beloved Son and Me

    true awakened agents of God on their mission
    simply are amazed by their own body function

    every virtue spreads by the ever living essence
    a key word gives meaning to this very sentence

    a man of great wisdom just descerns the Lord
    dressed different even in mantles of every sort

    you do as molicule in body of the final Being
    out of which you turn into a letter in nothing

  8. Subhan Alion 24 Oct 2010 at 11:13 pm

    R/Ivan, Whatever you post in “poetry Chaikhana” is valuable. The poem posted today is also heartsoothing. I hereby confirm my name and e-mail address. ………..Subhan Ali

  9. Valerie Hesson 18 Oct 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Could you please tell me what page of the book this poem is found on? Thank you.

  10. Ivan M. Grangeron 18 Oct 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Happy to, Valerie… I just pulled my copy of The Enlightened Heart off the bookshelf, and the poem is on pages 38 and 39. I hope that helps. -Ivan

  11. […] Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022 AD) wrote a poem about awakening to our life in the Body of Christ. Here are just a few verses from his strikingly […]

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