Monday, June 13, 2005

West Meets East


I have just finished reading a book given to me by a friend who is Greek Orthodox entitled The First-Created Man: Seven Homilies by St. Symeon the New Theologian, and I can say right now that it is pretty dang good (In the great state of Texas, that is very high praise).

St. Symeon is primarily used by the Orthodox (before I laid hands on this book I had never heard of him) but he lived shortly before the Schism between the two Churches (949-1022), so he's a good read for Catholics as well, especially those who would like to involve themselves in a re-unification of Catholics and Orthodox. While there are a few points of doctrine that he errs on, I would give that a "grandfather clause", attributing it to the stage of development of doctrine at the time rather than him being heretical (not unlike when I read Aquinas' treatments of the Immaculate Conception).

One of the interesting things about St. Symeon is that he writes in a style very similar to that of the Early Fathers, despite the thousand year time difference. As the title might indicate, he focuses primarily on the Original Sin and the Fall, making wonderful parallels between the Fall of Adam and the redemption of Christ, some obvious, such as the comparison of tree of forbidden fruit and the Cross of Christ, others not so obvious, such as that of the tasting of the fruit by Adam in Eden and the tasting of the bitter vinegar by Christ as He hung on the cross. He writes magnificently on the role of grace and works in our salvation and how they liken us to Christ, a must for salvation.

Perhaps the strongest thing going for St. Symeon is that because his aim is the instruction of the Everyman, and also because he shuns the works of the philosophers, his writing is very straitforward and accessible, lacking any terms or technical vocabulary that can sometimes be confusing for the beginner. At the same time he covers areas of great depth in a way that is very easy to understand. This would perhaps be ideal reading material for the person who wants to gain a greater knowledge of the faith but may lack the backround to master a "heavier" book (for lack of better words). Symeon's work itself is around 70 pages, and with the preface, introduction, and biography comes in at around 118 pages, so it is a fairly quick read for anyone.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"And so let no one invent excuses for his sins and say that we, by virtue of the transgression of Adam, are entirely subject to the action of the devil and are dragged by force into sin. They who think and speak thus consider that the dispensation of the Incarnation of our Master and Saviour [sic] Jesus Christ was useless and in vain. Such an opinion is the opinion of heretics...for what other reason did Christ descend and become incarnate ... if not in order to loose the condemnation which proceeded from sin, and to deliver our race from slavery to the devil and from the activity in us of this our enemy?"
-St. Symeon the New Theologian, The First Created Man, Homily 66: "The Banishment of Adam and the Repentence of Every Christian", section 3: "If one truly wishes to repent, he must repent."


At 2:31 PM, Blogger Nektarios said...

I would be curious to know the "errors" you found in St. Symeon.


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