Thoughts from the Early Church
Symeon the New Theologian
A prophet is despised only in his own country. (Mk: 6:4).
Brothers and Fathers, many people never stop saying—I have heard them myself—“If only we had lived in the days of the apostles, and been counted worthy to gaze upon Christ as they did, we should have become holy like them.”
Such people do not realize that the Christ who spoke then and the Christ who speaks now throughout the whole world is one and the same.
If he were not the same then and now, God in every respect, in his operations as in the sacraments, how would it be seen that the Father is always in the Son and the Son in the Father, according to the words Christ spoke through the Spirit: “My Father is still working and so am I.”
But no doubt someone will say that merely to hear his words now and to be taught about him and his kingdom is not the same thing as to have seen him then in the body.
And I answer that indeed the position now is not the same as it was then, but our situation now, in the present day, is very much better. It leads us more easily to a deeper faith and conviction than seeing and hearing him in the flesh would have done.
Then he appeared to the uncomprehending Jews as a man of lowly station: now he is proclaimed to us as true God. Then in his body he associated with tax collectors and sinners and ate with them: now he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and is never in any way separated from him.
We are firmly persuaded that it is he who feeds the entire world, and we declare—at least if we are believers—that without him nothing came into being. Then even those of lowliest condition held him in contempt. They said: “Is not this the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter?”
Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God, and he has glorified and continues to glorify those who worship him in spirit and in truth, although he often punishes them when they sin. He transforms them, more than all the nations under heaven, from clay into iron.
Then he was thought to be mortal and corruptible like the rest of humankind. He was no different in appearance from other men. The formless and invisible God, without change or alteration, assumed a human form and showed himself to be a normal human being. He ate, he drank, he slept, he sweated, and he grew weary. He did everything other people do, except that he did not sin.
For anyone to recognize him in that human body, and to believe that he was the God who made heaven and earth and everything in them was very exceptional.
This is why when Peter said: “You are the Son of the living God,” the master called him blessed, saying: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you”—you do not speak of something your eyes have seen—“but my Father who is in heaven.”
It is certain therefore that anyone who now hears Christ cry out daily through the holy Gospels, and proclaim the will of his blessed Father, but does not obey him with fear and trembling and keep his commandments—it is certain that such a person would have refused to believe in him then, if he had been present, and seen him, and heard him teach.
Indeed there is reason to fear that in his total incredulity he would have blasphemed by regarding Christ not as true God, but as an enemy of God.
Catechesis III, 19: SC 113, 165-69
Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) was born in Galata in Paphlagonia, and educated in Constantinople, where in 977 he entered the famous monastery of Studios. Soon afterward he transferred to the nearby monastery of Saint Mamas, was ordained priest in 980, and about three years later became abbot.
During his twenty-five years of office he instilled a new fervor into his community, but opposition to his teaching forced him to resign in 1005 and in 1009 he was exiled to Palonkiton on the other side of the Bosphorus.
He turned the mined oratory of Saint Marina into another monastery, and although he was soon pardoned, chose to remain there until his death rather than compromise his teaching.
**From Saint Louis University