Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Authentic Christian experience

St. Simeon was very concerned with authentic Christian living. For him the only way to be authentically Christian was to in some way experience the reality of God. This is underlined by the following words from an article on the website www.monarchos.net (click to take you to the article):

"I was nine years old when, full of enthusiasm and excitement, I approached my Church School teacher and exclaimed, ‘I have seen Jesus!’ Receiving an understandably surprised look from the man, I repeated again, ‘I have seen Jesus!’ ‘What do you mean?’ he asked. At this point I removed a copy of ‘The Bible with Illustrations for Children’ from my bag, opened it to a page at the beginning of the New Testament, and showed him the painting which was clearly captioned, ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth.’ My teacher smiled. Then, crouching down to my level, said, ‘I see… but you have only seen a picture of Jesus. But you haven’t really seen Him.’

St Simeon the New Theologian would have agreed with my Church School teacher in stating that my vision of a painting of Christ was quite different from actually seeing Christ Himself. Yet where he and my teacher would have departed would have been on the possibility of such a vision; for while my teacher seemed to believe such things to be confined only to the dreams of children, Symeon fervently believed that God Himself was visible to the human person—not only in the representative form of a painting or even a holy icon, but by a direct, immanent, and personal encounter with the divinity Himself.

Here is a poem or prayer by St. Simeon that underlines his experience of God:

“Love came down, as is its way,
in the appearance of a luminous cloud.
I saw it fasten on me and settle upon my head.
And it made me cry out, for I was so afraid;
and so it flew away and left me alone.
Then how ardently I searched after it;
and suddenly, completely,
I was conscious of it present in my heart,
like a heavenly body.
I saw it like the disk of the sun…
It closed me off from the visible
and joined me to invisible things.
It gave me the grace to see the Uncreated.”

Wow. How desperately we need the Church to come to that place of really "knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection" (Philippians 3:10) again. Coming to know Jesus as a living presence with us.

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