May 10, 2010

The Measure of the Stature of the Fullness of Christ

By St. Symeon the New Theologian

The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, is the following, considered spiritually.

Beginning with the foundation, its feet are faith and holy humility, a firm ground and unshaken.

Its legs and ankles and calves and knees and thighs are non-possession, nakedness, voluntary exile, willing submission for the sake of Christ, obedience and eager service.

The members and the parts which one is obliged to hide are unceasing prayer of the mind, the sweetness which derives from shedding of tears, the joy of the heart and its consolation.

Kidneys and hips are the standing and endurance at prayer and at worship services, and that which derives from them, the kindling of one's appetite for the contemplation of God and for union with Him.

The belly, stomach and apparatus of the intestines are the soul's intellectual workshop and capacity of reception, within which you should conceive the rational faculty as the heart in the middle, and, together with the rational faculty, the faculties of irritation and appetite.

Like the sides, nerve muscles and fat, there are meekness, simplicity, forbearance, and reverence to hold together and bind up, envelope and conceal, and not suffer one to look away to visible things nor lust after anything out there. Neither do they allow room for the remembrance of wrongs, nor envy, nor jealousy, nor wrath, nor permit that these passions should ever be seen. The passionate inclinations are never inclined to what is exterior, but are kept hidden. Inasmuch as these inclinations are kept within and are securely guarded by the virtues, the reasonable faculty can distinguish and separate the worse from the better, and indicate to the appetite which things it ought relatively to attach itself to and which it must turn away from and hate. The irritable faculty is situated between these two like a kind of prudent servant caring out the decision and cooperating with their wishes.

We must add chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands and a neck to this body of spiritual maturity. As the body's chest you should imagine compassion, by which the breasts of love for mankind unreservedly pour out the milk of alms for orphans, widows and all others. The back means the willing taking on oneself of the burdens of others and the carrying about in oneself the wounds of the Lord Jesus. Shoulders and arms are the capacity for patience and endurance in temptations and afflictions, through and which the hands are enabled to act. And I call hands the readiness, the zeal for every obedience and for the doing of God's commandments. Finally the head of this body is unwavering hope. Love is the head of the body of virtues and this love is Christ.

St Symeon the New Theologian, The Ethical Discourses. Translated and Introduced by Alexander Golitzin (Crestwood, N.Y: Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1996), 23