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March 3, 2019

St. Symeon the New Theologian, Matthew 25, and a Critique of the Social Gospel

By St. Symeon the New Theologian

Catechetical Discourse 9

On Almsgiving

"As you did it to any one of the least, you have done it to Me" (Matt. 25:40). The Lord did not, as some imagine, say this merely of those who are stricken with poverty and destitute of bodily food. He said this no less of all of our other brethren who are wasting away, not through any famine of bread and water, but from the famine of the neglect of God's commandments and failure to obey them. To the extent that the soul is more valuable than the body (Matt. 6:25; Lk. 12:23), so much more is spiritual food necessary than bodily food. It is of this I think the Lord spoke when He said, "I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink" (Matt. 25:42), rather than of bodily food, which is subject to corruption; for He truly suffers thirst and hunger for the salvation of each one of us. Our salvation consists in abstaining from all sin; but apart from the practice of the virtues and the fulfilling of all the commandments it is impossible to achieve abstinence from all sin. It is by fulfilling His commandments that we usually "feed" our Master and God, the Lord of all; for our holy fathers tell us that just as the demons are fed by our evil deeds and so prevail against us, so, when we abstain from evil, they become weak through starvation and lose their vigor. So I think that He who became poor for the sake of our salvation is thus nourished by us, and suffers hunger when we neglect Him. Of this the lives of the saints can instruct and inform us.

By St. Symeon the New Theologian

Ethical Discourses

On the Last Judgment

For this reason [Christ] the light speaks as follows: ‘Wicked servant, from your own mouth I will judge you because, as you say, I came and dwelt in you Who am unapproachable to the orders of angels. You, knowing this, allowed Me to lie buried by the darkness of your evils, just as you yourself say. And, while I was patient for so many years, expecting your repentance and awaiting in addition the doing of My commandments, you did not, even to the end, choose somehow to see Me out, nor did you pity Me Who was choked and cramped within you, nor did you allow Me to find the drachmas which I had lost – I mean you – because I was not allowed to take flame and see you and be seen by you, but was perpetually concealed by the passions which are in you. Therefore, you worker of iniquity, depart from Me to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; because I hungered for your repentance and conversion, and you gave Me no food; I thirsted for your salvation, and you gave Me no drink; I was naked of your deeds of virtue, and you did not clothe Me with them; I existed in the narrow and filthy and dark prison of your heart, and you did not wish to come visit Me and lead Me out to the light; you know Me to be lying in the infirmity of your laziness and inactivity, yet you did not minister to Me by your good works and deeds. So, go away from Me!'