Symeon the New Theologian

   The greatest medieval Byzantine mystic (949-1022). Born into wealth, he rejected it all for the life of a monk, first at the monastery of St. John Stoudios (q.v.). He challenged his contemporaries with provocative ideas, e.g., that formal church ordination is from men (not necessarily connected with divine ordination), and that personal experience of God is sufficient for the Christian, and without it there is no genuine Christianity. Above all, he rejected the idea that the Christian life was something formalized and ritualistic. For him, the Christian life was the personal experience of God, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the vision of divine light. Ultimately, his ideas provoked the resistance of the church, which, for a while, forced him into exile. His career revived a tension between individual holy men and the church seen centuries earlier (e.g., in the vita of Daniel the Stylite [qq.v.]) while his writings laid the foundation for the future teaching and practices of Hesychasm (q.v.).

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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