Thursday, 27 February 2014

Symeon the New Theologian - calling the Holy Spirit a treasure.

Ann Persson is the author of The Circle of Love:  Praying with Rublev's Icon of the Trinity -see below. 

Night Office, Patristic Lectionary,  Augustine Press 1999
Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Year II Thursday
First Reading
2 Corinthians 4:5-18  

 Responsory     2 Cor 4:6; Dt 5:24
God has said: Let light shine out of darkness. + He has shone in our hearts that we might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ Jesus.
V. The Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice. + He has shone...

Second Reading
From a treatise by Saint Symeon the New Theologian (Traites Theologiques et Ethiques J, 10: se 122, 252-254)
We receive the Word of God in our hearts - calling the Holy Spirit a treasure
Everyone of us believes in him who is the Son of God and son of Mary, ever-virgin and mother of God. And as believers we faithfully welcome his gospel into our hearts, confessing in words our belief, and repenting with all our soul of our past sins. Then immediately, just as God the Word of the Father entered the Virgin's womb, so also in ourselves the word which we receive in learning right belief appears like a seed. You should be amazed when you hear of such an awe-inspiring mystery, and because the word is reliable you should receive it with full conviction and faith.

In fact we receive him not bodily, as the Virgin and Mother of God received him, but both spiritually and substantially. And the very one whom the chaste Virgin also received, we hold in our own hearts, as Saint Paul says: It is God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to reveal the knowledge of his Son. In other words: he has become wholly substantial in us. And that he actually meant this, he made clear in the next verse: But we contain this treasure in earthenware pots, calling the Holy Spirit a treasure. But elsewhere he also calls the Lord Spirit: The Lord is the Spirit, he says. And he tells us this so that if you hear the words the Son of God, you should think of and hear the words the Spirit at the same time. Again, if you hear the Spirit mentioned you should join the Father to the Spirit in thought, because con­cerning the Father too it is said: God is Spirit. You are constantly taught that the Holy Trinity is inseparable and of the same substance, and that where the Son is the Father is also, and where the Father is the Spirit is also, and where the Holy Spirit is the whole of the deity in three persons is, the one God and Father with Son and Spirit of the same substance, "who is praised for ever. Amen."

So if we wholeheartedly believe and ardently repent, we receive the Word of God in our hearts, as has been said, like the Virgin, if of course we bring with us our own souls chaste and pure. And just as the fire of the deity did not consume the Virgin since she was supremely pure, so neither does it consume us if we bring with us chaste and pure hearts; on the contrary it becomes in us the dew from heaven, a spring of water, and a stream of immortal life.
Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), born in Galata in Paphlagonia, Symeon was 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 ruined 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. The greatest of Byzantine mystical writers, Symeon combined the contemplative tradition of Mount Sinai with the cenobitic tradition of Saint Basil and Saint Theodore of Studios. Symeon was much influenced by the homilies attributed to Macarius of Egypt, and taught that mystical experience of God is a normal part of a truly Christian life. For him this meant having a personal relationship with Christ dwelling in us through the Spirit. Symeon is called the "new" theologian to distinguish him from Saint Gregory Nazianzen, who has the title of "the theologian."

Ann Persson is the author of The Circle of Love: 
Praying with Rublev's Icon of the Trinity 
We can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into worship, not of the icon but of the Godhead that it portrays.
Although the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of one essence, nevertheless there are individual distinctions, and Rublev makes that wonderfully plain to see.

God the Holy Spirit

We will start following the movement around the circle with the figure on the right, the Holy Spirit. He is the one who leads us in and interprets the life of God to us. He is dressed in a blue tunic with a gorgeous light-green mantle, probably painted in terre verte pigment, otherwise known as 'green earth'. Green is the liturgical colour of Pentecost in the Orthodox Church and the symbolic colour of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, who breathes life, wears colours that speak of creation. Blue reminds us of sky and water; green speaks of vegetation. All living things owe their freshness to his touch. 
His is the only stave that is seen in its full length, as if it is pointing towards earth. His hand gives the impression of not only blessing the cup of sacrifice but also of indicating downwards, for he is the one who breathes the life of God into us. His action is to transform us and it is through him that we are invited to experience new life in Christ.

Above the Spirit is a mountain. Maybe the mountain represents faith, a gift of the Holy Spirit or the meeting places where God revealed his glory, such as Mount Sinai, where he appeared to Moses, or the mount of transfiguration, where Jesus was seen in glory by three of his disciples.

As the icon is based on the story of Abraham, however, perhaps the mountain represents Mount Moriah, on which Isaac, the promised son in the story, would be offered for sacrifice–Abraham's response to a test that God devised to prove his faith. The story is recorded in Genesis 22 and it is a foreshadowing of the greater story of the triune God's self-sacrificing love in the giving of the Son to be our Saviour.
The curvature of the body and the bowed head of the figure on the right draw us into the circle and lead us towards the central figure, whom I have taken to be Christ the Son. The Spirit does not let us stay with himself. His work is to reveal God the Father through God the Son.

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