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The Light of Your Way

by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Greek

Holy are you, O Lord, holy, blessed and One.
Holy are you, and generous

for you have flooded my heart
     with the light of your way,

and you have raised up in me
     the Tree of Life.

You have shown me a new heaven
     upon the earth.
You have shown me a secret Garden,
     unseen within the seen.

Now am I joined soul and spirit
     present in your Presence --

your Presence that has waited long in me,
your Presence, the true Tree of Life,
     planted in whatever this earth is,
     planted in whatever it is that men are,
          planted, and rooted in the heart,

your Presence all at once revealing your Paradise
alive with every good green thing:
     grasses and trees and the fruiting bounty,
     a world of flowers!
          sweet-scented lilies!

Each little flower speaks a truth:
     humility and joy,
     peace, oh peace!
     kindness, compassion,
          the turning of the soul,

and the flood of tears
and the strange ecstasy
     of those bathed in your light.


-- from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

Poetry Chaikhana | Symeon the New Theologian - The Light of Your Way


I had never heard of Symeon before i encountered some of his poems at http://poetry-chaikhana a few years ago.  Although he died thirty years before the schism that separated the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, he is regarded as an Orthodox, but not a Cathoolic saint.  In the Eastern Churches "theologian" means something like "knower of God."  It is an honorific that has been granted  to only three people.  It seems to me the term is the equivalent of "Doctor of the Church" in the West.

Like 90+ percent of all Christian "saints" between the third and sixteenth centuries, George (the name his parents gave him) was from that small elite of aristocrats and was intended for a career in politics.  At age 14, he met a monk named Symeon, who became his spiritual director.  Against his inclination and to fulfill his parents' expectations he continued to train in politics and by age 26 was a senator in the Byzantine polity,  At this point he gave up his position and gave away his wealth to become a monk at the monestary of his spiritual director.

Symeon (which name  he had now adopted) intended, i am sure, to be "orthodox,."  He cautioned others to follow an Orthodox path and to do nothing without the consent of one's spiritual directed.  But he thought that his mystical experiences were (a) real, and (b) available to any human being.  This brought him into conflict  with ecclesiastical superiors and he was twice sent into exile, always drawing a fair  number of followers behind him.  He was (again) the Abbot of a monastery when he died.

Of his eleven poems on the Poetry Chaikhana website, over half are, as is the  one above, devoid of specific Christian  dogma and imagery,  they could have been written by a Sufi or an Advaitist -- they are generically mystical.  I like nearly all of the poems.

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