Saint Symeon the New Theologian - No One Should Say It Is Impossible to Become Holy These Days

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Christ Is the Same, Then as Now

1. Brothers and fathers, many say every day - and we ourselves hear what they say -: "If we lived in the days of the apostles and, like them, had the honor of meeting Christ in person, we too would be saints like them" (cf. Mt 23:30), because they do not know that Christ is the same Who speaks once and now in the whole world. If He were not the same now as then, the same God in everything, both in His energies and in His works, how could He say that the Father shows Himself forever in the Son and the Son in the Father (see Jn 10:38 / 14 , 9ff), working through the Holy Spirit: "My Father works forever, and I also work" (John 5:17)?

2. But perhaps one will object: "It is not the same to see Him in the body like then, but to hear only His words today and to be instructed about Him and His kingdom." I say that the present and the past are by no means the same, but that the things of today and now are much more sublime and helpful for deepening faith and certainty than the bodily seeing and hearing of the Lord was at that time. For at that time he showed himself to the ungrateful Jews as a humble man, but today he is proclaimed to us as true God. 

At that time He was in the body with tax collectors and sinners and ate with them (see Mt 9:11), but now He sits at the right hand of God the Father (see Mk 16:19), from whom He was never and in no way separated , and nourishes the whole world, according to our faith, and nothing happens without Him, as we say and also believe (see Jn 1:3).

At that time, He was disregarded by even the least of them, when they said, "Isn't this the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter?" (Mk 6,3, Mt 13,55), but now He is worshiped by kings and princes as the Son of the true God and as true God, and He glorifies, now as then, those who worship Him in spirit and in truth ( Jn 4:24) - although He often chastises them because of their sins - by making them into iron rods from earthern vessels over all the peoples under heaven (see Psalm 2: 9, Revelation 2:27).

At that time He was thought to be a man like the others, mortal and perishable, and it was a big deal at that time, while He was in that human body in which the formless and invisible God had taken shape without undergoing any change, and showing Himself to be completely human, without showing anything that other people did not have, but by eating, drinking, sleeping, sweating, getting tired and doing everything that people do except sin (see Hebrews 4 , 15) to still  recognize Him in that body and to believe in Him as God, Who created heaven and earth and everything that is in them.

That is why the Master also praised Peter blissfully when he confessed: “You are the Son of the living God!” By saying: “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you - namely, what he had seen and known - but My Father Who is in heaven "(Mt 16: 16-17). But a person who today hears Him speak with a loud voice through the Holy Gospels and proclaims the will of his blessed Father and does not obey him with fear and trembling and keeps what He commands, he would also if he was present at the time and would have seen and heard Him in person, have by no means been found ready to believe in Him. It is even to be feared that in his utter unbelief he would have viewed the Lord as an enemy of God instead of the true God and would have blasphemed Him.

Further Difficulties of the Early Days - Innumerable Heresies

4. So this is what the most ignorant of all are saying. And what do those say who are a little more enlightened? "If we had lived in the time of the holy fathers, we would have fought too. For in view of their good life and their struggles we would have been encouraged to imitate them. But now we live among lazy and negligent people and are carried away by them, and so we involuntarily perish. " Even they are obviously ignorant that it is we who are in the peaceful harbor, and not the people of the earlier times. Listen! 

At the time of the holy fathers there were many heresies, many pseudo-Christs, many people who traded with Christianity, many lying apostles and false teachers (see 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1, 2 John 7, Jude 10, 2 Cor. 11:13), who went about brazenly and sowed the weeds of the adversary. With their deceptive words they led many astray and plunged their souls into ruin.

5. You can see that this is true by reading the Lives of our Holy Fathers, Antonios, Euthymios, and Sabas. It is reported that one day Antonios put on a better robe than usual and stood on a hill so that he could be seen by everyone to be seized by the heretics and killed. [2] If there had been no persecution, he would not have done such a thing. And is it not written that at the time of the birth of our holy father Euthymios the churches of God were filled with joy [Greek. "euthymia"] because the persecutions and heresies came to an end? [3] And did you not hear how much our holy father Sabas had to fight towards the end of his life against the heresies of that time and how many monks let themselves be carried away by the heretics? [4] And what happened at that time to St. Stephanos the Younger, was it not a severe and cruel persecution? [5] Or perhaps do you not remember the storm of that time and the violence unleashed against the monks? But why try to list them all in sequence? When I think of what happened before these events, in the time of Basil the Great, as the great Gregory tells it, [6] and what happened to John Chrysostom and the subsequent holy fathers, I lament and pity myself those who ignore all of this. Because they are not aware that the entire past was far worse than the present and undeniably filled with the weeds of the adversary (see Mt 13:38).

The Ancient Heresies Which the Holy Fathers Made to Disappear by the Grace of the Holy Spirit

6. Though the past was bad enough, there are many heretics today, many wolves, adders and vipers, who mingle with us without having any power against us. But they are to a certain extent as if hidden in the night of their wickedness, and whoever joins them in the darkness they seize and devour him. But those who wander in the light of the divine scriptures and follow the path of the commandments of God do not even dare to face them, but when they see them passing, they flee from them as from fire.

7. Who do you think I am referring to here as a heretic? Perhaps those who deny the Son of God? Perhaps those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit and say He is not God? Perhaps those who claim that the Father is greater than the Son? Perhaps those who mix the Trinity into a monad or divide the one God into three gods? Perhaps those who acknowledge that Christ is the Son of God but do not believe that He became flesh out of a woman? Perhaps those who gossip stupidly that although He has accepted a body, He has accepted an inanimate one? Perhaps those who acknowledge that it was animated flesh, that is, a whole person, but deny that the Son of God, Who is also the Son of the Mother of God, Mary, is a single God according to hypostasis, and the one Christ is divided into two Sons? [7] Or perhaps those who ascribe a beginning to the beginningless Father and say, "There was a time when He was not"? Or those who recognize the Father's lack of beginning, but ascribe to the Son born of the Father a beginning in time as if He were a creature, and not only think of such nonsense, but also teach it, where it was clearly stated [8 ] that the Father never existed without the Son also being, for how could a childless person be called a "father"? Or perhaps those who proclaim that it was someone else who suffered and someone else who was resurrected?

No, I don't mean any of these irreverent and wicked people, nor the adherents of other heresies that once spread like darkness, but were made to disappear by the then shining Holy Fathers. For so much did the grace of the All-Holy Spirit shine through them and drive away the darkness of the said heresies that their God-inspired writings shine brighter than the sun to this day and nobody dares to contradict them. 

The New Heresy - the Claim That No One Can Keep the Commandments of the Gospel Today

8. Rather, I speak of them, and I call them heretics, who say that there is no one left in our time and among us who is able to keep the evangelical commandments and to become like the Holy Fathers, that is to say, first of all, to believe, to be, and to act according to faith - for through works faith shows itself as the face shows itself in the mirror - then to ascend to the highest contemplation and vision of God, in other words, to receive the Holy Spirit and to see through Him the Son and the Father. Those who say that this impossible have not only fallen into a partial heresy, but have all the heresies put together, if one can say so, because through their godlessness and the excess of their blasphemy they surpass and cover them all.

Whoever says this overturns all the divine scriptures. "The Holy Gospel is still preached in vain today," the vain one seems to be saying, "in vain one reads and disseminates the writings of Basil the Great and our other hierarchs and consecrated fathers." But if what God says and what all the saints did first and then wrote down and left us for instruction cannot possibly be put into practice by us and undiminished, then why did they take the trouble to write down these things? and why are they still read in churches today?

Those who say this close the Heaven (see Mt 23:13) that Christ has opened for us and block the ascent to Him, which He Himself has paved for us (Hebrews 10: 19-20). For while in the highest God, who is above all, stands as it were in the open door of heaven and bows down and calls out to the believers who see him through the Holy Gospel: "Come to Me all who toil and are burdened and I will refresh you! " (Mt 11:28), those enemies of God, or rather antichrists, declare: "Such a thing is impossible, impossible!"

9. The Master rightly says to them in a loud voice: "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Woe to you blind leaders of the blind, for you yourselves do not enter the kingdom and you prevent those who want to enter from it! (See Mt. 23:13, Lk 11:52) While He explicitly praises those who are now mourning and calls them blessed (Mt 5:4), they declare that it is impossible for anyone to mourn and weep every day. Shameless mouths that reject God the Most High and make the sheep of Christ the prey of wild animals, those sheep for whom the Only-begotten Son of God Himself shed His blood! Truly, the ancestor of God David prophesied about such, rightly: "The teeth of the sons of man are weapons and arrows, and their tongue is a sharp sword "(Ps 56: 5)

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