St Symeon the New Theologian was abbot of the monastery of St Mamas in Constantinople at the turn of the eleventh century. He was also perhaps the most remarkable and certainly the most forceful advocate of the mystical experience of God in the history of the Byzantine Church. Though they were on occasion suppressed by ecclesiastical authorities wary of his fierce enthusiasm, as well as his claims to charismatic authority, St Symeon's writings survived in the Orthodox Church and continued to play a vital role in the several renewals of spiritual life and prayer which has sustained the Church in its often difficult history over the past millennium.
This is the third of a three-volume series. The first two volumes translated St Symeon's Ethical Discourses, while this book seeks to place the teaching of the discourses in their proper context, both among Symeon's other writings and with regard to his sources in the Tradition. Included thus is a sketch of Symeon's life and times, together with an extensive discussion of his thought, particularly against the background in the ascetical, mystical, and theological literature of the Christian East prior to the tenth century. Just as he always insisted he was, the New Theologian emerges as a thoroughly traditional representative of central themes in Greek patristic thought, in particular of the doctrine of deification (theosis) as summing up the Christian hope. Even his claims to charismatic authority emerge as fully within monastic tradition dating back at least to the fourth century. These claims appear most clearly in his Letter on Confession which is appended to the present work.