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Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022) is the latest of three saints of the Eastern Orthodox church to have been given the title of "Theologian" (the other two are John the Apostle and Gregory of Nazianzus), although his title of "new" was likely to distinguish him from another contemporary Symeon. Symeon was a poet who embodied the mystical hesychastic tradition. He wrote that humans could and should experience theoria (direct experience of God). His works influenced the hesychastic controversy of the 14th century. His most famous disciple was Nicetas Stethatos, his cell attendant who also wrote his life.

Orthodox Icon of Saint Symeon the New Theologian.

He was born in Galatia, Paphlagonia and his father prepared him for education at Constantinople in official life. He was afterwards assigned as a courtier in attendance to the Emperors Basil II and Constantine Porphyrogenitus. He abandoned his life as a courtier to retreat to a monastery at the age of 27 under his Elder, Simeon the Pious at the Monastery of Stoudios. Later he became abbot of the Monastery of St. Mammas in Constantinople.

The strict monastic discipline for which Symeon aimed rankled some in the monastery. One day after the Divine Liturgy some of the monks attacked and nearly killed him. After they were expelled from the monastery Symeon asked that they be treated leniently. From church authorities too, Symeon endured severe opposition, some of whom found his works irksome enough to banish him from Constantinople. So he left and resided in the Monastery of St. Makrina across the Bosphorus. Eventually he became a recluse.

Symeon was not educated in Greek philosophy but was quite familiar with the life of the church. He often spoke from direct personal experience and on occasion attacked certain scholars whom he viewed as pretending to have a knowledge they didn't have.

Some of Symeon's works include his Catechetical discourses, Hymns of Divine Love and the Three Theological Discourses.


  • Hilarion Alfeyev, St Symeon the New Theologian and Orthodox Tradition, 2000, Oxford U. Press, ISBN 0-19-827009-7
  • Jonathan Harris, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007), pp. 92-3. ISBN 978 1847251794
  • Symeon, the New Theologian On the Mystical Life, The ethical discourses, Translated and Introduced by Alexander Golitizin, 1995, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, ISBN 0-88141-142-6
  • Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid: Volume One, January to June: Lives of Saints, Hymns, Reflections and Homilies for Every Day of the Year, 2002, Sebastian Press, Serbian Orthodox Diocese Western America; 1st edition,

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