In their most profound and personal writings, saints and theologians speak mostly of love. St. Symeon the New Theologian describes the Spirit of God as “precisely Love.” Consequently, he writes that hell is the state of having a heart that does not love and so has cut itself off from God who is Love. But what does he say about God’s love for man and about his own heart? These spiritual gems are excerpted from Hymns of Divine Love, translated by George A. Maloney, S. J.
“We know the love that You gave us, boundless, indescribable, which nothing can contain, which is light…It is a sun…It is a star which always shines…It is opposed to grief, it drives hatred away…This is the star, which, by shining, draws people aside and creates the oblivion of all the anxieties of life, it usually nourishes and heals thirst…It calms anger and the turmoil of the heart.” (Hymn 18)
“Come, You the Lonely, to the lonely, since You see I am lonely. Come, You who have separated me from everything and made me solitary in this world. Come, You who have become Yourself desire in me, who have made me desire You, You, the absolutely inaccessible one. Come my breath and my life. Come, consolation of my poor soul. Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.” (From a prayer)
“You are the sun who before all ages shone in the depths of hell and who then enlightened my soul enveloped in darkness and who have blessed me with the gift of endless light…” (Hymn 1)
Although God is beyond all things, God is also love. St. Symeon seeks “the inaccessible God” everywhere, but finds Him within, in the deepest center of his own heart.
“Where will I find the One whom I see each day; how will I lay hold of the One who is within me, and beyond the world, since He is completely invisible?” (Hymn 3)
“I am seated in my cell either by night or by day: love is invisibly with me and without my knowing it. As it is exterior to all creatures, it is also with them all; it is fire, it is also ray, it becomes a cloud of light, it perfects itself as the sun. Hence because it is fire, it warms the soul again and burns my heart and excites it towards desire and love, love of the Creator. And when I have been sufficiently inflamed and set aflame in my soul, like a ray carrier of light it flies around and surrounds me entirely casting its sparkling rays into my soul, illuminating my mind.” (Hymn 17)
“Love is in my heart, it exists in Heaven, it reveals the Scriptures to me and increases my knowledge, it teaches me mysteries that I cannot express; it shows me how it tore me away from the world and commands me to have mercy on all those who are in this world.” (Hymn 18)
“He [The Spirit] makes joy burst forth in the heart as a spring. It is from this spring that all compassion and mercy pours, flowing out from the soul to all men.” (Hymn 22)
“Love expelled cowardice, it aroused bravery. It granted me the grace to see the uncreated, and to rejoice…to have been united to the Uncreated, to the incorruptible, to the eternal, to what is invisible to all; for that is what love is…
“The first of all the virtues, the queen and the mistress, really is love….Without love the virtues are withered and useless…The Creator came on earth; He took on a soul and a body. He gave the Divine Spirit who is precisely Love.” (Hymn 17)
St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) lived in Constantinople for most of his life. He was the abbot at the monastery of St. Mamas until he was exiled to a small town on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus. Although he was eventually exonerated by the Patriarch and the Emperor, he chose to remain in the small monastery where he was until he died. His writings are considered classics of Christian mysticism.