VATICAN CITY, 16 SEP 2009 (VIS) - In today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope focused his attention on Symeon the New Theologian, "an Eastern monk from Asia Minor whose writings exercised an important influence on theology and spirituality in the East, especially as regards the experience of mystical union with God".
The Holy Father explained how Symeon was born in Galatai, Asia Minor. He began a civilian career in the imperial service but abandoned it in order "to follow the path of union with God" under the guidance of Symeon the Pious in a monastery in Constantinople. He died in the year 1022.
"Symeon focused his reflections on the presence of the Holy Spirit in the baptised and on the awareness they must have of this spiritual truth. Christian life, he insists, is intimate and personal communion with God. ... True knowledge of God ... stems from a journey of inner purification". This journey must pass through "profound penitence and sincere suffering for ones sins in order to achieve union with Christ, the source of joy and peace".
"This saintly Oriental monk reminds everyone to pay great attention to spiritual life. If, in fact, we are rightly concerned with tending to our physical, human and intellectual development, it is even more important not to overlook our inner development which consists in knowledge of God and communion with Him, so as to experience His help at all times and in all circumstances".
Symeon the New Theologian "had certain proof that the source of Christ's presence and action in a person's soul is love", said Benedict XVI. "The love of God grows within us if we remain united to Him through prayer and listening to His Word. Only divine love makes us open our hearts to others and renders us sensitive to their needs, bringing us to consider everyone as our brothers and sisters and inviting us to respond to hatred with love and to offence with forgiveness".
Recalling then how, as a young man, Symeon "found a spiritual director who helped him greatly and for whom he always maintained great respect", the Pope told his audience: "This remains valid even today, as everyone - priests, consecrated persons, lay people and especially the young - is invited to seek the counsel of a good spiritual father, one capable of accompanying each individual in a profound knowledge of self and leading him or her to intimate union with the Lord, that their lives may be increasingly moulded to the Gospel".
"To advance towards the Lord we always have need of a guide, of some form of dialogue; we cannot do it just with our own reflections. And finding this guide is part of the ecclesial nature of our faith".