Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hearts of fire, Minds of ice

In 949 A.D., a baby was born in Galatia, now part of modern day Turkey. This is the same Galatia to which St. Paul wrote his letter in the New Testament bearing the name of the city’s residents: Galatians. The young boy’s name was a common name, familiar to many of that day, much like John or Tom or Bob today. His name was Symeon or as it is often translated today in the United States, Simon. Simon was raised by his father to serve in the royal court, but at an early age began to study the faith under a Christian minister bearing the same name, Elder Simeon the Pious. Simon of Galatia studied for years and eventually left the royal court to become a member of a small community of Christian teachers. These communities eventually became what we today understand as monasteries. Simon of Galatia was not popular. He was very disturbed by what he saw as a loss of passion for Jesus Christ. For the past several hundred years, since the 700’s, the church had become more and more rational. The task of making the faith logical and seeking to understand the work and ministry of Christ within the scope of current Greek and Roman philosophy had robbed Christianity of much of its zeal.

Simon of Galatia began a personal campaign to return Christianity to its vitality of the early church. His famous quote was that ‘Christians should have hearts of fire and minds of ice.’ He was not opposed to the mental task of academic study in various areas of the faith, but mourned the loss of mystery and spiritual zeal for the cause of Christ. He lamented the lack of prayer, devotional Bible reading and the lack of interest for the poor. His call to restoration, spiritual passion and works in faith earned him banishment by the church officials of the day. He moved to the Bosphorus, near modern Istanbul where he died in 1021. In isolation, he became famous for his miraculous prayers. Many in that region believed that Simon’s prayers were very effective. Although he was viewed as a revolutionary in his day, his faithfulness ultimately earned him the title, “St. Symeon the New Theologian.” Little has changed in 1,000 years. We still swing back and forth between hearts of fire and minds of ice, looking for the balance of faith and understanding. In the midst of the debates, the searching and the great leaders of the Church, God continues to answer prayers for healing, direction and comfort.

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