One the eve of a rebellion, when the monks under his supervision ran to the Patriarch of the city to get relief from their severe Abbot, Symeon spoke to them:
I cannot endure to be silent about the things I have seen, about the wonders of God I have known by fact and experience. Rather, I testify of them to all others as in God’s presence, and say with a loud voice, “Run, all of you, before the door of repentance is closed to you by death. Run, that you may take hold of it before you depart this life; make haste that you may receive it, knock, that your Master may open to you before you die, and that He may show himself to you.” (349)
Symeon was not only severe. In a compassionate moment towards those who insufficiently fasted during Lent, he said:
[God] it is who in great generosity gives crowns to the zealous and duly rewards their labors, and also in mercy and loving-kindness grants forgiveness to the weaker. (181)
Symeon was driven by a vision of God that would not let him relax. Having experienced the inexpressible light of God, he was compelled to urge the people around him to press on towards that light.
My biggest struggle with Symeon (and all the ancient Orthodox saints) is their spirit-flesh dualism and extreme asceticism. They are constantly preoccupied with escaping the material world which God deemed “very good” and validated by becoming incarnate. That said, Symeon’s passion and insight into the spiritual condition made the struggle worthwhile!
Symeon’s Discourses are deep devotional material. Written for those in a monastic life, they are still relevant today for those with a passionate commitment to Christ.
Symeon the New Theologian. The Discourses. The Classics of Western Spirituality: A Library of the Great Spiritual Masters. Translated by C. J. deCatanzaro. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980.