Today we’re finding inspiration from the Byzantine monk and poet, Symeon the New Theologian. At the age of 14, he met his mentor, Symeon the Studite, who convinced him to abandon his studies so he could focus on prayer and asceticism. But at his mentor’s urging, it would be another 13 years before Symeon entered monastic life.
Three years later, his fellow monks elected him abbot. But he ran afoul of church authorities for his charismatic approach to spirituality, and his promotion of the individual’s direct experience of God’s grace. In opposition to church teaching, Symeon believed a direct experience of God gave monks the authority to preach and even absolve sins without ordination. As a result of his views, the church exiled Symeon to a small village near Chrysopolis.
Symeon is recognized as the first Byzantine mystic to share his own mystical experiences. We get a glimpse into his mystical experience in his poem titled, “The Fire Rises in Me.”
THE FIRE RISES IN ME
By Symeon the New Theologian
The fire rises in me,
and lights up my heart.
Like the sun!
Like the golden disk!
Opening, expanding, radiant —
— a flame!
I say again:
I don’t know
what to say!
I’d fall silent
— If only I could —
but this marvel
makes my heart leap,
it leaves me open mouthed
like a fool,
to summon words
from my silence.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey by Ivan Granger
Some more inspirational nuggets for today:
- On this day in 1598, Jews were expelled from Genoa, Italy and forced to live in ghettos outside the city. Although the Jewish people had lived in Genoa for more than a 1,000 years, Genoese authorities granted and rescinded their ability to do commerce in the city at least four times from 1570 to 1586. But despite persecution, Jewish culture was kept alive in the ghettos through the observance of Jewish rituals, customs and the celebration of the Sabbath.
- Also on this day, in 1867 Black men received the right to vote in the District of Columbia despite President Andrew Johnson’s veto. At the time, citizens of the District of Columbia had no representation in Congress and couldn’t vote in presidential elections. By overturning Johnson’s veto, the Republican Congress enabled Black men to vote for a local council, three years before the 15thamendment granted voting rights to all men, regardless of race. But it would take almost another century — until 1961 — before citizens of the District gained the right to vote in federal elections. Even today, Washington D.C.’s city budget is the nation’s only municipal budget subject to the approval of Congress.
- Today marks the death of the British founder of the Boy Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell, in 1941. Born the son of an Anglican minister, Baden-Powell served in the British Army from 1876 to 1910 with tours in India and Africa. When he returned from Africa in 1903, he was surprised to learn his book called Aids to Scouting was being used by teachers and youth organizations. So, he decided to rewrite it for a youth audience and in 1907 held a camp for 20 boys on Brownsea Island to test his ideas. He published his book Scouting for Boys the next year, in which he introduced the Scout promise: “On my honour I promise that — I will do my best to help others, whatever it costs me.” Scouting for Boys sold 150 million copies and the rest was history.
And that’s today’s spiritual almanac — thanks for listening. If you liked what you heard we’d appreciate it if you subscribed and gave a thumbs up to our podcast and YouTube channel.
A Spiritual Almanac is a production of Granola Soul. You can find a text version of today’s episode and Symeon the New Theologian’s “The Fire Rises in Me” at our website, GranolaSoul.com.
Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.