Symeon lives the divine life through the practice of the virtues. Throughout his entire Hymns on Divine Eros, he focuses on the wedding of the virtuous life and the knowledge of Christ. Specifically, I want to highlight the union in Hymn 28 in the context of vigilance and repentance. Here, in his own practice of this life, he comments on being overwhelmed with Christ. In these moments he speaks of Christ as utterly enflaming him, and as that flame grows bigger and bigger, he is swept up into Christ’s presence. It is here that he desires all the more to meditate on God’s commands and ordinances. He concludes his description of this experience by saying, “Vigilance takes repentance as a co-worker.” (pg. 215) What Symeon is pointing to here is significant. I am overwhelmed when I hear him describe the sweetness that he extracts from meeting with Christ. I mean, who doesn’t want to be swept up into glory? Who doesn’t want to have a deeper desire to meditate on God’s commandments and ordinances? But, like Symeon are we counting the cost? Do we really understand that the fruitful and explosive life that we are given in Christ comes only through obedience? We need to constantly be practicing as our beloved Symeon does the virtues of vigilance and repentance.
Why vigilance? If there is one aspect of the Christian life that I have grown in as I continue to read the Fathers and monks of the Church it is the understanding of the Christian life as a battle. When we accept Christ and are baptized, we are now free in Christ, but now are under the radar of the enemy. Satan is angry that we have sworn our allegiance to Christ and have enlisted into his Army. Now, Satan and his minions are doing whatever they can to destroy us by deterring us from our focus on Christ. It is in our vigilance in mind and body that we are able to guard against these attacks and therefore, stay focused on our Commander Jesus Christ.
Why repentance? I used to see repentance as something that I had to do because I did bad things and needed to become morally right again. With this mentality, I saw grace and forgiveness as something that was constantly in danger of being lost, not to mention I had to work for them. As I have grown in my understanding of my union with Christ in baptism, I now see repentance in a new light. Repentance is something that I want to do. In my repenting, I don’t receive more forgiveness; I have already received forgiveness in its fullness, I now repent out of thankfulness to the deep grace that I have.
If we want to continue to grow in our relationship to Christ like Symeon, and be swept up in His presence, growing in our desire for His commands and ordinances, then we must become vigilant and full of repentance.