Christians need more than book knowledge to grow spiritually, Pope teaches
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.- This morning in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the importance of Symeon the New Theologian’s teachings on progressing in spiritual maturity. Besides book knowledge, the Eastern monk teaches about the necessity of interior purification for making spiritual progress, especially with the help of a “good spiritual father.”

Symeon was born in Asia Minor in 949 to a noble family. As a young man, he moved to Constantinople to embark on a career in the civil service, but during his studies he was shown a work by Mark the Monk called “The Spiritual Law,” the book completely changed his life. In 977 he entered the monastery of Studion in order "to follow the path of union with God" under the guidance of Simeon the Pious. The New Theologian died in 1022.

“It is interesting to note,” Benedict XVI said, “his designation of ‘New Theologian,’ despite the fact that the name is reserved for John the Evangelist and Gregory Nazianzen.”

Symeon teaches us that Christian life is an intimate and personal communion with God, the Pope explained. "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," he added.

In the nine volumes of his works, Symeon “insisted that true knowledge of God comes not from books but from the spiritual life, born of a journey of inner purification that begins with conversion,” the Pope summarized. The New Theologian "calls us all to the spiritual life, the hidden presence of God in us, to the purification of conscience, so the Holy Spirit becomes present in us and guides us."

Adding his own reflection to Symeon's teaching, Pope Benedict said, “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 offense with forgiveness.”

Symeon "found a spiritual director who helped him greatly and for whom he always maintained great respect," the Pope told his audience of 8,000 faithful. "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 molded 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.”

After the general audience the Pontiff received the Prime Minister of Romania Emil Boc and his entourage in a private audience.

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January 29, 2015

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