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Symeon The New Theologian: Seeing Beyond Painting

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents an evocative passage that is found in the Second Thanksgiving written by St. Symeon the New Theologian. It offers a rich and quite precise account of this monk's experience of spiritual vision. It is notable that one of the most striking features of Symeon's writings is the very limited place granted to the material icon within his many discussions of the spiritual life. Given the importance of icons within the theory and practice of Orthodoxy, this lack seems, at first glance, to be surprising. The passage introduces some of the reasons as to why such neglect was necessary for Symeon's spiritual understanding. The chapter explores this gap between a visual spiritual economy and the icon itself. In so doing, it shows the degree to which Symeon's mystical writings were shaped by his rejection of a contemporary theological practice that was grounded in the logic of the visible.

Keywords: icon; Orthodoxy; Symeon's mystical writings; theological practice; visual spiritual economy



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