A quotation on ordinary people, from Simeon the New Theologian

From Mike Neglia via Trevin Wax:

Why Does Jesus Identify With Us? (Part 2)

Nearly all reject the weak and poor as objects of disgust; an earthly king cannot bear the sight of them, rulers turn away from them, while the rich ignore them and pass them by when they meet them as though they did not exist; nobody thinks it desirable to associate with them. 

But God, who is served by myriads of powers without number, who “upholds the universe by the word of His power,”[1] whose majesty is beyond anyone’s endurance, has not disdained to become the Father, the Friend, the Brother of those rejected ones. He willed to become incarnate so that He might become “like unto us in all things except for sin”[2] and make us to share in His glory and His kingdom.

What stupendous riches of His great goodness! What an ineffable condescension on the part of our master and our God. 

– Symeon the New Theologian, Discourse 2.4

Another version of this quotation may be found here, and I have added the biblical references from this.  The passage is quoted in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series[3], in the volume on Hebrews, p.69, online at Google Books here.  This in turn refers to the modern translation of de Catanzaro.[4].  Rather to my surprise, there is a preview of this also here.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally class myself as one of the “weak” or “poor”.  Yet … this message is just as much for ordinary middle class people as for the working class.  We ought to consider that we too are included here.  We may not be dirt-poor.  But we have almost no power in modern society.  Our views are widely scorned, and our wishes ostentatiously mocked.  Petty bureaucrats feel obliged to treat us coldly when we come into contact with them, knowing that by rights we should be heard, but that the lords of our days wish to snub people like us and put us in our place.

These words are, therefore, for everyone who feels rejected, or excluded.  They are for all who find themselves growing older but no better or richer or more valued.

They are for you, and for me.  And God came down, and lived alongside us.

  1. [1] Hebrews 1:3.
  2. [2] Hebrews 4:15.
  3. [3] IVP, 2005.
  4. [4] Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses, tr. C. J. de Catanzaro, in the series Classics of Western Spirituality: A Library of the Great Spiritual Masters, New York: Paulist Press, 1980, p.50.

4 Responses to “A quotation on ordinary people, from Simeon the New Theologian”


  1. Mike Neglia

    Great to see you interacting with the quote from Symeon! I’ve been preaching through the book of Hebrews for the past year and I’ve found the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture to be very helpful. I was so blessed when I came across that quote, I just had to put it on my blog.
    It’s so good to get out of our 21st century mindsets and problems and listen to our older brother’s thoughts as they encounter the same truths in scripture.
    Grace and peace to you!

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for the note! Yes, Simeon’s words spoke to me too (although I know nothing of his work otherwise). I ought to get a volume or two of this series and go through them and see what I can glean. If only they were not so expensive!

    But yes, if we can get to see things from another angle, we can recognise what God is doing in our lives better. He is ceaselessly active, but we recognise almost nothing of it.

    Peace be with you in Christ.

  3. Mike Neglia

    I’m fortunate enough to have a friend who owns the complete series, so he loans them out to me, one at a time! I’ve read the Mark edition and I’m nearly done with Hebrews. I can see why they would be expensive though- a lot of original research has gone into them, cross referencing not only verses, but also themes present in pericopes.
    I had no idea they were on Google books though! That’s great to know. Good job finding it!

  4. Roger Pearse

    You’re lucky! I’ve ordered the one on Romans, and we’ll see how I do with that.



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