By what boundless mercy, my Savior

by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by John Anthony McGuckin
Original Language Greek

By what boundless mercy, my Savior,
have you allowed me to become a member of your body?
Me, the unclean, the defiled, the prodigal.
How is it that you have clothed me
in the brilliant garment,
radiant with the splendor of immortality,
that turns all my members into light?
Your body, immaculate and divine,
is all radiant with the fire of your divinity,
with which it is ineffably joined and combined.
This is the gift you have given me, my God:
that this mortal and shabby frame
has become one with your immaculate body
and that my blood has mingled
with your blood.
I know, too,
that I have been made one with your divinity
and have become your own most pure body,
a brilliant member, transparently lucid,
luminous and holy.
I see the beauty of it all, I can gaze on the radiance.
I have become a reflection of the light of your grace.

-- from The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives, Translated by John Anthony McGuckin

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This poem, like much of Symeon's sacred poetry, expresses a mysticism in which Christ is personally encountered in the form of light.

You might want to explore some of the theme pages that discuss the mystical experience of light, dawn, fire, etc., to better understand why this is so essential to Symeon's poetry.

Of course, blood is an important symbol of Christianity as well. But to the Christian mystic, the blood of Christ is more than a symbol; it is touched, tasted, and creates deep transformation.

Often within the sacred experience, there is an awareness of being immersed in a water or a thick liquid. Sometimes it is perceived as a pool or a living ocean in which one bathes -- the true baptism in the living blood of Christ.

Yet this liquid sensation is recognized as being within as well as without. You are overcome with the sense that the water is inside and outside, and that the boundary separating the two is just a mental idea. The inside flows out and the outside flows in. This is what Symeon means when he says his blood has mingled with Christ's blood.

Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives Hymns of Divine Love: Songs of praise by one of the great mystics of all church history
More Books >>

By what boundless