Completion of International Conference
SAINT SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN:
Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Theology of the Light and Grace
May 26-29, 2022,
Thessalia Conference Center,
Melissatika, Volos – Greece
On the morning of Sunday, May 29, the International Conference on “Saint Symeon the New Theologian: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Theology of Light and Grace” organized by the Volos Academy for Theological Studies was successfully completed with the Divine Liturgy. The Conference was held on the occasion of the completion of a thousand years since the death of St. Symeon (1022-2022), at the Thessalia Conference Center (Melissatika, Volos, Greece), between May 26 and 29, 2022, hosting university professors and researchers from universities of Greece and abroad. The conference highlighted the fertile and provocative thought of the saint, pointed out certain aspects of his thought relevant to contemporary research, and raised questions about the need of adaptation of his thought in the contemporary context.
After the Greetings addressed to the conference by the His Eminence Ignatius, Metropolitan of Demetrias, and the Director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, who also chaired the first session, the first speaker, Barbara Crostini (Adjunct Professor in Byzantine Greek, Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University) spoke on the topic “St Symeon the New Theologian and Syria: Exploring Christian Experiences at the Turn of the Millennium” where she raised the question of the relationship of Saint Symeon with the Christian spirituality of Syria, in view of the relations established between Syria and Constantinople, after the victory of Basil II in Aleppo (995). Sabino Chialà (Prior at the Monastic Community of Bose, Italy) in his talk “Had Symeon the New Theologian read Isaac the Syrian?” analyzed the possibility that the New Theologian had read Abba Isaac the Syrian, at a time when the latter's texts had been translated and circulated widely in Constantinople. Courtney Tomaselli (Instructor, Loyola University, Chicago) with her talk on ‘To Such Men authority to bind and loose is given by God…:’ St Symeon the New Theologian on Confession in the Psalter.Vat.gr.1927” presented in a brilliant way the saint's perceptions of spiritual fatherhood and confession on the occasion of the Psalm Vat.Gr.1927.
Georgios Gousgouriotis (PhD ABD, Research Associate at the Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, Thessaloniki): presented the topic “The reception of Symeon the New Theologianʼs work during the 11th-12th centuries: the case of Vassileios protasekretisʼ poems” where he dealt with the reception of the works of Symeon during the 11th-12th century, and in particular the case of Basil the Protasekretis. Manolis Patedakis (Associate Professor in Byzantine Philology, University of Crete) with his talk “The ‘recreation’ (anaplasis) of images about God in Symeon the New Theologian” presented the techniques of speech that Symeon used to convey the experience of the relationship with God, while Revd. Evangelos Gkanas (Priest, parish of Saint Meletios of Sepolia, Electrical Engineer, Licentiate in Theology) with his topic “St Symeon the New Theologian as a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” outlined the identity of the experience of Symeon and the Apostles in the reception of the revelation of the risen Christ. The reception of Symeon’s works in the manuscript tradition and the readership of the time highlighted by Eirini Afentoulidou (Research Associate, Institute of Medieval Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna) in her presentation titled: “Reception of Symeon the New Theologian in the manuscript tradition: Editors, copyists, readers,” something that is directly related to the position of Symeon in the hagiological figure of the time about which Panayiotis Yfantis (Professor in Patristic thought and Hagiology, School of Theology, University of Thessaloniki) spoke about in his talk “St Symeon the New Theologian in the hagiographical pattern of Eastern Orthodox Tradition,” highlighting ambiguities and questions that occupy research to this day.
Marie-Hélène Congourdeau (Chargée de recherche honoraire, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris) with her talk “Urban monasticism in the time of St. Symeon the New Theologian,” presented the role of the New Theologian in the urban monasticism of the time, attributing to the saint the initiative for the entry of individual and inner prayer in the tradition of the priesthood. Dimitrios Moschos (Professor in Church History, Faculty of Theology, University of Athens) spoke on the “Monastic Theology of St Symeon the New Theologian in relation to the ancient monastic patterns of the East”, where, comparing Symeon's relationship with the ancient monastic models, he pondered the questions that the monastic movement raises at times, regarding its ideals.
Revd. Alexandros Chouliaras (Adjunct Lecturer of Patristics, Anthropology, and Spirituality, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) spoke on the topic “St Symeon the New Theologian and St Gregory Palamas on the Experience of God: Implications for Contemporary Christian Life” presented a comparison of the experience of deification between Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas. Revd. Basil Gavrilovic (PhD ABD) with his “Eschatological condition according to Gregory of Nyssa and Symeon the New Theologian: A critical analysis of “ἐπέκτασις” and “ἀτέλεστον τέλος,” compared the thought of the New Theologian with Gregory of Nyssa, in relation to their perceptions of the imperfect eschatological progress of human being. Achilleas Dellopoulos (Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Athens) spoke on “The ascesis of human senses as a presupposition of deification in the anthropology of St Symeon the New Theologian,” where he presented the "spiritual senses" as a necessary condition of deification but also as a unifying element of anthropology, while Vasilios Tsigkos (Professor in Dogmatics, School of Theology, University of Thessaloniki) with his talk on “The theology of the ‘whole’ man in St Symeon the New Theologian and modern theology” highlighted the holistic and recapitulative dimension of the thought of Saint Symeon. In his talk under the title “The Dialectics of Freedom and Necessity in St Symeon the New Theologian” Dimitrios Oulis (Adjunct Lecturer in New Religious Movements, School of Theology, University of Athens) focused on the emphasis on dialectical freedom and necessity as a factor in transcending a conventional and institutionalized practice and spirituality, a reality revealing the dynamics of Symeon’s thought.
Ekaterini Tsalampouni (Associate Professor in New Testament, School of Theology, University of Thessaloniki) in her talk “The use of New Testament in the writings of St Symeon the New Theologian” spoke on the use of the New Testament in Symeon’s work as a combination of biblical interpretation and prophetic testimony, while Stavros Yangazoglou (Associate Professor in Dogmatics, School of Theology, University of Athens), with his “Was St Symeon a forerunner of Hesychasm? The vision of God according to St Symeon and St Gregory Palamas” presented the dimensions and the diversity of the theological expression regarding the view of God and the deification between Gregory Palamas and Symeon the New Theologian, noting both the different times and the relative challenges, as well as the differences that arise from the problems that each of them faced. Istvan Perczel (Professor in Philosophy and Byzantine History, Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest) in his talk “The role of the body in the vision of God according to St Symeon the New Theologian” developed a fruitful reflection on the role of the body in deification according to the New Theologian, connecting the problematic of the issue with the thought of Evagrius Ponticus and thinking about the role of the body in the reception of the divine vision.
Pablo Argárate (Professor in Patristics and Eastern Orthodox Theology, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz) in his talk “Τhe Holy Spirit in St Symeon the New Theologian” presented the role of the Holy Spirit in the mysticism of Symeon, highlighting the role of pneumatology as a dynamic approach to the event of Christ by crediting the New Theologian with an insistence on Pneumatology that became characteristic of Eastern Christianity. Theophilos Abatzidis (Research Associate, Volos Academy) with his talk “Life in Christ as a foretaste of the society of the eschaton. Remarks on the eschatological references of Symeon the New Theologian,” presented the eschatology of the New Theologian in comparison with the reflection of the eschatology of the 20th century, as an engagement and a foretaste of the Kingdom from this life here, but without dispelling the anticipation of the end as a completion of the present experience. Paul Gavrilyuk (Professor, St Thomas University, Minessota, President of IOTA) spoke on “Embodiment and Spiritual Perception in St Symeon the New Theologian,” where he analyzed the relationship of incarnation to the spiritual senses, exploring how Symeon connects the flesh with the senses and the mind in describing his experiences.
The video recording of the Conference has already been posted on the Volos Academy’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/VolosAcademy .
The next conference organized by the Volos Academy, entitled " Orthodox Constructions of the East", will be held from June 16 to 19, 2022, again at the Thessalia Conference Center, Melissatika, Volos, Greece.