Symeon the New Theologian (c. 950-1022 AD) was a Byzantine Christian monk and poet who was the last of three saints canonized by the Eastern Orthodox Church and given the title of “Theologian.” “Theologian” was not applied to Symeon in the modern academic sense of theological study, but to recognize someone who spoke from personal experience of the vision of God. One of his principal teachings was that people could have a direct experience of God.

In his writings, he gives us this vision:

“It shines on us without evening, without change, without alteration, without form. It speaks, works, lives, gives life, and changes into light those whom it illuminates. We bear witness that ‘God is light,’ and those to whom it has been granted to see Him have all beheld Him as light. Those who have received Him as light, do so because the light of His glory goes before Him, and it is impossible for Him to appear without light. Those who have not seen His light have not seen Him, for He yet received grace. Those who have received grace have received the light of God and have received God, even as Christ Himself, who is Light, has said, ‘I will live in them and move among them.’” (Discourse 28)

And this personal account of Divine Light:

“One evening, when (he) was praying, and saying in spirit: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” a divine light suddenly . . . shone on him from above and filled the room. The young man no longer knew whether he was in the house or under a roof, for on all sides he saw nothing but light: he was not even aware of being on earth. … He was one with this divine light and it seemed to him that he himself had become light and left the world altogether … he was filled with tears and unspeakable joy.” (Discourse 22)