July 21, 2010

St. Symeon the Fool for Christ and the Origenists

By Leontios, Bishop of Neapolis

Two fathers in a certain monastery near Emesa considered a question among themselves and inquired why the heretic Origen had fallen, although honored by God with such knowledge and wisdom. One said, "The knowledge which he had was not from God, but was a natural advantage. Furthermore, he had a clever mind, and especially when he devoted himself to his reading of the Holy Scriptures and to the Holy Fathers, he sharpened his mind, and from this he wrote his books." The other responded, "It is not possible for someone to say the things which he put forth because of natural advantage (alone), especially the statements in his Hexapla" - which is why even to this day the catholic Church accepts them as indispensable. And the first answered again, "Believe me, the pagans have acquired more wisdom than he and have written more books than he. What then? Should we also approve them because of their worldly nonsense?"

When they could not agree, thus standing their ground to the end, one said to the other, "I hear from those who have come back from the Holy Places that the desert of the holy Jordan has great monks. Let us go and learn from them."

Thereupon they came to the Holy Places, and after they had prayed, they went also to the desert of the Dead Sea, in which John and Symeon of everlasting memory had been anchorites. God had not rendered their labors fruitless, for they found Abba John, who still remained there alone and had achieved an even higher level of virtue. When he saw them, he said, "Welcome, you who have left the sea and come to draw water at the dry pool."

After having conversed for a long time together about things pleasing to God, they told him why they had made such a journey. And he said to them, "My fathers, I have not yet received the gift to discern God's judgments, but go to Symeon the Fool in your land, and he himself can explain both this and anything else that you wish. Say to him, 'Pray also for John, so that a ten might be cast for him'" [note: "ten" refers to the lot which fell to Symeon for a blessing].

So they went to Emesa and asked where a fool named Symeon was. And everyone laughed at them and said, "What do you want from him, fathers? The man is beside himself, and he abuses and jeers at all of us, particularly monks." They sought him out and found him in the phouska-seller's shop, eating beans like a bear. immediately one (of the fathers) was scandalized and said to himself, "Truly we have come to see a great sage; this man has much to explain to us." As they approached him, they said to him, "Bless us." He said to them, "You have come at a bad time, and the one who sent you is an idiot." Thereupon he grabbed the ear of the one who had been scandalized and gave him such a blow that (the bruise) could be seen for days. And he said, "Have you found fault with my beans? They were soaked for forty days, but Origen would not eat them because he plunged into the sea and was not strong enough to get out, and he drowned in the deep."

They were amazed that he said all this in advance - and also this, "Does the fool [John] want the ten? He's as much an idiot as you! - Do you want a kick on the shin?" he said. "Yes, yes, go away." And immediately lifting up a jug of hot wine he burned the two of them on their lips, so that they were unable to repeat what he had told them.