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December 28, 2021

Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher and his Spiritual Father

St. Simon comes to the Holy Mountain in search of an elder.

We know nothing of the life of Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher before he came to Mount Athos in search of a virtuous elder to whom he could devote his complete obedience, without which no monk can hope to attain salvation. His desire was to find a virtuous man that had the ability to guide him to live a life pleasing to God, but who was also strict in order to subject his flesh to the spirit. After finding what he was looking for, he placed himself under obedience as though his elder was God Himself.

Now the elder Simon chose was a difficult man. He was harsh and rough, often not only insulting Simon verbally but physically assaulting him as well. Simon accepted and endured this treatment with joy and thankfulness. If a day passed in which he was not abused by his elder, Simon deemed it a loss.

St. Simon submits himself to an abusive elder for instruction.

One would think that such treatment would drive Simon to hate and resent his elder. The opposite was true. Simon deeply loved his elder, more than he did his natural parents. He was a simple man of deep faith who loved Christ above all, Who created all things out of nothing, but he understood that his love for Christ would be proved under the most difficult circumstances, and this was his perspective in everything he endured. For Simon, his elder was the only means by which he could ever hope to draw near to Christ. His obedience was in imitation of Christ, Who was obedient to His Heavenly Father in all things, even to the point of enduring the Cross.

Once, when his elder was sleeping, Simon was so filled with love and affection for his elder that he drew near to him and kissed his feet, like the sinful woman did for Christ. If his elder was ever absent, he would kiss the empty bed of the elder or the place where he would stand.

St. Simon kissing the feet of his sleeping elder.
The obedience and struggles of Simon became renowned throughout the Holy Mountain, and for this he was beloved and revered. Simon was a man full of love and humility, which are the fruits of blessed obedience. Due to his guilelessness and obedience, Simon was granted divine gifts, and his elder realized that his stern and harsh ways were no longer necessary, and therefore he showed his submissive gentleness. He no longer abused Simon nor gave him any commands. In fact, the elder began to treat Simon as the elder and sought his instruction in spiritual matters.

St. Simon departs for solitude with the blessing of his elder.

Simon, as one who was humble-minded, did not like this honor that was being given to him, deeming himself unworthy. He then realized that he was going to have seek a life of solitude, and with much pain in his soul asked for his elder's blessing to depart from him. The elder imparted his blessing, however he lamented the fact that he lost such a disciple and fellow-struggler.