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Thursday, July 21, 2022

Saint Symeon the Fool for Christ as a Model for our Lives

St. Symeon the Fool for Christ (Feast Day - July 21)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Symeon the Fool for Christ came from Edessa in Syria and lived in the 6th century AD. Together with his friend John, they set out, both young, to go to Jerusalem to worship. With them were the mother of Symeon, the father of John, and his young wife whom he had married a short time earlier. Along the way, the desire to dedicate themselves to God ignited in them. That is why they prayed fervently and begged God to lead them to a monastery, and to take care of their relatives and comfort them, and it happened so. Therefore, they both went to the desert of Jordan and decided to go to a monastery where they will find a welcoming door.

In the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos, at that time, there was a holy man, Father Nephon, who was abbot, who received information from God to open the main gate of the Monastery and wait to receive two young people. Indeed, he welcomed them with love and after some time he made them monks and led them into the desert, according to God's will. In the desert they lived in asceticism and prayer, and at the same time they worked with their hands, in order to make a living for the necessities of their needs, but also for alms.

Symeon, after 29 years, was called by God to go to the city to help the people and lead them to the path of salvation. He said goodbye to his friend and co-ascetic John, who, despite his initial objections, relented and submitted to God's will. John remained in the desert until his final repose.

Therefore, Symeon left the desert and went to help the people, according to God's command. With the many gifts with which the Holy Spirit adorned him and with the miracles he performed, he led, by the Grace of God, to repentance and salvation many who were well-intentioned. He pretended to be crazy like a fool, in order to hide his spiritual work and to keep his humility. That is why he is known in Synaxaria as " Symeon the Fool for Christ". When he accepted this difficult task, he received the promise from God that he would be with him constantly, to protect him, to comfort him and to strengthen him in the many difficulties and the various temptations that he would face. The gift of foolishness for Christ, as we will see below, is not given to anyone, but only to those who have the ability to accept it - according to their spiritual condition, but also their character - and to utilize it to the end , enduring the difficulties, great and insurmountable for human strength, which this ministry entails. Studying the life of Saint Symeon, one finds that his achievements are superhuman and beyond reason, indeed incomprehensible to common human reasoning.

He reposed in peace.

Two days after he reposed, his body was found by two believers, who took it to bury it, without, however, hymns and honors. But God honored him, since angels chanted along the path his body was taken to the memorial.

A certain Jew, who because of the Saint believed in Christ and was baptized, suddenly heard the sweetest melodies outside his house and looked out the window to see what was happening. Then he was surprised to see two people silently carrying the body of the Saint. He immediately understood that it was an angelic hymn and, glorifying God, he hastened to bury the Saint's body with due honors.

His life and his conduct give us the occasion to emphasize the following.

The gifts that God bestows on each person are many and varied and are given to each "according to the measure of the gift of Christ". Some of them are obvious, some others, however, perhaps one needs to try to discover them and use them for the glory of God. One of these gifts that God gives is the gift of foolishness, which, however, is rare and is given to the fewest, that is, to those who have reached high levels of spiritual life, but also have the appropriate temperament, so that they can to endure insults, taunts, mockery, even physical violence on the part of people who cannot understand the saints. Unfortunately, most of us are used to staying on the surface and are unable to delve into the depth of events and interpret them in their true dimension. After all, only the saints understand the saints, as well as those who are in the perspective of holiness. This applies more to the fools for Christ, who diligently hide their holiness under the guise of their pretended madness. That is why even many of those who benefited from him in a miraculous way could not understand Saint Symeon.

We are used to staying on the surface, in "terrestrial phenomena" and that is why we are unable to understand "heavenly thoughts". Those who have learned to enter through prayer into the garden of their heart and try to cultivate it, to clean it and make it, with the Grace of God, to bear fruit, they smell the fragrance of holiness, even if those adorned with it try to hide it under the "shell" of their simplicity or their pretended madness.

The people of God, the true disciples of Christ who are adorned with the Holy Spirit, are humble, patient, obedient to the Church, full of love, and their word calms, pacifies, brings consolation, love and inner sweetness. Any behavior that does not have the above characteristics certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, but from the evil spirit, which causes pain, bitterness, hatred, confusion and turmoil.

We should learn not to stay on the surface, but to penetrate into the depth of our existence with prayer, the sacramental life and asceticism, so that we can go beyond the phenomena, which usually fail us, and understand the "beyond the heavenly" meaning of things.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.