St Symeon the Fool for Christ
Commemorated on 21st July
St Symeon, who lived in the sixth century, had a remarkable life filled with wisdom and saintliness. He shared a blessed friendship with a man called John whom he met on a pilgrimage. They became monks at the same time and went into the desert, sharing its isolation together for thirty years. When Symeon received his calling to re-enter the world, John found it difficult to part with his dear friend. Symeon entered the town of Emesa dragging a dog carcass on a rope. His unique calling was to present a façade of foolishness to perform God’s work. Ascetic fools have a special purpose: they save souls by behaving in unusual ways.
Fools for Christ use folly for two reasons. First, their unseemly behaviour triggers reflection and repentance in people. However, they also feign stupidity to avoid the admiration of people. The Grace of God granted Symeon powers of healing and foresight. He would roam the streets dressed with few clothes, and befriend prostitutes whom he paid to be chaste. He would throw stones at people entering dangerous roads and at magicians who would be healed upon abandoning their sorcery. He also healed the possessed. People who scorned him were struck with illness until they repented. Once, before an earthquake hit, Symeon was found whipping the pillars of the local school in an effort to warn the townspeople. When the earthquake came, the pillars were the only structures upstanding.
Symeon worked to eradicate sin from the town. Thieves and fornicators were found out by the wise fool, who prayed and wept for them and for the sins of the whole world. When Symeon died, he was given the lowly burial of a foreigner. There was no funeral service for him – no candles or hymns. A Jewish glassblower who had been converted by Symeon passed by at that moment. He heard the psalmody of a vast, invisible choir. The man cried out:
“Blessed are you, you Fool, because deprived of the accompaniment of human psalms, you have the heavenly Powers honouring you with their hymns!”
He saw to it that the saint was buried with honour. When the local deacon learnt of this, he arranged an exhumation only to discover an empty grave.
Source: Lychnos June – July 2017