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The Monks Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fellow-Ascetic John


Com­mem­o­rat­ed on July 21

The Monks Sime­on, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fel­low-Ascetic John were Syr­i­ans, and they lived in the VI Cen­tu­ry at the city of Edessa. From child­hood a close friend­ship held them togeth­er. The old­er of them, Sime­on, was unmar­ried and lived with his aged moth­er. John, how­ev­er, although he entered into mar­riage, lived with his father (his moth­er was dead) and with his young spouse. Both friends belonged to wealthy fam­i­lies. When Sime­on became 30 years old, and John 24, they made a pil­grim­age to Jerusalem on the feast of the Exal­ta­tion of the Ven­er­a­ble and Life-Cre­at­ing Cross of the Lord. On the return jour­ney home the friends con­versed about the ways of sal­va­tion for the soul. Jour­ney­ing with hors­es, they sent the ser­vants with the hors­es on ahead, and they them­selves went on foot. Going through Jor­dan, they saw monas­ter­ies, sit­u­at­ed at the edge of the wilder­ness. Both of them were filled with an irre­press­ible desire to leave the world and spend their remain­ing life in monas­tic deeds. They turned off from the road, along which their ser­vants went into Syr­ia, and they prayed zeal­ous­ly to God, to guide them towards the monas­ter­ies on the oppo­site side. They besought the Lord to indi­cate which monastery for them to choose and they resolved to enter whichev­er monastery the gates of which would be open. At this time in a dream the Lord informed the hegu­men Nikon of a monastery to open the monastery gates, and that the sheep of Christ would enter in. In great joy the com­rades came through the open gates of the monastery, where they were warm­ly wel­comed by the hegu­men, and they remained at the monastery. In a short while they took monas­tic vows. Hav­ing dwelt for a cer­tain while at the monastery, Sime­on became keen with the desire to inten­si­fy his effort, to go into the deep wilder­ness and there to pur­sue asceti­cism in com­plete soli­tude. John did not wish to be left behind by his com­pan­ion and he decid­ed to share with him the work of wilder­ness-dweller. The Lord revealed to the hegu­men Nikon the inten­tions of the com­pan­ions, and on that night when the Monks Sime­on and John intend­ed to depart the monastery, he him­self opened for them the gates, he prayed with them, gave them his bless­ing and sent them into the wilder­ness. Hav­ing begun wilder­ness life, the spir­i­tu­al broth­ers at first under­went the strong assault of the dev­il, sug­gest­ing to them grief over aban­don­ing their fam­i­lies, fright­en­ing the ascetics, direct­ing upon them weak­ness, despon­den­cy and idle­ness. The broth­ers Sime­on and John, firm­ly mind­ful of the monas­tic vows giv­en by them, and trust­ing on the prayers of their starets the hegu­men Nikon, con­tin­ued straight upon their cho­sen path, and they passed the time in unceas­ing prayer and strict fast­ing, encour­ag­ing each the oth­er in their strug­gle against temp­ta­tion. After a cer­tain while, with the help of God, the temp­ta­tions stopped. The monks received from God the report, that the moth­er of Sime­on and the spouse of John had died and that the Lord had vouch­safed them the bless­ing of par­adise. After this Sime­on and John dwelt in the wilder­ness for 29 years, and they attained com­plete dis­pas­sion (apatheia) and an high degree of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. The Monk Sime­on, through the inspi­ra­tion of God, pon­dered about that it now was prop­er that he should serve peo­ple, and for this it was nec­es­sary to leave the wilder­ness soli­tude and go into the world. But Saint John, reck­on­ing that he had not attained to such a degree of dis­pas­sion as his com­pan­ion, decid­ed not to quit the wilder­ness. The brethren part­ed with tears. Sime­on jour­neyed to Jerusalem, and there he wor­shipped at the Tomb of the Lord and all the holy places. By his great humil­i­ty the holy ascetic zeal­ous­ly besought the Lord to per­mit him to serve his neigh­bour in such­like man­ner, that they should not acknowl­edge him. Saint Sime­on chose for him­self the dif­fi­cult task of fool-for-Christ. Hav­ing come to the city of Emes­sus, he stayed in it and passed him­self off as a sim­ple­ton, doing strange acts, for which he was sub­ject­ed to insults, abuse and beat­ings, and amidst which he accom­plished many good deeds. He cast out dev­ils, healed the sick, deliv­ered from imma­nent death, brought the unbe­liev­ing to faith, and sin­ners – to repen­tance. All these good deeds he did under the guise of fool­ish­ness, and in no wise did he receive praise or thanks from peo­ple. But the Monk John high­ly esteemed his spir­i­tu­al broth­er: when some­one of the inhab­i­tants of the city of Emes­sus vis­it­ed him in the wilder­ness, ask­ing advice and prayer, he would invari­ably direct them to “the fool Sime­on”, who could bet­ter offer them spir­i­tu­al coun­sel. For three days before his death Saint Sime­on ceased to appear on the streets, and he enclosed him­self in his hut, in which, except for bun­dles of fire-wood, there was noth­ing. Hav­ing remained at unceas­ing prayer for three days, Saint Sime­on reposed to the Lord. Some of the city poor, com­pan­ions with him, and not com­ing across the fool, went to his hut and there found him dead. Tak­ing up the dead body, they car­ried him with­out church singing to a place, where the home­less and strangers were buried. While they car­ried the body of Saint Sime­on, sev­er­al of the inhab­i­tants heard a won­drous church singing, but could not com­pre­hend from whence it came. After Saint Sime­on, the Monk John peace­ful­ly expired to the Lord in the wilder­ness. Short­ly before death, Saint Sime­on was giv­en to behold the crown upon the head of his spir­i­tu­al broth­er with the inscrip­tion: “For endurance in the wilder­ness”.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.