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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.

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