{    Cnytr   }

{Tuesday, May 26, 2009  }

.:{St. Simeon the Stylite}:.

Not too long ago, I posted an article about 6 Saints Who Can Kick Your Arse. Unsurprisingly and awesomely, St. Simeon Stylite was among them. This past Sunday in the Gregorian calendar of the Eastern Catholic Church, we commemorated St. Simeon Stylite along with the fathers of Nicea. St. Simeon must not be allowed to pass without comment, as he is Tough, Good For You and Awesome, much like the dangerously delicious bacon gun.

[Note: halfway through this post, I realized this Sunday's commemoration was of St. Stimeon the (New) Stylite, the Younger, not the St. Simeon Stylite Original Flavor, commemorated by the Orthodox on September 1st and by the Latins on January 5th. Confusingly, the Melkites celebrate the Younger Simeon on May 24th, although supposedly the Elder and the Younger are a century apart. I suspect this may be a case of historical mistaken identity and am forging ahead regardless.]

I first encountered this saint in high school, mentioned as a sort of a joke by my Latin teacher, really, because he's both hilarious and awesome. I believe the article says it best when it says,

At first he tried to shun the luxuries of mid 5th century life by shutting himself in a little ramshackle Unabomber-style hut for three years, where he figured not eating or drinking anything at all for the entire period of Lent would be a good idea. After the hut proved too expansive and extravagant for him, Symeon packed up his loincloth and moved to a crevice in a rock in the desert. [...] Realizing the rock was still too awesome a place to spend his life, Symeon raised a stone pillar with a little platform on top, climbed up and sat there. He went through a couple of these pillars before he settled on one over 50 feet high where he stayed ... for 36 years.

What the WHAT?

You would think that with a bio like that, volumes could be written about the man's zeal and holiness and ... probably many other strange ascetical practices. Instead, my favorite Catholic saints site says lamely,

Son of a poor shepherd, and worked as a shepherd as a child. A would-be monk at age 13, he was turned away from monasteries because his severe self-imposed penances. Tired of the gossip and arguments from fellow religious, he lived as a hermit on top of a column, occasionally preaching to those who gathered to watch and pray with him, and starting a movement of pillar living among Eastern hermits.

If one were to read that without knowing any background information, wouldn't the phrase he lived as a hermit on top of a column make one do a mental double-take? He lived ... WHERE? How ... how does that even work? Can he get down? Where does he ... you know ... (to which, I'm not sure if this image is supposed to answer that unasked question, but it might).

Even the very sober Catholic Encyclopedia expresses some bland surprise at his particular asceticism:

If it were not that our information, in the case of the first St. Simeon and some of his imitators, is based upon very reliable first-hand evidence, we should be disposed to relegate much of what history records to the domain of fable.

In fact, the way it continues, however dry, is, I think, still pretty hilarious:

Simeon the Elder, was born about 388 at Sisan, near the northern border of Syria. After beginning life as a shepherd boy, he entered a monastery before the age of sixteen, and from the first gave himself up to the practice of an austerity so extreme and to all appearance so extravagant, that his brethren judged him, perhaps not unwisely, to be unsuited to any form of community life [ROFL ~L]. Being forced to quit them he shut himself up for three years in a hut at Tell-Neschin, where for the first time he passed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking. This afterwards became his regular practice, and he combined it with the mortification of standing continually upright so long as his limbs would sustain him.

Among the twenty-seven liturgical books used by the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholics, the book of the commemoration of the saints (the Menaion) has this to say about the great saint:

Holy Father Simeon was the first to take up this particular form of ascesis: that of standing day and night on a pillar in unceasing prayer. His parents were common folk and he fled from them when he was 18 to become a monk. He fasted at times for 40 days. He grew in holiness and wisdom with great gifts of discernment, healing and prophecy. It is said that he started to stand on the pillar, because it was the only way for him to be alone in prayer with God, because of all the people that were constantly coming to him. His pillar was at first about ten feet tall, then twenty, then 35 feet; finally over 60 feet tall. On his pillar, he did warfare with the demons, overcoming them through his prayers. All classes of people came to his pillar. He healed many sick by his prayers. He gave comfort and instruction to some. Others he denounced for their heresies. The Empress Eudocia was brought back to Orthodoxy from the Eutychian heresy by one such rebuke. Twice, his mother, St. Martha, came to see him, but he would not come down from his pillar to greet her; saying: "Don't disturb me now, Mother dear, if we are to be worthy to meet in the next world." St. Simeon lived for 70 years and reposed in the Lord on September 1, 459. St. Martha is commemorated on July 4th.

Additionally, it has two hymns for the saint. I'm sure whoever wrote them MUST have had a (very pious) sense of humour:

Apolytikion (First Tone):

Thou becamest a pillar of patience and didst emulate the Forefathers, O righteous one:
Job in his sufferings, Joseph in temptations, and the life of the bodiless while in the body,
O Symeon, our righteous Father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion (Second Tone):

Thou soughtest the heights, though parted not from things below;
thy pillar became a chariot of fire for thee.
Thou becamest thereby a true companion of the angelic host;
and together with them, O Saint, thou ceaselessly prayest Christ God for us all.

"Pillar of patience"? "Seeking the heights"? Hahahahahaha! Come, now!

A professor of mine once told me that when his children were younger, they would invent hagiography, mostly centering on medieval ascetics, i.e. the story of St. Awesomesauce the Gaul who repented a sinful life, became a monk and ate half a bean every other month whilst wearing chains and wrestling with demons and is once reported to have cured the left ankle of St. Flutius, only to have his penance restored to him at a later time. However Evagrius Ponticus' mention of St. Simeon (here, but ignore the snarky intro) comes dangerously close to the made-up hagiography.

St. Simeon Stylite: so awesome he can't be for real, but he is.

Pray for us, St. Simeon Stylite, and teach us your zeal for asceticism!

Icon of St. Simeon Stylite; the church below references the church that was later built in his honor; the snake is the worldly temptations he left below, and I believe the the oyster and pearl is a reference to heavenly riches, but I am not at all sure
posted by Lauren, 3:05 PM


Are you also going to make homeless and assylum lunatics saints? The freak spent decades on top of a pole! Any priest who condones such behavior is endangering the sanity of minors! No wonder you refuse to see the absence of the emperor's missing clothes and keep falling for tyanny.
commented by Blogger Lucky Archer - Lakis Velotris, 4:18 PM  
Oh ... oh wow! Literally the most retarded comment this blog has ever gotten. I'm going to let it stand just to let its own inanity be a point of proper ridicule.
commented by Blogger Lauren, 4:27 PM  
No ridicule here! Thanks I enjoyed your post
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10:12 PM  

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