July 21st (VIII - 3)
Icon of Monk Simeon - Fool for Christ, St. Parthenios and St. John the Ascetic Monk
Prophet Ezekiel (VI Cent. B.C.). Monk Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and John, his Fellow-Ascetic (+ c. 590). Monks Onuphrii the Silent and Onysim the Hermit, of Pechersk Lavra in the Nearer Caves (XII-XIII). Martyrs Eugene; Three Martyrs of Meletinea; Theodore and George; Reukates.
The Holy Prophet Ezekiel lived in the VI Century before the Birth of Christ. He was born in the city of Sarir, and descended from the Levite tribe; he was a priest and the son of the priest Buzi. In the second invasion against Jerusalem by the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnessar, at age 25 Ezekiel was led off to Babylon together with the king Jechoniah II and many other Jews.
In captivity the Prophet Ezekiel lived by the River Chobar. There, in his 30th year of life, in a vision there was revealed to him the future of the Hebrew nation and of all mankind. The prophet beheld a shining cloud, in the midst of which was a flame, and in it ?- a mysterious likeness of a chariot moving by the spirit and four-winged beasts, each having four faces: of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. Under their faces was situated a wheel, bestrewn with eyes. Over the chariot towered as it were a crystalline firmament, and over the firmament -- the likeness of a throne as though of glittering sapphire. And upon this throne a radiant "likeness of Man", and about Him a rainbow (Ez. 1: 4-28).
According to the explanation of the fathers of the Church, the most-bright "likeness of Man" radiant upon the sapphire throne, was a prefigurament of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the MostHoly Virgin Mary, manifest as the Throne of God. The four creatures prefigured the four evangelists, the wheel with a multitude of eyes -- the sharing of light with all the nations of the earth. During this vision the holy prophet out of fear fell down upon the ground, but the voice of God commanded him to get up and then explained, that the Lord was sending him to preach to the nation of Israel. From this time began the prophetic service of Ezekiel. The Prophet Ezekiel announces to the nation of Israel, situated in Baylonian Captivity, about its coming tribulations for straying in the faith and forsaking the True God. The prophet proclaimed also a better time for his captive fellow-countrymen, and he predicted their return from Babylon and the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple.
Particularly important are two significant elements in the vision of the prophet -- the one about the vision of the temple of the Lord, full of glory, -- the second about the bones upon the field, to which the Spirit of God gave new life. The vision about the temple was a mysterious prefigurament of the freeing of the race of man from the working of the enemy and the building up of the Church of Christ through the redemptive deed of the Son of God, incarnated of the MostHoly Virgin Mary, -- called by the prophet "the shut gates", through which would be entered the One only Lord God (Ez. 44: 2). The vision about the dry bones upon the field -- prefigured the universal resurrection of the dead and the new eternal life of the redeemed by the death on the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ez. 37: 1-14).
The holy Prophet Ezekiel had from the Lord a gift of wonderworking. He, like the Prophet Moses, by prayer to God divided the waters of the river Chobar, and the Hebrews crossed to the opposite shore, escaping the pursuing Chaldeans. During a time of famine the prophet besought of God an increase of food for the hungry.
For his denunciation of the idol-worship of a certain Hebrew prince, Saint Ezekiel was given over to execution: bound to wild horses, he was torn to pieces. Pious Hebrews gathered up the torn body of the prophet and buried it upon Maur Field, in the tomb of Sim and Arthaxad, fore-fathers of Abraham, not far from Baghdad. The prophecy of Ezekiel was written down in a book, mentioning him by name, and is included in the Bible.
Sainted Dimitrii of Rostov drew attention for believers to the following concept in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel: if a righteous man, hoping on his own righteousness, were to venture to sin and in sin would die -- he would answer for the sin and be subject to judgement; but a sinner, if he repenteth, and in repentance would die -- his former sin would not be remembered before God (Ez. 3: 20; 18: 21-24).
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".
The Monk Onuphrii the Silent, of Pechersk, pursued asceticism in the nearer Antoniev Caves in the XII Century. A second commemoration is done 28 September in the Sobor (Assemblage) of the Monastic Fathers of the Kievo-Pechersk Nearer Caves.
The Monk Onysim of Pechersk (XII-XIII), having pursued asceticism at the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra, became an hermit at the Nearer Caves (of the Monk Antonii). The holy relics of the monk were buried on the place of his ascetic deeds.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.