The Monk Simeon the Pillar-Dweller
Commemorated on May 24
The Monk Simeon
the Pillar-Dweller was born in the year 521 in Syrian Antioch from the
pious parents John and Martha. Saint Martha (Comm. 4 July)from her youthful
years prepared herself for an unmarried life and yearned for monasticism, but
her parents insisted on her entering into marriage with the youth John. After
ardent prayer in a church in the name of Saint John the Fore-Runner, the future
nun was directed in a vision to submit to the will of her parents and enter
into marriage. In married life, Saint Martha strove to please God and her
husband in everything. She often prayed about granting her a baby and promised
to devote him to the service of God. In his appearance to the saint, Saint John
the Fore-Runner revealed to the pious Martha that of her would be born a son,
who indeed would serve God. When the infant was born, he was named Simeon and
baptised at two years of age.
When Simeon was six years old, an earthquake occurred in the city of Antioch, during the time of which his father perished. Simeon during the time of the earthquake was in church. Leaving it, he became lost and spent seven days sheltered by a pious woman. Having again appeared to Blessed Martha, John the Baptist indicated where to find the lost boy. The mother of the saint, having found her lost son, settled after the earthquake on the outskirts of Antioch. Already during his childhood the Lord Jesus Christ appeared several times to Saint Simeon, foretelling him his future exploits and the recompense for them.
The six year old lad Simeon went off into the wilderness, where for a certain time he was situated in complete isolation. During this time a light-bearing Angel guarded and fed him and finally, he arrived at a solitary monastery, the head of which was the hegumen Abba John, pursuing asceticism upon a pillar, and with love he accepted the lad.
After a certain while Saint Simeon turned with a request to the Elder John to permit him also asceticise upon a pillar. A new pillar was erected by the brethren of the monastery with the blessing of the hegumen, not far from his pillar. Having completed the obedience of the seven year old boy into monasticism, Abba John himself raised him up upon this pillar. The young ascetic, strengthened by the Lord, quickly grew spiritually, in his efforts surpassing even his experienced preceptor. For his stringent efforts, Saint Simeon received from God the gift of healing. The fame about the deeds of the young monk began to spread about beyond the bounds of the monastery, and monks and laypeople began to come to him from various places, wanting to hear his counsel and receive healings from infirmities. The humble ascetic continued to pursue asceticism with instructions from his spiritual mentor Abba John.
At 11 years of age the lad decided to pursue asceticism upon still higher a pillar, to the top of which was 40 feet. The bishops of Antioch and Seleukos came to the place of the monk's exploits, and ordained the holy ascetic to the dignity of deacon, and then they permitted him to go up upon the new pillar, on which the Monk Simeon asceticised over the course of 8 years.
The Monk Simeon prayed ardently for the sending down upon him of the Holy Spirit, and the holy prayer of the ascetic was heard. The Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a blazing light, filling the ascetic with Divine Wisdom. Alongside with spoken precepts, Saint Simeon dispatched written precepts about repentance, monasticism, about the Incarnation of Christ and about the future Judgement.
After the death of his elder, Saint Simeon structured his life thus: from the rising of the sun until mid-afternoon he read books and copied Holy Scripture, after which he again rose to prayer and prayed all night. When the new day began, having rested somewhat, he began his usual rule of prayer with the rising of the sun.
The Monk Simeon concluded his efforts on the second column and by the decree of God settled upon the Wondrous Mount, having become in his monastery an experienced elder for guidance to monks. The ascent onto the Wondrous Mount was marked by a vision of the Lord, standing atop a column. Saint Simeon continued his exploits at this place where he saw the Lord, at first upon a stone, and then upon a pillar again raised up. Future events were revealed to the Monk Simeon, and thus he foretold the death of the archbishop of Antioch, Ephrem, and the illness of the bishop, Domnos, which overtook him in punishment for his lack of pity. And finally, the Monk Simeon predicted an earthquake for the city of Antioch and urged all the inhabitants to repent themselves of their sins. On the Wondrous Mount Saint Simeon established a monastery, the church of which sick people healed by him built, in gratitude for the mercy shown them. For the needs of the monastery the monk petitioned by prayer a spring of water, and once during the time of a shortage of grain, by his prayer to the Lord wheat was multiplied in the granaries of the monastery. In the year 560 by the command of the Lord the holy ascetic at age 39 received the priestly dignity from the bishop of Seleukos, Dionysios. At age 75 the Monk Simeon was forewarned by the Lord about his impending end. He summoned the brethren of the monastery, instructed them in a farewell blessing talk and peacefully expired to God in the year 596, having toiled in the feat of pillar-dwelling for 68 years.
Just as during life, so also after death the monk worked miracles, healing the blind and lame and leprous, saving many from wild beasts, casting out devils and resuscitating the dead.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.