Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From pillar saint to post: A bizarre desert phenomenon

Sometimes I worry a shift away from Congregations to a sort of virtual Church leads to this sort of escape, and without the eventual celebrity status Simon achieved.

Via Haaretz, link below for the full article.

But no form of asceticism was as prestigious as establishing one's abode on top of a pillar. This way of life was invented by the Syrian monk Simeon Stylites, the most famous pillar saint in Christian history. Born at the end of the fourth century, Simeon began his career as a regular ascetic monk. He became renowned for his achievements in fasting and self-mortification, and admirers began congregating around his cell in search of guidance and blessing. But the young monk wanted to escape human company, not attract it. After several failed escape attempts, he climbed up a column several meters high, which had been left over from a ruined building not far from Aleppo. Perched on a small platform that he had made, Simeon took up a life of prayer and fasting, subsisting on small rations of bread and goat milk that local boys passed up to him.

In a short time, however, an even larger group of admirers than before assembled around the pillar. Simeon, in response, gradually raised the pillar, till it eventually reached a height of 18 meters. Only then did Simeon finally grasp the extent of his fame. At dawn he would begin by performing hundreds of genuflections, and at midday he would present himself before the astonished crowds and give sermons. This extraordinary ascetic monk became one of the Church's greatest assets, according to his biography, bringing about the conversion of several pagan Arab tribes: "Thousands, tens of thousands, followed his command and gave themselves over to Christ's authority."

From pillar saint to post: A bizarre desert phenomenonRosh Hashanah Recipes#

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