Venerable Cosmas the Desert Dweller

On September 22 in the Holy Orthodox Church we commemorate the Venerable Saint Cosmas, the Desert Dweller, who reposed in the year 1323.

St. Cosmas the Desert Dweller | Orthodox and Vegan

“Saint Cosmas came from Bulgaria where his devout parents provided him with a good education in Slavonic and Greek. They wanted him to marry but he was drawn by the love of Christ and, unknown to them, made his way to the Holy Mountain of Athos to become a monk at the Bulgarian monastery of Zographou. On the feast of the Annunciation at the Monastery of Vatopedi, he saw a woman among those serving in the Church and in the refectory, and he was grieved at first to observe this breach of the monastic rule, but overjoyed when he realized that it was the Mother of God who had appeared to him in this way.

He was clothed in the holy angelic Habit and, after some time, was ordained priest. One day, as he was praying before the icon of the Mother of God, asking her with tears how to achieve his salvation, he heard a voice saying, ‘Let my servant withdraw to the desert outside the monastery.’ He was obedient to the will of God and, with the blessing of his Abbot, lived in silence from then on. Some years later, he was found worthy of the grace of discernment of thoughts and of beholding things happening elsewhere, as well as of other spiritual gifts. In the course of many years, he was the spiritual helper of a great number of monks.

St. Cosmas the Desert Dweller, Zographou Monastery on Athos | Orthodox and Vegan

The monastery of Zographou on Mt. Athos, where St. Cosmas once lived, is still in use today.

At the end of his life, Christ appeared to him saying that he would shortly have a great trial to endure from the Devil. Indeed, the prince of demons made his appearance next day with a host of his servants bewailing and bemoaning their inability to annihilate their great enemy Cosmas, who had held them in check for so long and gained possession, by his virtue, of the throne in Heaven that had once been Lucifer’s. Taking a heavy stick, the demon beat the Saint so violently that he left him half-dead.

Saint Cosmas died in peace two days later, on 22 September 1323. When the fathers came from the monastery to bury him, the wild animals gathered around. They kept silent until the end of the service, but howled unusually loud as his body was covered with earth. Then having paid their respects, they made off into the wilderness. Forty days later, the monks came to take up the body of Saint Cosmas and translate it to the monastery, but it was no longer in the grave. Where it now is God alone knows.”

St. Simeon the Holy Fool

"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised." 1 Corinthians 4:10

‘Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”’ 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

This is perfect for April 1st. St. Simeon, the Holy Fool for Christ, is an actual saint of the Orthodox Church and considered the patron saint of Holy Fools…and puppeteers.

From wikipedia:

“Simeon was Syrian by origin and reportedly born in Edessa, where he lived unmarried with his old mother. With his fellow ascetic friend John from Edessa, Simeon at the age of 30 years took the monastic vows in the monastery of Abba Gerasimus in Syria. After that Simeon and John spent about 29 years in the desert near the Dead Sea practicing asceticism and spiritual exercises. Later Simeon was urged by inspiration of God, as some sources say, to move to Emesa for social and charity services. Reportedly the saint asked the Lord to permit him to serve people in such a way that they should not acknowledge him. There, through simulating madness and upsetting conventional rules, he was able to bring many citizens to repentance, save many souls from sin and convert them to Christianity.

Simeon entered the gate of Emesa (after spending many years in desert) dragging a dead dog. Schoolchildren saw him and shouted (κράζειν) “Hey, a crazy abba…”. The next day, a Sunday, he entered the church, extinguished the lights and threw nuts at women. On the way out of the church, Simeon overturned (έστρεψεν) the tables of the pastry chefs (πλακουντάριοι). Such playing the fool was subject to insults, abuse and beatings, which Simeon endured with patience. In spite of his seemingly strange behaviour, Simeon the Holy Fool healed many possessed people by his prayer, fed the hungry, preached the Gospel, and helped needy citizens of the town. Many of Simeon’s saintly deeds were done secretly.

His ministry also included trying to save a man whose eyes suffered from glaucoma. Jesus had previously used saliva and clay to cure a man of blindness, and when the man with eye disease approached Simeon, he anointed the man’s eyes with mustard, burning him and aggravating the condition to the extent that he reportedly went blind. Later the eyes were healed by the advice of Simeon, who used such way to explain the man’s sins and bring him to correction.

Symeon played all sorts of roles foolish and indecent, but language is not sufficient to paint a picture of his doings. For sometimes he pretended to have a limp, sometimes he jumped around, sometimes he dragged himself along on his buttocks, sometimes he stuck out his foot for someone running and tripped him. Other times when there was a new moon, he looked at the sky and fell down and thrashed about.

The life of Simeon the Holy Fool was described by Leontios of Neapolis, who symbolically compared his life to that of Jesus, whom the saint tried to imitate in his own way. According to Leontios:

While the saint was there (in Emesa), he cried out against many because of the Holy Spirit and reproached thieves and fornicators. Some he faulted, crying that they had not taken communion often, and others he reproached for perjury, so that through his inventiveness he nearly put an end to sinning in the whole city.

The only person in Emesa, with whom Simeon did not play a fool, was deacon of the church in Emesa, his friend John. One time Simeon saved John from execution when he was falsely convicted. Shortly before his death Simeon, by the illustration of Leontios of Neapolis told to John:

I beg you, never disregard a single soul, especially when it happens to be a monk or a beggar. For Your Charity knows that His place is among the beggars, especially among the blind, people made as pure as the sun through their patience and distress. . . . [S]how love of your neighbor through almsgiving. For this virtue, above all, will help us on (the Day of Judgment).

The saint died about 570 AD and was buried by the city poor in a place, where the homeless and strangers were buried. While the body of Saint Simeon were carried, several people heard a wondrous church choir. Only after his death the secret of his imitative foolishness came to light. Some inhabitants remembered his acts of kindness and reportedly strange and powerful miracles.”