6TH THURSDAY AFTER PENTECOST
John and Symeon the Fool for Christ, Parthenios, Bishop of Arta
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 3:18-23
Brethren, let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness, ” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
At that time, as Jesus went into the house, his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Holy Prophet Ezekiel lived in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. He was born in the city of Sarir, and descended from the tribe of Levi; he was a priest and the son of the priest Buzi. Ezekiel was led off to Babylon when he was twenty-five years old together with King Jechoniah II and many other Jews during the second invasion of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnessar.
The Prophet Ezekiel lived in captivity by the River Chebar. When he was thirty years old, he had a vision of the future of the Hebrew nation and of all mankind. The prophet beheld a shining cloud, with fire flashing continually, and in the midst of the fire, gleaming bronze. He also saw four living creatures in the shape of men, but with four faces (Ez. 1:6). Each had the face of a man in front, the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle at the back (Ez. 1:10). There was a wheel on the earth beside each creature, and the rim of each wheel was full of eyes.
Over the heads of the creatures there seemed to be a firmament, shining like crystal. Above the firmament was the likeness of a throne, like glittering sapphire in appearance. Above this throne was the likeness of a human form, and around Him was a rainbow (Ez. 1:4-28).
According to the explanation of the Fathers of the Church, the human likeness upon the sapphire throne prefigures the Incarnation of the Son of God from the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who is the living Throne of God. The four creatures are symbols of the four Evangelists: a man (St Matthew), a lion (St Mark), an ox (St Luke), and an eagle (St John); the wheel with the many eyes is meant to suggest the sharing of light with all the nations of the earth. During this vision the holy prophet fell down upon the ground out of fear, but the voice of God commanded him to get up. He was told that the Lord was sending him to preach to the nation of Israel. This was the begining of Ezekiel’s prophetic service.
The Prophet Ezekiel announces to the people of Israel, held captive in Baylon, the tribulations it would face for not remaining faithful to God. The prophet also proclaimed a better time for his fellow-countrymen, and he predicted their return from Babylon, and the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple.
There are two significant elements in the vision of the prophet: the vision of the temple of the Lord, full of glory (Ez. 44:1-10); and the bones in the valley, to which the Spirit of God gave new life (Ez. 37:1-14). The vision of the temple was a mysterious prefiguring of the race of man freed from the working of the Enemy and the building up of the Church of Christ through the redemptive act of the Son of God, incarnate of the Most Holy Theotokos. Ezekiel’s description of the shut gate of the sanctuary, through which the Lord God would enter (Ez. 44: 2), is a prophecy of the Virgin giving birth to Christ, yet remaining a virgin. The vision of the dry bones prefigured the universal resurrection of the dead, and the new eternal life bestowed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The holy Prophet Ezekiel received from the Lord the gift of wonderworking. He, like the Prophet Moses, divided the waters of the river Chebar, and the Hebrews crossed to the opposite shore, escaping the pursuing Chaldeans. During a time of famine the prophet asked God for an increase of food for the hungry.
Ezekiel was condemned to execution because he denounced a certain Hebrew prince for idolatry. 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, forefathers of Abraham, not far from Baghdad. The prophecy of Ezekiel is found in the book named for him, and is included in the Old Testament.
St Demetrius of Rostov (October 28 and September 21) explains to believers the following concepts in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel: if a righteous man turns from righteousness to sin, he shall die for his sin, and his righteouness will not be remembered. If a sinner repents, and keeps God’s commandments, he will not die. His former sins will not be held against him, beause now he follows the path of righteousness (Ez. 3:20; 18:21-24).
Venerable Simeon of Emessa the Fool-For-Christ, and his fellow ascetic Venerable John
The Monks Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fellow-Ascetic John were Syrians, and they lived in the sixth century at the city of Edessa. From childhood they were bound by close ties of friendship. The older of them, Simeon, was unmarried and lived with his aged mother. John, however, although he was married, lived with his father (his mother was dead) and with his young wife. Both friends belonged to wealthy families. When Simeon was thirty years old, and John twenty-four, they made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord. On the journey home the friends spoke of the soul’s path to salvation. Dismounting their horses, they sent the servants on ahead with the horses, while they continued on foot.
Passing through Jordan, they saw monasteries on the edge of the desert. Both of them were filled with an irrepressible desire to leave the world and spend their remaining life in monastic struggles. They turned off from the road, which their servants followed to Syria, and they prayed zealously that God would guide them to the monasteries on the opposite side. They besought the Lord to indicate which monastery they should choose, and they decided to enter whichever monastery had its gates open. At this time the Lord informed Igumen Nikon in a dream to open the monastery gates, so that the sheep of Christ could enter in.
In great joy the comrades came through the open gates of the monastery, where they were warmly welcomed by the igumen, and they remained at the monastery. In a short while they received the monastic tonsure.
After remaining at the monastery for a certain time, Simeon desired to intensify his efforts, and to go into the desert 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 a desert-dweller. The Lord revealed the intentions of the companions to Igumen Nikon, and on that night when Saints Simeon and John intended to depart the monastery, he himself opened the gates for them. He prayed with them, gave them his blessing and sent them into the wilderness.
When they began their life in the desert, the spiritual brothers at first experienced the strong assaults of the devil. They were tempted by grief over abandoning their families, and the demons tried to discourage the ascetics, subjecting them to weakness, despondency and idleness. The brothers Simeon and John remembered their monastic calling, and trusting in the prayers of their Elder Nikon, they continued upon their chosen path. They spent their time in unceasing prayer and strict fasting, encouraging one another in their struggle against temptation.
After a while, with God’s help, the temptations stopped. The monks were told by God that Simeon’s mother and John’s wife had died, and that the Lord had vouchsafed them the blessings of Paradise. After this Simeon and John lived in the desert for twenty-nine years, and they attained complete dispassion (apathia) and a high degree of spirituality. Saint Simeon, through the inspiration of God, considered that now it was proper for him to serve people. To do this, he must leave the desert solitude and go into the world. Saint John, however, believing that he had not attained such a degree of dispassion as his companion, decided not to leave the wilderness.
The brethren parted with tears. Simeon journeyed to Jerusalem, and there he venerated the Tomb of the Lord and all the holy places. By his great humility the holy ascetic entreated the Lord to permit him to serve his neighbor in such a way that they should not acknowledge him. Saint Simeon chose for himself the difficult task of foolishness for Christ. Having come to the city of Emesa, he stayed there and passed himself off as a simpleton, behaving strangely, for which he was subjected to insults, abuse and beatings. In spite of this, he accomplished many good deeds. He cast out demons, healed the sick, delivered people from immanent death, brought the unbelieving to faith, and sinners to repentance.
All these things he did under the guise of foolishness, and he never received praise or thanks from people. Saint John highly esteemed his spiritual brother, however. When one of the inhabitants of the city of Emesa visited him in the wilderness, asking for his advice and prayers, he would invariably direct them to “the fool Simeon”, who was better able to 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, where there was nothing except for bundles of firewood. Having remained in unceasing prayer for three days, Saint Simeon fell asleep in the Lord. Some of the city poor, his companions, had not seen the fool for some time. They went to his hut and 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 understand from whence it came.
After Saint Simeon died, Saint John also fell asleep in the Lord. Shortly before his death, Saint Simeon saw a vision of his spiritual brother wearing a crown upon his head with the inscription: “For endurance in the desert.”
Venerable Onuphrius the Silent of the Kiev Far Caves
The Monk Onuphrius the Silent of the Caves was an ascetic in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony in the twelfth century. He is also commemorated on September 28 (Synaxis of the Fathers of the Near Caves).
Venerable Onesimus the Recluse of the Kiev Caves
Venerable Onesimus the Recluse of the Kiev Caves (XII-XIII) was an ascetic in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony in the twelfth century. He is also commemorated on October 4, and again on September 28 (Synaxis of the Fathers of the Near Caves). The saint’s holy relics were buried at the place of his ascetic labors.
Icon of the Mother of God of Armatia
The Armatia Icon of the Mother of God was in Constantinople at the Armatian monastery. The place where the monastery was located, was called “Armation” or “of the Armatians” and received its name from the military magister Armatios, nephew of the tyrant Basiliscus, and a contemporary of the emperor Zeno (474-491).
The celebration of the wonderworking icon was established to commemorate deliverance from the Iconoclast heresy. The Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787 drew up dogmatic definitions about icon veneration based on Holy Scripture and Church Tradition.
The Armatia Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is commemorated twice during the year, on July 21 and August 17.
The Finding of the honored relics of the Venerable right-believing Great Princess and Nun
Anna of Kashin, Wonderworker
The Holy right-believing Princess Anna of Kashin (Euphrosynē in monasticism) reposed on October 2, 1368.
On July 21, 1649, Archbishop Jonah of Kazan and some of the local clergy opened Saint Anna's tomb, and noticed that her relics were incorrupt. Several miracles of healing occurred at that time. The clergy and citizens of Kashin petitioned Tsar Alexei (reigned 1645-1676) to order an examination of Princess Anna's relics.
In 1650, a Council of the Russian Church met and decided to number Princess Anna among the Saints, ordering a Church Service to be composed for her, and that she be venerated throughout Russia. The solemn transfer of her relics from the wooden Dormition Cathedral to the stone Resurrection Cathedral took place on June 12, 1650.
In 1677 Patriarch Joachim proposed to the Moscow Council that Saint Anna's veneration throughout Russia should be discontinued because of the Old Believer Schism, which made use of her name for its own purposes. When she was buried, her hand was positioned to make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers, rather than three. Therefore, only her local veneration was permitted. However, the memory of Saint Anna, whom God had glorified, could not be erased by a decree. People continued to love and venerate her, and many miracles took place at her tomb.
Finally, the Church-wide veneration of Saint Anna was restored on June 12, 1909. During the Soviet period, however, the relics of Saint Anna were taken from the Cathedral and moved several times. Finally on June 25, 1993, her relics were returned to Kashin's Resurrection Cathedral.