St Symeon the Stylite – Fortitude of faith through Christ

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember St Symeon the Stylite, may the saint pray for us.

Today is a special day. This is the Church New Year, September 1 in the Julian Calendar. Our Lord came to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day as the custom, and read the words of prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed Me… to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19). The Emperor Constantine the Great also won a victory against Maxentius on September 1, year 312. The Church Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council convened and decided to begin the Church New Year on September 1 henceforth. On this day, let us remember this hymn:

Creator and Fashioner of all things visible and invisible
Bless the crown of the year
Grant fruitful seasons and rains from heaven for those on earth
Bless our comings and goings
Direct the works of our hands and grant us forgiveness of offences
Grant peace to Thy churches
Overthrow heresies
Protect our cities unbesieged
Make glad our faithful Sovereigns by Thy power
Giving them victories against enemies.

We remember a great monastic saint, St Symeon the Stylite, so named because of his monastic feats due to the Grace of God. St Symeon entered the monastery, and was fervent in his pursuit of God, so much so that eventually he retreated to a cave. The saint spent the entire 40-day Great Lent without food and drink, through the Mercy of God. He would pray for 20 days standing, and 20 days sitting, to fortify his faith in God. Because of his faith, many people surrounded him, and eventually the saint went up a pillar 4 meters in height and stayed in a tiny cell on top of it, praying and fasting. Patriarch Domninos II visited the saint in his cell and celebrated the Divine Liturgy and communed the saint with the Holy Mysteries. The saint spent 80 years in monastic life, with 47 years standing and praying on a pillar. The saint reposed in the year 459, stooped over in the prayer posture on top of the pillar.

St Symeon the Stylite showed us one thing – all things are possible wth God (Lamentations 3:24-31). He labored in the monastic life for 80 years, far longer than many would have even lived. And he stood on a pillar for 47 years in prayers and fasting, a feat that would be superhuman, because God lifted the saint up and gave him this superhuman strength. The saint labored in cooperation with God, and in so, found that inner joy that gifted him to be able to labor as an inspiration to us (Proverbs 12:25-28).

Let us for a moment contemplate on this feat, and how we fare in our own lives. When we read Matthew 11:27-30, we are at once admonished and soothed that Christ our Lord takes our burdens and we are to lean on him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Christ our Lord has shoulders that would take all our burdens, however heavy they may be to us. St Symeon the Stylite, in his fervent prayers, surely gave his whole life to Christ and our Lord took the saint’s burdens away so much so that he could pray, fast and stand on a pillar for 47 years.

Apostle Paul admonished us in Colossians 3:12-16, with that assurance that as the elect of God, we are not to be haughty, but we are to be compassionate, humble, forgiving, and tolerant of all suffering. In all things, he told us to leave our burdens with God and God will give us peace. Let us remind ourselves, and be inspired by St Symeon the Stylite, that his complete faith in God gifted him with superhuman strength to last the lifelong journey, no matter rain or shine. We are in difficult times, but surely if we can lean on Christ our Lord, and live in complete faith in our Lord, we will be gifted with strength no less in our pursuit of Theosis.

Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Lamentations 3:24-31
Proverbs 12:25-28
Matthew 11:27-30
Colossians 3:12-16