st. simeon. the original performance artist? hmmmm.
when i read the initial description of st. simeon in the 12 days of christmas, i thought maybe he was banished to a platform as punishment. but no. he seeked it out.
so here’s what happened with sim. (can i call him sim? i’ll call him sim.) sim was the son of a shepherd, born in present-day turkey. he became enthralled with christianity at the age of 13 after reading the beatitudes and entered a monastery before the age of 16. he was so obsessed and extravagant that the monks deemed him unsuited to community life and kicked him out.
so he shut himself up in a hut for a year and a half and spent the whole of lent without eating or drinking. (i find this hard to believe.) he came out and it was hailed a miracle. (miracle or not, 40 days with no drink or food=death.) then, from that point forward, he decided he would only stand as long as his legs would support him. no sitting for this diehard.
sim wanted some more extremes, so he decided to live on a narrow rocky outcrop on a mountain, but crowds of people sought him out to ask advice and for his prayers, which annoyed him because he couldn’t pray. so he decided to run away.
he found a pillar in modern-day syria and placed a small platform on top of it. local boys would climb up the pillar with flatbreads and goats milk.
now of course some monastics wanted to know if he was doing this out of actual humility or out of pride. if he obeyed an order to come down, they decided that he was humble and would leave him on the pillar. he obeyed, so he got to stay.
the first pillar he was on was about nine feet high, and the last one he was on was more than 50 feet off the ground. his platform was believed to be about a meter square (a little bit longer than 3’x3′) and surrounded by a railing.
sim stayed there day and night, summer and winter, standing or doing a yogic forward fold. and people still came to him. he decided to be available each afternoon to talk with visitors who climbed a ladder to speaking distance. he wrote letters and preached against profanity and high-interest loans. (??????)
people were so enthralled that a double wall was built to keep the crowds at bay, and women were not allowed within the wall. not even his own mother. except when she died. sim decided then that he could look at the coffin and say goodbye to her dead body. (can i roll my eyes any more at this? no. no i cannot.)
he died in 459. a disciple found him stooped over in his forward fold, and the buried him by a pillar. a look