Chapter I (Another account of this Life in Book IX.xxvi) The holy Simeon was chosen by God from his mother's womb and sought how to please and obey him. His father was called Sufocion, and had no other education than that supplied by his parents. At the age of thirteen he saw a church one day as he was feeding his father's sheep. He left his sheep and went inside where, after hearing the Apostle being read, he approached one of the elders. "What was the meaning of that which was being read?" he asked. "It was about the underlying reality (substantia) of the soul," replied the old man, "and how a human being may learn to fear the Lord with all his heart and with all his mind" (Luke 10.27). "What does fearing God mean?" "Why are you asking me such serious questions?" "I am seeking through you for an answer from God. I want to learn about the things I was listening to, because I am ignorant and unlearned." "If you fast continually, offer prayer moment by moment, humble yourself before all other human beings, renounce attachment to money, parents, clothing or possessions, but nevertheless honour your father and mother and the priests of God, you will inherit the eternal kingdom. And on the contrary, if you do not keep these things you will inherit the outer darkness which God has prepared for the devil and all his angels (Matthew 22.13 & 25.30). All these things, my son, are fully lived out in monasteries." At these words Simeon fell at his feet. "You are my father and mother," he said, "teacher of everything good, and a guide to the kingdom of heaven. You have won over my soul, which before was on the way to perdition. May the Lord reward you for the change wrought in my soul. I shall do as you say and go to a monastery, if God wills, and may his will be done in me." "My son, before you go off to a monastery, listen carefully to what I say. You will find tribulation, you will have to serve and keep vigil in nakedness, and undergo unknown evils before finding consolation as a precious vessel of God."
Chapter II The blessed Simeon left the church and went straight away to the monastery of that magnificent man, the holy Timothy. He lay for five days outside the monastery, neither eating nor drinking. On the fifth day abba Timothy went out to him. "Where are you from, my son? And who are your parents, that have driven you to this? What is your name? Perhaps you have committed some crime, or you are a slave running away from your master?" "Nothing like that at all, sir. I want only to be God's slave, if he wills it so, and save my soul from perdition. Let me be admitted into the monastery to be a servant of all. Don't leave me outside any longer." The abbot took him by the hand and led him inside. "My sons," he said to the brothers, "see, I am giving you this brother. Teach him all the rules of the monastery." He spent four months obedient to all without complaint, during which time he learnt the Psalter by heart, and daily received divine nourishment. The food which he was given along with the brothers he secretly gave to the poor without a thought for the morrow, for whereas the brothers ate every evening, he ate only once a week.
Chapter III He went one day to the well to draw water, and took the rope from the wellhead, which the brothers used for drawing water and wound it round his body next to his skin, from his loins up to his neck. He went inside and told the brothers that he could not find the rope at the wellhead when he went to the well. "Hush, brother," they said, "the abbot will deal with that in due course." His body became infected because of the weight and roughness of the rope, which was cutting him to the bone. It buried itself into his flesh, as soon became apparent. For one day the brothers went out and caught him giving his food to the poor. They came back in and told the abbot. "Where ever did you get this person from?" they asked him. "We can't abstain from food as he does. He fasts from one Sunday to the next, and gives his food to the poor, and there is a most horrible stink coming from his body which is more than anyone can bear. Maggots fall off him as he walks along. His bed is full of maggots." The abbot immediately went and found it was all just as they had said. "My son," he said to Simeon, "what is all this the brothers have been telling me about you? Isn't it enough for you to fast in the same measure as the rest of us do? Haven't you heard the Gospel telling us that the disciple is not above his master, and everyone is made perfect if he does as his teacher does? (Matthew10.24-25) And tell me, my son, what is the reason for this stink which comes from your body?" The blessed Simeon just stood there, saying nothing. The abbot was angry, and ordered him to strip, and discovered the rope round his body covering everything except his head. "However did this person come to us?" he cried, "overturning all the rules of the monastery? I am telling you now, you will have to leave us, and go wherever you like." But with great care and difficulty they removed the rope from his body together with his rotten flesh, and looked after him for many days until he was cured.
Chapter IV Once cured, he left the monastery without telling anybody and went to an abandoned, dried up water hole, not far from the monastery, which was infested with unclean spirits. And that same night the abbot was shown a troop of demons surrounding the monastery with swords and cudgels, shouting, "Timothy, give us Simeon the servant of God. If not, we will burn the monastery down and you with it, for you have done an injury to that just man." When he woke up he called the brothers and told them that he had seen a vision and was very worried about it. On another night he saw a crowd of strong men standing around him and crying, "Give us Simeon, the servant of God, for he is beloved of God and the Angels. Why have you punished him? He is greater in the sight of God than you are, and all the Angels of God grieve for him, for God intends to do many signs through him in this world such as nobody else has ever done." In great fear, the abbot called the brothers together. "Search out that man and bring him back here, lest we all die because of him. Truly he is a saint of God. I have seen and heard great things of him." All the monks went out looking for him, searching everywhere and not finding him. They came back and reported to the abbot. "There is nowhere left where we have not searched, unless perhaps he is near that deserted waterhole." "I am asking you, brothers, to look there for him, and I will go with you. He is truly a saint and servant of God." He chose five of them to go with him to the waterhole. Saying a prayer he went down into it with the brothers. When the blessed Simeon saw them coming he began to speak to them. "Servants of God, I beg you, leave me in peace for an hour, that I may refresh my spirit which is somewhat disturbed as yet. My soul is greatly troubled, for I have offended God." "Come, servant of God," said the abbot, "let us take you back to the monastery. For I now know that you are a servant of God." He did not want to go, but they took him by force back to the monastery, where everyone prostrated themselves at his feet in tears. "We have sinned against you, servant of God," they said. "Forgive us." "Why are you making the burden on this unhappy sinner even greater?" Simeon said with a deep sigh. "It is you who are our fathers and servants of God." But he stayed with them for a further year.
Chapter V He left without telling anyone, and went to a place not far from the monastery where he built a little cell of dry stone walling. He stayed there for three years, and many people sought him out to ask for his prayers. Then he built a little column four cubits high, on which he lived for four years. As his holy reputation spread throughout the world, the pressure of people caused him to make a column twelve cubits high, on which he lived for twelve years. They then made him a column twenty cubits high, on which he lived for a further twelve years. All the people who had gathered there then built two basilicas near him and built another column for him thirty cubits high. where he lived for four years and began to perform miracles. He cured many people who came to him with diseases or demons, and restored sight to the blind. Withered hands were restored to health, the deaf heard and lepers were cleansed. He persuaded many people to embrace the Christian faith, Saracens, Persians, Armaceni and Laoti. Allophyli likewise heard about him and his powers, and came to bow down before him.
Chapter VI The devil in his envy then changed himself into the likeness of an Angel and appeared in splendour in a fiery chariot with horses of fire, next to the column where the blessed Simeon was standing. Simeon too was lit up with a fiery splendour like an Angel. "Simeon," said the devil in dulcet tones, "Listen to the word which the Lord has charged me to bring you. For he has sent me, his Angel, with fiery chariot and horses, to catch you up as once I caught up Elijah (2 Kings 2.11). The time has come for you likewise to step up into this chariot which the Lord of heaven and earth has sent. Let us go likewise into heaven that you may be seen by Angels and Archangels and Mary the mother of the Lord, with Apostles and Martyrs, Confessors and Prophets, where you may speak with the Lord who created you in his image. That is all. Come up without delay." "Lord," said Simeon, "Do you really want to take me, a sinner, up to heaven?" He lifted his right foot to go up into the chariot and with his right hand made the sign of the cross. Suddenly the devil was nowhere to be seen. He vanished along with his persuasiveness like dust before the face of the wind, so that Simeon was then sure it was the devil.
Chapter VII When he came to himself he said to his foot, "Don't come back down, but stay like that until my death, until the Lord summons me, sinner that I am." Meanwhile the devil had coolly wounded him in the thigh, which became infected with a horde of maggots which scattered out of his body and wriggled about at his feet on the column, and from thence fell down to the ground. It was a certain youth called Antony, his assistant, who witnessed this and wrote it down. Simeon told him to collect the maggots which had fallen and bring them up to him. And he put them back into his wound as Job did. "Eat what the Lord gives you," he said to the maggots.
Chapter VIII Basilicus, king of the Saracens, heard about him and came to visit him. As he looked up at him a maggot fell from Simeon's body as he stood in prayer. The king ran to pick it up and in act of faith held it above his eyes. "Why do that, your majesty?" said Simeon when he saw what the king was doing. "It makes me feel guilty, for the maggot had fallen out of my putrid body." At these words the king opened his hand and found a most precious pearl in it. "This is no putrid maggot," he said, "but a most precious pearl." "It is given to you as a human being according to your faith," said Simeon. "May it be blessed in your hands all the days of your life." And that man of faith withdrew inside.
Chapter IX Quite a long time after this his mother heard where he was and came to visit him, but he would not let her see him, for women were forbidden to enter that place. "Just wait for a little while," said Simeon, when he heard her voice, "and we shall see each other, God willing." She began to weep when she heard his voice, and loosed her hair and besought him earnestly. "My son, why have you done this? As a reward for carrying you in my womb, you have filled me with grief. For the milk with which I fed you, you have given me tears. For the kisses that I showered on you, you have given me bitter pains in my heart. For the pain and labour that I suffered for you, you have given me the most painful wounds." She spoke so feelingly that we all wept. As Simeon listened to the voice of his mother he buried his face in his hands and wept bitterly. "Dear Mother," he said, "Be at peace for a little while, and we shall see each other in the place of eternal rest." "In the name of Christ who formed you, if there is a possibility of seeing you as a sort of stranger in that great time, why not let me see you now? Or if not, now that I have heard your voice, let me die at once, for your father has already died from grieving for you. Don't leave me any longer in this state of bitterness, my son." In weeping and wailing she went into a state of trance, and continued her pleadings to him for three days and three nights. Simeon then prayed to the Lord and she straightway gave up he spirit. They picked up her body and brought it to where he could see it. "May the Lord receive you into his joy," said Simeon, weeping, "for you have been greatly troubled on my behalf. You carried me in your womb for nine months, you fed me with your milk, and worked hard in caring for me." As he said this, we all noticed drops of sweat appearing on his mother's brow and we saw her body move. Simeon lifted up his eyes to heaven. "O Lord God of power," he cried, " you sit among the Cherubim, and see into the depths of the pit, you knew Adam before he existed, you have promised the riches of the kingdom of heaven to those who love you, you spoke to Moses in the burning bush, you gave your blessing to Abraham our father, you lead the souls of the righteous into paradise and the souls of the wicked into perdition, you tamed the two lions (Daniel 6.22) and saved your servants from the fiery furnace of the Babylonians (ibid. 3.28), You sent the ravens to feed Elijah (1 Kings 17.6), receive now her soul in peace and place her among the holy fathers, for yours is the power unto the ages of ages."
Chapter X It was after this that they built him a bigger column forty cubits high on which he stood for sixteen years until his death. During this time a huge wild beast (draco) was living near him in the region of Aquilo, and preventing the grass from growing. A piece of wood had damaged his right eye so that he cold no longer see out of it. He came one day to the area where the man of God lived, writhing itself into complicated coils as if asking pardon, and lowering its head in humility. Simeon looked at it carefully, and pulled a piece of wood a cubit in length out of its eye. All who saw it glorified God, even though they had kept well back through fear. The beast curled itself up and lay unmoving while all the people walked past it. Then it got up and bowed down before the door of the monastery for about two hours, before going back to its den without doing anyone any harm.
Chapter XI A certain woman, feeling thirsty one night, went to the water jar for a drink and swallowed a little serpent which had been in the jar. It lodged in her stomach, and all the efforts of doctors, spellbinders and wizards were unable to do anything about it. After a while she was taken to the holy Simeon, who ordered her to be placed on the ground and water from the monastery to be put into her mouth. He then cried loudly, and pulled out of her mouth a serpent three cubits long. The serpent burst within the hour, after having been inside her for seven days. In that same hour the woman was restored to health.
Chapter XII The greatest possible eloquence would hardly be sufficient to describe adequately all his miracles, but his powers were so great that they cannot be passed over in silence. It so happened that water was in very short supply in the region, and the people and all the animals were in danger of perishing for lack of water. Holy Simeon saw their plight and stood in prayer. At about the tenth hour of the day there was a sudden earthquake which caused an enormous upheaval in the land to the East of the monastery. A cleft appeared in which could be seen an immeasurable amount of water. He ordered a well to be dug seven cubits deep, and from that time onwards there has been no lack of water right up to the present day. It was at this time also that there were a group of people travelling from a distance to seek for Simeon's prayers and witness his deeds, and they paused on the way to rest under a leafy tree because of the heat. As they were sitting there they suddenly saw a pregnant deer walking by. "By the prayers of the holy Simeon," they cried, "we conjure you to stay still for us to catch you." And the deer stayed absolutely motionless. They caught it and killed it, and after eating some of it they were struck dumb, and it was in this condition that they arrived before holy Simeon, carrying the deer's hide with them. They stayed there for two years without being able to find a complete cure for their dumbness. Their crime was so wicked that it is almost a crime to talk about it. The hide of the deer was hung up in the church as a witness to the miracle of the cursing.
Chapter XIII There was a large leopard in those parts killing both humans and animals over a wide area. The people came from there to the holy Simeon and told him of all the great evils which the beast was responsible for. The holy Simeon ordered that some of the earth from the monastery should be taken and scattered about in that place, and it was done. The people carried out a search a little later and found the leopard lying dead, and they all glorified the God of Simeon.
Chapter XIV This is the injunction he gave to someone he had cured: "Go home and give glory to God who has cured you, and don't dare to say that Simeon cured you. And don't presume to swear by the name of the Lord. That is a grave sin. If you must, swear by me a humble sinner, whether you are right or wrong." This is why all the Eastern and barbarous peoples of that region swear by Simeon.
Chapter XV A certain robber from Antioch named Ionathas suddenly burst into the monastery followed by many pursuers, like a lion pursued by a hunting party and unable to hide from them. He embraced the column of the holy Simeon and wept bitterly. "Who are you, my son?" asked Simeon, "and where have you come from and why have you come here?" "I am Ionathas, a robber. I have committed many crimes and have come here to repent." "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19.14), said the holy Simeon, "but don't try and put me to the test, lest you be found to have returned to the wickednesses you have renounced." The official pursuers from Antioch arrived as he spoke. "Hand over to us that evil and dangerous Jonathas," they cried, "or else the city will be in a riot. For the beasts to devour him have already been prepared." "I did not lead him to this place," said the blessed Simeon. "He who led him here is greater than I and comes to the aid of people like this. For of such is the kingdom of heaven. But if you feel able to enter here, come and seize him. I can't do that myself, for I fear him who sent him here." Greatly afraid, the men went away and told them in Antioch what had happened. Jonathas in the meantime clung to the pillar and embraced it for the space of seven days. "Sir," he said to the blessed Simeon, "if you gave the word I would like to be able to walk away from here." "In a hurry to get back to your wickedness then?" "No, sir, but my time has come." And he gave up his spirit as he spoke. As they were about to bury him outside the monastery, another lot of officials came after him from Antioch. "Give us this criminal", they cried. "The whole city is in an uproar because of him." "He who led him here," said the blessed Simeon, "came with a company of the heavenly host, and he has the power to cast your whole city and everyone in it down to hell. He has reconciled this soul to himself, and I was afraid that he might also take me as well. So don't please cause me any more trouble, humble sinner that I am." And they too, departed in great fear, and told everything that they had heard and seen.
Chapter XVI A few years later, he prostrated himself to pray on a Friday and stayed there all day Saturday and Sunday. I became very worried, and climbed up and stood in front of him. "Master," I said, "Please get up and give us a blessing. There have been people here for the last three days expecting a blessing from you." He made no reply. "How is it that you are not taking any notice of me?" I asked. "Have I done something to offend you? Please, give me your hand - or, has your spirit perchance departed?" When he did not answer me, I thought I would not say anything to anyone - I was frightened to touch him. After standing there for half an hour I bent down to put my ear where I could listen more closely. There was no breath, only a smell as of many perfumes which rose from his body, and I knew that he had gone to rest in the Lord. Stunned, I wept bitterly, bent down kissed his eyes and smoothed his beard and his head. "Why have you left me, my master?" I wailed. "Where now shall I find your Angelic teachings? How can I answer for you? Who will be able to took at this column without you, and refrain from mourning? What reply shall I give to the sick when they come looking for you and find you not? What shall I say? How can I in my lowliness explain? I see you here today; tomorrow I shall search both on the right hand and on the left and shall not find you. In what guise could I possibly take over your column? Alas, when they come from afar seeking you and finding you not!" So great was my grief that I lost consciousness, and immediately he appeared to me. "I shall not abandon this column," he said, "nor the blessed mountain in this place where I have become so well known. But go down and make excuses to the people, and send a message to the bishop in Antioch, but secretly lest there be tumult amidst the people. For I have gone to my rest, as the Lord wills. But you must carry on ministering in this place, and the Lord will reward you in heaven." I came to, and in trepidation replied to him, "Master, remember me in your holy resting place." Lifting his robe I fell at his feet and kissed the soles of his feet, and because I knew how much greater they were than mine, I placed them on my eyes, and cried, "Bless me, I pray, my master." And again I wept and cried, "What may I keep of yours to remind me of you?" And as I said this his body twitched, but I was frightened of touching him.
Chapter XVII No one knew what had happened. I went down from the column and sent a reliable brother to the bishop in Antioch. He came at once with three other bishops and also Ardaborius, the commander-in-chief of the army. They set up tripods around the column and fixed his garments to them. They brought his body down and laid it next to an altar in front of the column, and as they gathered together, a flock of birds flew over the column, making bird cries as if in mourning, as everyone could see. The lamentation of both human beings and beasts could be heard for seven miles around. Even the mountains and fields and trees in that place were grieving, for a thick fog spread all around. I was wondering whether an Angel would come and visit him, and indeed at about the seventh hour, seven seniors were in conversation with an Angel whose face shone like lightning and whose clothing was white as snow. And for as long as I could I listened to his voice in fear and trembling. I could not describe what it was like.
Chapter XVIII While the holy Simeon was lying on the funeral bier, the Pope of Antioch tried to take a lock from Simeon's beard for a holy relic, but as he put out his hand it was immediately paralysed. Many oaths were sworn to God and prayers made for him before his hand was restored.
Chapter XIX Having put the body on a funeral bier they set out for Antioch. All the people from the surrounding region grieved that they were being deprived of such a great source of relics, for the bishop of Antioch had forbidden his body to be touched.
Chapter XX When they got as far as the village of Meroë, nobody was able to move it any further. Then a man who had been deaf and dumb for forty years suddenly fell down before the bier and began to speak. "Welcome, O servant of God!" he cried. "Your arrival has cured me! If I deserve to live, I shall serve you all the days of my life." He got up from the ground, seized one of the mules drawing the bier and immediately began to move it forward. And so that man was made whole from that moment. His sin had been to love the wife of another person. He had wanted to commit adultery with her but never had the opportunity. The woman died and was placed in a tomb, but he had broken into the sepulchre, and been immediately struck deaf and dumb, in which state he had been held for forty years.
Chapter XXI Everyone from the city of Antioch went out to bring in the body of the holy Simeon with offerings of gold and silver. With psalms and hymns and many torches they brought him first of all the principal church, and then to the church of Penitence. Many miracles occurred at his sepulcher, more than had occurred during his lifetime, and the man who had been cured served there till the day of his death. Many people of the faith offered money to the bishop of Antioch, hoping for relics from his body, but were disappointed because of the oaths that had been sworn. I, Antony, a humble sinner, have put together this brief account to the best my ability. Blessed is he who possesses this book and reads it in the church and house of God, for when he celebrates Simeon's memory he will receive a reward from the Most High, for his is the honour and the power and the glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
St. Simeon Stylites Confessor
ST. SIMEON was, in his life and conduct, a subject of astonishment, not only to the whole Roman empire, but also to many barbarous and infidel nations. The Persians, Medes, Saracens, Ethiopians, Iberians, and Scythians, had the highest veneration for him. The kings of Persia thought his benediction a great happiness. The Roman emperors solicited his prayers, and consulted him on matters of the greatest importance. It must, nevertheless, be acknowledged, that his most remarkable actions, how instrumental soever they might be to this universal veneration and regard for him, are a subject of admiration, not of imitation. They may serve, notwithstanding, to our spiritual edification and improvement in virtue; as we cannot well reflect on his fervor without condemning and being confounded at our own indolence in the service of God.
St. Simeon was son to a poor shepherd in Cilicia, on the borders of Syria, and at first kept his father's sheep. Being only thirteen years of age, he was much moved by hearing the beatitudes one day read in the church, particularly these: Blessed are they that mourn; blessed are the clean of heart. The youth addressed himself to a certain old man, to learn the meaning of those words, and begged to know how the happiness they promised was to be obtained. He told him that continual prayer, watching, fasting, weeping, humiliation, and patient suffering of persecutions, were pointed out by those texts as the road to true happiness; and that a solitary life afforded the best opportunities for enforcing the practice of these good works, and establishing a man in solid virtue. Simeon, upon this, withdrew to a small distance where, falling prostrate upon the ground, he besought Him, who desires that all may be saved, to conduct him in the paths which lead to happiness and perfection -- to the pursuit of which, under the help of his divine grace, he unreservedly from that moment devoted himself. At length, falling into a slumber, he was favored with a vision, which it was usual with him afterward to relate. He seemed to himself to be digging a pit for the foundation of a house, and that, as often as he stopped for taking a little breath, which was four times, he was commanded each time to dig deeper, till at length he was told he might desist, the pit being deep enough to receive the intended foundation, on which he would be able to raise a superstructure of that kind, and to what height he pleased. "The event," says Theodorot, "verified the prediction; the actions of this wonderful man were so superior to nature that they might well require the deepest foundation of humanity and fervor whereon to raise and establish them."
Rising from the ground, he repaired to a monastery in that neighborhood under the direction of a holy abbot, called Timothy, and lay prostrate at the gate for several days, without either eating or drinking; begging to be admitted on the footing of the lowest servant in the house, and as a general drudge. His petition was granted, and he complied with the terms of it with great fervor and affection for four months. During this time he learned he Psalter by heart, the first task enjoined the novices; and his familiarity with the sacred oracles it contains greatly helped to nourish his soul in a spiritual life. Though yet in his tender youth, he practiced all the austerities of the house and, by his humility and charity, gained the good-will of all the monks. Having here spent two years, he removed to the monastery of Heliodorus, a person endowed with an admirable spirit of prayer and who, being then sixty-five years of age, had spent sixty-two of them in that community, so abstracted from the world as to be utterly ignorant of the most obvious things in it -- as Theodoret relates, who was intimately acquainted with him. Here Simeon much increased his mortifications; for, whereas those monks ate but once a day, which was towards night, he, for his part, made but one meal a week, which was on Sundays. These rigors, however, he moderated at the interposition of his superior's authority, and from that time was more private in his mortifications. With this view, judging the rough rope of the well, made of twisted palm-tree leaves, a proper instrument of penance, he tied it close about his naked body, where it remained unknown both to the community and his superior till such time as, it having eaten into his flesh, what he had privately done was discovered by the stench proceeding from the wound. Three days successively, his clothes, which clung to it, were to be softened with liquids to disengage them; and the incisions of the physician, to cut the cord out of his body, were attended with such anguish and pain, that he lay for some time as dead. On his recovery, the abbot, to prevent the ill consequences such a dangerous singularity might occasion, to the prejudice of uniformity in monastic discipline, dismissed him.
After this he repaired to a hermitage, at the foot of mount Telnescin, or Thelanissa, where he came to a resolution of passing the whole forty days of Lent in a total abstinence, after the example of Christ, without either eating or drinking. Bassus, a holy priest and abbot of two hundred monks, who was his director and to whom he had communicated his design, had left with him ten loaves and water, that he might eat if he found it necessary. At the expiration of the forty days he came to visit him and found the loaves and water untouched but Simeon stretched out on the ground, almost without any signs of life. Taking a sponge, he moistened his lips with water, then gave him the blessed Eucharist. Simeon, having recovered a little, rose up, and chewed and swallowed by degrees a few lettuce-leaves, and other herbs. This was his method of keeping Lent during the remainder of his life; and he had actually passed twenty-six Lents after this manner, when Theodoret wrote his account of him; in which are these other particulars, that he spent the first part of Lent in praising God standing; growing weaker, he continued his prayer sitting; and towards the end, finding his spirits almost quite exhausted, not able to support himself in any other posture, he lay on the ground. However, it is probable, that in his advanced years he admitted some mitigation of this wonderful austerity. When on his pillar, he kept himself, during this fast, tied to a pole but at length was able to fast the whole term, without any support. Many attribute this to the strength of his constitution, which was naturally very robust, and had been gradually habituated to such an extraordinary abstinence. It is well known that the hot eastern climates afford surprising instances of long abstinence among the Indians. * A native of France has, within our memory, fasted the forty days of Lent almost in that manner. * But few examples occur of persons fasting upwards of three or six days unless prepared and inured by habit.
After three years spent in this hermitage, the saint removed to the top of the same mountain, where, throwing together some loose stones in the form of a wall, he made for himself an enclosure, but without any roof or shelter to protect him from the inclemencies of the weather; and to confirm his resolution of pursuing this manner of life, he fastened his right leg to a rock with a great iron chain. Meletius, vicar to the patriarch of Antioch, told him that a firm will, supported by God's grace, was sufficient to make him abide in his solitary enclosure, without having recourse to any bodily restraint; hereupon the obedient servant of God sent for a smith, and had his train knocked off.
The mountain began to be continually thronged, and the retreat his soul so much sighed after to be interrupted by the multitudes that flocked, even from remote and infidel countries, to receive his benediction; by which many sick recovered their health. Some were not satisfied unless they also touched him. The saint, to remove these causes of distraction, projected for himself a new and unprecedented manner of life. In 423, he erected a pillar six cubits high, and on it he dwelt four years; on a second twelve cubits high, he lived three years; on a third, twenty-two cubits high, ten years; and on a fourth, forty cubits high, built for him by the people, he spent the last twenty years of his life. Thus he lived thirty-seven years on pillars, and was called Stylites, from the Greek word Stylos, which signifies a pillar. This singularity was at first censured by all, as a mark of vanity or extravagance. To make trial of his humility, an order was sent him, in the name of the neighboring bishops and abbots, to quit his pillar and new manner of life. The saint, ready to obey the summons, was for stepping down -- which the messenger seeing said that as he had shown a willingness to obey, it was their desire that he might follow his vocation in God. His pillar exceeded not three feet in diameter on the top, which made it impossible for him to lie extended on it; neither would he allow a seat. He only stooped, or leaned, to take a little rest, and often in the day bowed his body in prayer. A certain person once reckoned one thousand two hundred and forty-four such reverences of adoration made by him in one day. He made exhortations to the people twice a day. His garments were the skins of beasts, and he wore an iron collar about his neck. He never suffered any woman to come within the enclosure where his pillar stood. His disciple Antony mentions that he prayed most fervently for the soul of his mother after her decease.
God is sometimes pleased to conduct certain fervent souls through extraordinary paths, in which others would find only dangers of illusion, vanity and self-will, which we cannot sufficiency guard ourselves against. We should notwithstanding consider that the sanctity of these fervent souls does not consist in such wonderful actions or miracles, but in the perfection of their unfeigned charity, patience, and humility; and it was the exercise of these solid virtues that rendered so conspicuous the life of this saint; these virtues he nourished and greatly increased, by fervent and assiduous prayer. He exhorted people vehemently against the horrible custom of swearing -- as also, to observe strict justice, to take no usury, to be assiduous at church and in holy prayer, and to pray for the salvation of souls. The great deference paid to his instructions, even by barbarians, is not to be expressed. Many Persians, Armenians, and Iberians, with the entire nation of the Lazi in Colchis, were converted by his miracles and discourses, which they crowded to hear. Princes and queens of the Arabians came to receive his blessing. Vararanes V, king of Persia, though a cruel persecutor, respected him. The emperors Theodosius the younger and Leo often consulted him, and desired his prayers. The emperor Marcian visited him, disguised in the dress of a private man. By his advice the empress Eudoxia abandoned the Entychian party a little before her death. His miracles and predictions are mentioned at large in Theodoret and others. By an invincible patience he bore all afflictions, austerities, and rebukes, without ever mentioning them. He long concealed a horrible ulcer in his foot, swarming with maggots. He always sincerely looked upon, and treated himself, as the outcast of the world and the last of sinners; and he spoke to all with the most engaging sweetness and charity. Domnus, patriarch of Antioch, administered unto him the holy communion on his pillar; undoubtedly he often received that benefit from others. In 459, according to Cosmas, on a Wednesday, the 2nd of September, this incomparable penitent, bowing on a pillar, as if intent on prayer, gave up the ghost, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. On the Friday following his corpse was conveyed to Antioch, attended by the bishops and the whole country. Many miracles, related by Evagrius, * Antony, and Cosmas, were wrought on his occasion; and the people immediately over all the East, kept his festival with great solemnity. *
The extraordinary manner of life which this saint led, is a proof of the fervor with which he sought to live in the most perfect sequestration from creatures, and union with God and hearer. The most perfect accomplishment of the Divine Will was his only view, and the sole object of his desires; whence upon the least intimation of an order from a superior, he was ready to leave his pillar; nor did he consider this undertaking as anything great or singular, by which he should appear distinguished from others. By humility he looked upon himself as justly banished from among men and hidden from the world in Christ. No one is to practice or aspire after virtue or perfection upon a motive of greatness, or of being exalted by it. This would be to fall into the snare of pride, which is to be feared under the cloak of sanctity itself. The foundation of Christian perfection is a love of humiliation, a sincere spirit of humility. The heroic practice of virtue must be undertaken, not because it is a sublime and elevated state, but because God calls us to it, and by it we do his will and become pleasing to him. The path of the cross, or of contempt, poverty, and sufferings, was chosen by the Father for his divine Son to repair his glory and restore to man the spiritual advantages of which sin had robbed him. And the more perfectly we walk in his spirit, by the love and esteem of his cross, the greater share shall we possess in its incomparable advantages. Those who in the practice of virtue prefer great or singular actions, because they appeal more shining, whatever pretexts of a more heroic virtue, or of greater utility to others they allege are the dupes of a secret pride, and follow the corrupt inclinations of their own heart, while they affect the language of the saints. We are called to follow Christ by bearing our crosses after him, leading at least in spirit a hidden life, always trembling in a deep sense of our frailty, and humbled in the center of our nothingness, as being of ourselves the very abstract of weakness, and an unfathomed abyss of corruption. From the account given of him by Theodoret, one of the most judicious and most learned prelates of the church, who lived in the same country and often visited him; this account was written sixteen years before the saint's death. Also from St. Simeon's life written by Antony, his disciple, published genuine in Bollandus, and the same in Chaldaic by Cosmas, a priest: all three contemporaries and eye-witnesses. This work of Cosmas has been lately published by Monsignor Stephen Assemani, * from a Chaldaic MS. which he proves to have been written in the year 474, fifteen years only after the death of St. Simeon Also from the ancient lives of SS. Euthyinius, Theodosius, Auxentius and Daniel Stylites. Evagrius, Theodorus Lector and other most faithful writers of that and the following age, mention the most wonderful actions of this saint. The severest critics do not object to this history, in which so many contemporary writers, several of them eye-witnesses, agree -- persons of undoubted veracity, virtue, and sagacity, who could not have conspired in a falsehood, nor could have imposed upon the world facts, which were of their own nature public and notorious. See Tillemont, T. 14.  Vitae Patrum, Life No 10, The Life of St Simeon Stylites by Antony, his disciple  Butler's Lives of the Saints, Jan 5.
Vitae Patrum Life No 10 The Life of St Simeon Stylites by Antony, his disciple