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Saint Symeon and his fellow-ascetic John entered the wilderness by the river Jordan in their youth, but were almost immediately inspired from on high to forsake the monastery for more severe asceticism in desert stillness near the Dead Sea.

So far, their spiritual journey reads like the life of many a Saint – asceticism, sobriety, gravity, compunction, modesty. But when, after another thirty-one years of spiritual training, Symeon was called from on high to return to the world to take up the difficult struggle of foolishness for Christ’s sake, and to return to his native city of Emesa to mock the world, the outward form of his life assumes a very different character:

Saint Symeon of Emesa, the Fool for Christ’s Sake

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The Life of a Fool for Christ’s Sake
of Sixth-Century Syria

Leontius, Bishop of Neapolis in Cyprus, is well known for his life of Saint John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria. But he also composed, from eye-witness accounts, this life of Saint Symeon of Emesa.

Many years ago, our monastery’s senior translator made a memorable translation of this life from the original Greek, and we have heard it read in the refectory every year on the Saint’s feast-day, July 21. We have finally fulfilled the many requests that it be published. While it is deeply edifying and inspiring, the Saint’s exploits to make the townsfolk of Emesa think him crazy are also quite humorous, and the translation is carefully adapted to reflect both. The Introduction discusses precedents in foolishness for Christ’s sake before Saint Symeon, and an explanation of the motivations for it.

144 pages, Smyth Sewn, Hard Cover

4 x 6 1/2 inches • Printed on Mohawk Via Laid Paper

ISBN 978–0–943405–17–9

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Photios Kontoglou’s sketch of Saint Symeon which we used for the frontispiece masterfully captures the spirit both of compunction and of playfulness that characterizes this remarkable life of a remarkable Saint.

Furthermore the style of the translation does the same, adapting itself equally to lofty passages requiring lofty speech (e.g. “Under the importunity never to forget thine unprofitable children in the time of the outstretching of thy venerable hands, yea, yea, being constrained by strangers, O righteous one, make commemoration of their orphan state.’ [p. 63]), and likewise to Saint Symeon’s rude taunts to the very people he was about to help with his prayer (e.g., “Where are you off to, Stupid?” [p. 126]).