Have you ever thought of overcoming the pleasures of this world and live a life of penance and prayer? Have you actually ever started doing it but it did not really last that long? If so, you are not alone.
I live in a city where everything is easily accessible. I meant legal things like foods, entertainment, sports, etc. Nowadays we don’t need to walk or travel to satisfy our senses. Foods and drinks arrive at your doorstep, movies and games can be enjoyed at home.
Many times I resolved to reduce or detach myself from these temporal enjoyments to give way to a more meaningful life in Christ. But it is very difficult to be consistent especially in terms of food and drink intake. I could do a week or two and then after that I would lose track of it and would need to start from the beginning. So I turn to spiritual reading to gain encouragement from saintly people of the past. I read a chapter about the development of monasticism in a theology course I am taking and knew about this man who ‘lived outside the world’ for 37 years.
His name is Simeon and he was from Syria. He lived in the years 390-459. He was called ‘stylite’ (means pillar) because he lived for 37 years atop a narrow column raised around 60 feet above the desert floor. He lived a life of penance, prayer, and preaching. He survived the hot summers and cold winters in the desert for almost four decades.
I also watched a movie in YouTube about him. Luis Buñuel’s “Simón del desierto” 1965, is a 45-minutes Mexican film about his life. It highlights his battle against the devil who was trying to distract him to embrace the pleasures the world can offer. But Simeon was determined and, with God’s grace, he managed to stay up on his pillar.
People of different kinds and ages came to him for advice and prayer. One time he prayed over a man who lost both hands. God heard his prayers and the man’s hands reappeared. God does use holy people as intercessors.
Priesthood did not attract the saint. One time he asked for a blessing from a bishop, he was offered a blessing and an ordination to priesthood. Simeon humbly rejected the ordination and only asked for the blessing. He said he was a sinful man and was not worthy to receive that grace allotted for the priests of God.
Many Christians were inspired by him and became stylites themselves taking up the life of ascetics. They considered ascetical discipline as a preparation for a life of prayer and through renunciation of the world and ascetical practices they believe they would be more closer to God and gain eternal life.
I am reminded by Simeon’s life and virtues whenever I face challenges in my spiritual life. There is no other life better than living a life like Christ’s, life of no excess and life of no luxury. Simon is a great role model of this kind of life. We too can overcome the world with God’s help and the intercession of the saints.
Saint Simeon, please pray for us especially those of us enslaved by the sin of gluttony, lust, greed, or envy. Amen.
Let us serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances!