Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Simeon Stylites, the Younger
From Evagrius, Hist. l. 5, c. 21, p. 448, and l. 6, c. 23, p. 471, with the notes of Reading and W. Lowth, ibid. Cambridge, 1720. Jos. Assemani. Comm. in Cal. Univ. Also Janning, t. 5, Maij, p. 298.
THIS saint was born at Antioch in 512, and retired, when yet a child, into the monastery of Thaumistore, or the Admirable Mountain, situated in the deserts of Syria, near Antioch. For several years he served a holy hermit who was a monk of the same place, and lived not far from the community upon a pillar. Simeon laboured with his whole strength to be a faithful imitator of all his virtues. Meeting one day with a young leopard, and not knowing what it was, he put a rope about its neck, and thus brought it to his master, saying he had found a cat. The good hermit, seeing the furious beast tamely obeying a child, began to conceive greater thoughts of him: and not long after, in 526, having had sufficient experience of his fervour, ordered him to make a pillar, and to live upon it. The youth obeyed, as if it had been the voice of God, and lived successively upon two pillars, within the inclosure of the monastery, threescore and eight years in great austerity, and in the exercises of assiduous contemplation. God manifested his sanctity by a great number of miracles, which he performed chiefly in curing the sick, foretelling things to come, and knowing the most secret thoughts of others. Evagrius, the historian, was an eye-witness to many, and assures us that he had experienced his knowledge of the thoughts of others in himself when he visited him for spiritual advice.1 A great concourse of people of all nations, as well Romans as Barbarians, resorted to this eminent servant of God, who was honoured by the whole world, particularly by the emperor Mauritius. When the Samaritans effaced the holy images that were in the churches, St. Simeon wrote to the emperor Justin in defence of the respect which is due to them. This letter is quoted by St. John Damascen, and by the second council of Nice. The saint fell ill about the year 592, and Gregory, the patriarch of Antioch, being informed that he was at the point of death, went in all haste to assist at his last moments; but, before he arrived, St. Simeon had departed to the Lord. He is honoured by the Greeks on the 24th of May, and by the Latins on the 3rd of September.
The fervour of the saints in bewailing their sins, in singing the divine praises, and in sighing after the glorious society of the heavenly spirits, made them seem to forget all concerns of the world. In these heavenly exercises they found the greatest delights and the most holy and pure joy. The great St. Antony having spent the whole night in prayer, when the morning called him to other duties was heard to lament that the rising sun interrupted the sweet entertainment of his soul with God: though by recollection and frequent aspirations at his manual labour and other employments, he in some measure continued his prayer the whole day. What a reproach is the holy ardour of the saints to our sloth, delicacy, and self-love! How loudly does the pillar of St. Simeon condemn our indolence! Nature, it is true, is weak, and stands in need of some relief: but if a lazy, unwilling mind is to be judged of its want of strength, the judgment will be partial in favour of our passions.
Note 1. Evagrius Scholasticus, a Syrian by birth, lived may years at Antioch, and was a person distinguished for his birth, learning, and employments. He wrote an ecclesiastical history from the time of the council of Ephesus, in 431, to the year 594, comprised in six books. Photius says of him that his style is agreeable; and that, with respect to truth, he is more exact than other historians. (Col. 29.) The histories of Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, and Evagrius were accurately published with a new Latin translation, by H. Valesius, at Paris, in 1673. A more beautiful edition of the same, enlarged with other historical and critical notes, was procured by Will. Reading, at Cambridge, in 3 vols. fol. in 1720. [back]