The Father Sees in Secret: Secrecy and Humility in the Lives of Two Saints Simeon
By Benjamin Cox
Published Online (2003)
Introduction: The early Christian narratives of saints’ lives profile two major types of ascetic. The first, having realized that his salvation lies not in the world, withdraws permanently from society into the wilderness to practice his faith and fully devote himself to the pursuit of God. The second ascetic, after a period of mortification and self-denial in the desert, returns to the realm of man to serve as an instrument of God’s will. Despite many differences between the tales of reclusive and proactive monks, the role of humility in their lives remains the same. Two saints, Simeon Stylites, whose life was the subject of a book by Antonius, and Symeon the Fool, whose deeds were chronicled by Leontius of Neapolis, exemplify the desert ascetic and the holy man who returns from the desert to minister to others as an outcast among men. Each of these saints undergoes a period of concealed physical mortification, a silent agony done for the sake of his Lord. Tending towards aberrant behavior, each holy man tarnishes his reputation to appear vile, then willingly accepts the ensuing social isolation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both Simeons strive at all costs to conceal their good acts. Through their humility, the two Saints Simeon serve as living examples of Christ’s admonition to his followers in Matthew 6:1-18, which cautions against performing righteous actions solely for the praise of others.