St Simeon Stylites was a fifth century monk who set off a trend for hermits to live on top of pillars. Totally bonkers, right?! I remember being told this story as a 7 year old and just collapsing with irreverent laughter wondering how he managed to go to the bathroom😀
Little did I know he was to become on of the most important saints in my life. In fact I had completely forgotten about him until I had a conversation with my Byzantine friend today.
St Simeon climbed his pillar in AD412 to get away from the hordes of disciples and onlookers who came to visit him, having heard reports of his already extreme self-denying lifestyle. He once survived Lent without eating or drinking anything, and followed this achievement up by standing stock still until he collapsed.
He spent the rest of his life on a succession of ever higher pillars, to get away from the crowds who continued to visit him, with supplies delivered by village boys climbing up to the top.
After he died, his fame spread and he spawned scores of imitators, known as Stylites from the Greek word for pillar, “style”.
The monastery which houses the remains of his pillar north-west of Aleppo, has been a tourist attraction for centuries, and has come under the control of different groups in the civil war. Tragically in May this year an airstrike hit the monastery and damaged the remains of his pillar.
It is such a shame as I really would have like to visit it one day. I’m not sure that I ever will now.
The reason he has become one of the most important saints in my life is because of the pillar. It is such a vulnerable position to be in – stuck on top of a pillar. But spiritually speaking this is exactly the place in which Christ is calling us to be.
Christ stands with us on the pillar and all we can do is to cling to Him as tight as we can and rely on him for absolutely everything. If we let go we are in immediate danger. If we cling on He wraps us in His embrace. It’s a no-brainer!😀
So up until this point I have been listening in the desert. But I guess that wasn’t enough. Now it seems I am stuck on top of a 20ft pole!😀
My need to cling, and to be held in God’s embrace has been something I have wanted desperately for a long time, but I didn’t know how to do it. Now I know. It was that place of complete trust, and total vulnerability and reliance on Him that I needed to get to.
And now i’m here I don’t think i’ll be coming down any time soon🙂