Many Christians give up something meaningful to them during Lent. Lent is a reminder of the 40 days when Jesus lived in the desert while he prepared himself for his work of teaching and healing. For him, it was a way to get away from everyday life and having to concentrate on praying without interruption. Some Christians give up everyday comforts for more than 40 days. One such person was Simeon the Stylite.
Simon was the son of a shepherd, and by the time he was 13, he was already working as a shepherd himself. One snowy day he couldn’t take the sheep out to pasture, so he went to church instead, something he didn’t do very often.
That Sunday, he heard the words spoken by Jesus during the Sermon of the Mount. “Blessed are the pure in heart...Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are those who mourn…All these people will find their blessings.” Simeon asked the preacher to explain more about the Christian faith. Simeon listened hard.
Some time later, he had a dream. He dreamed he was digging a hole in the ground for the construction of some building. Whenever he stopped, he heard a voice that said, “Dig deeper.” At last, he had dug a foundation deep enough for any building. And then, in his dream, he saw a tall pillar.
When he became 18, he became a monk in a local monastery. But the rules of the monastery did not seem strict enough to Simeon because he felt he should give up everything to serve God. He disciplined himself by eating less food than the other monks and praying more hours a day. Gradually, Simeon began to realize to live a really more holy life he must get away from other people.
He left the monastery to live in the mountains, surviving on little food and no shelter from the weather. But people still came to see this holy man. He was still not alone.
This time, he followed his dream more closely. He dug a hole in the ground with a platform on top. The platform was where Simeon chose to live. People kept coming to see Simeon, leaving his less time to pray. So he built a taller platform. His food and water had to be sent to him on a pulley and chain. He lived this way for 20 years, able to pray without distractions but still able to talk to his visitors when he wished.
from Voices of the Saints, by Bert Ghezzi
Image credit: Simeon Stylites by unknown artist, 16th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.