Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Some of most rib-tickling theologians of all were the ‘holy fools’ of the 6th century, who behaved foolishly so as to defy the conventions of the sinful world. Perhaps the most famous was Simeon the Fool.
Simeon the Fool (as he never looked)
He famously began his ministry of folly by entering the city of Emessa (dragging a dead dog behind him) and mimicking Jesus’ healing of the blind man. Jesus had used saliva and clay on the man’s eyes; but when a man suffering from leucoma in both eyes approached Simeon, he anointed the man’s eyes with mustard, burning him and so aggravating his condition that he went completely blind.
The rest of his ministry consisted of streaking in the circus, tripping people up, and consuming vast amounts of beans on solemn fast days – with predictable and hilarious results. During church services, he would pelt the priests with nuts and blow out the candles; at other times he would drag himself around on his buttocks, punch adulterers, eat raw meat and defecate in public.
Simeon was understandably revered by many (and was later canonised as a saint); yet when he ran naked into the crowded women’s section of the bath-house and jumped in to join them, he was promptly beaten and thrown out by the women, who suspected that perhaps he was not as foolish as he pretended.
Simeon has inspired many people down through history, men such as Basil the Fool and John the Hairy, and is widely followed today.