COMING HOME – ORTHODOXY
Fools for Christ – Fr. Rick’s Sermons
St George Greek Orthodox Church in St Paul, Minnesota, USA
Someone once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. Another person said, “The mouth is the grocer’s friend, the dentist’s fortune, the orator’s pride and the fool’s trap”. The dictionary defines a “fool” as: “a silly or stupid person; a person who lacks judgment or sense”. Psalm 14:1 & 53:1 “A fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'”. Proverbs 12:15 “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes (but he who heeds counsel is wise)”.
So what does St. Paul mean when he says in today’s Epistle Reading from the 10th Sunday of Matthew (1Corinthians 4:9-16), “We are fools for Christ’s sake? (v.10)”. After all he is referring to himself and the rest of the “apostles” (v.9). The same men who were chosen by Jesus to be His closest disciples and were responsible for spreading the Good News of His Resurrection beyond Jerusalem into Europe, Africa and Asia. Are the apostles fools because they were condemned to death (v.9), weak, dishonored (v.10), hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, homeless (v.11), reviled, persecuted (v.12), defamed, and filthy (v.13)? A person would have to be a stupid to endure all those indignities, right? Who, in their right mind, would put up with all that? Then, to top all off, St. Paul closes with a plea to the Corinthians, “I urge you, imitate me?” (v.16). Yeah, right!
Did anyone know that there is a class of saints known as “Fools for Christ”? Just like there are prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, confessors, ascetics and healers, there are approximately 45 saints with a special title “Fool for Christ”. What are the characteristics, qualities and accomplishments of a person who is called a “Fool for Christ”?
The fool-for-Christ set for himself the task of battling within himself the root of all sin, pride. In order to accomplish this he took on an unusual style of life, appearing as someone bereft of his mental faculties, thus bringing upon himself the ridicule of others. In addition he exposed the evil in the world through metaphorical and symbolic words and actions. He took this ascetic endeavor upon himself in order to humble himself and to also more effectively influence others, since most people respond to the usual ordinary sermon with indifference. The spiritual feat of foolishness for Christ was especially widespread in Russia. –(Excerpted from The Law of God, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY: 1993). Saint Andrew of Constantinople is considered to be the first such saint, although Saint Basil of Moscow is also widely known. (Orthodox Wiki lists 48 saints with tile “Fool for Christ”). http://orthodoxwiki.org/Fool-for-Christ
Here are but two examples of saints with this title Andrew of Constantinople and Xenia of St. Petersburg.
Blessed Andrew, Fool-for-Christ, was a Slav and lived in the tenth century at Constantinople. From his early years, he loved God’s Church and the Holy Scriptures. Once during a dream, the saint beheld a vision of two armies. In the one were men in radiant garb, in the other, black and fiercesome devils. An angel of God, who held wondrous crowns, said to Andrew, that these crowns were not adornments from the earthly world, but rather a celestial treasure, with which the Lord rewards His warriors, victorious over the dark hordes. “Proceed with this good deed,” the angel said to Andrew. “Be a fool for My sake and you will receive much in the day of My Kingdom.”
The saint perceived that it was the Lord Himself summoning him to this deed. From that time Andrew began to go about the streets in rags, as though his mind had become muddled. For many years the saint endured mockery and insults. With indifference he underwent beatings, hunger and thirst, cold and heat, begging alms and giving them away to the poor. For his great forbearance and humility the saint received from the Lord the gift of prophecy and wisdom, saving many from spiritual perils, and he unmasked the impiety of many. While praying at the Blachernae church, St Andrew beheld the Most Holy Mother of God, holding her veil over those praying under her Protection (October 1). Blessed Andrew died in the year 936.
Our righteous Mother Xenia of Petersburg was born about the year 1730. She was married to a Colonel named Andrew; when she was twenty-six years old, her husband died suddenly, having been drinking with his friends. Left a childless widow, Xenia gave away all that she had, and vanished from Saint Petersburg for eight years; it is believed that she spent this time in a hermitage, learning the spiritual life. When she returned to Saint Petersburg, she wore her husband’s military clothing, and would answer only to the name Andrew, that is, the name of her late husband. She took up the life of a homeless wanderer, and was abused by many as insane; she bore this with great patience, crucifying the carnal mind through the mockery she endured, and praying for her husband’s soul. She was given great gifts of prayer and prophecy, and often foretold things to come; in 1796 she foretold the death of Empress Catherine II. Having lived forty-five years after her husband’s death, she reposed in peace at the age of seventy-one, about the year 1800. Her grave became such a source of miracles, and so many came to take soil from it as a blessing, that it was often necessary to replace the soil; when a stone slab was placed over her grave, this too disappeared over time, piece by piece. Saint Xenia is especially invoked for help in finding employment, lodging, or a spouse. http://www.goarch.org/chapel/saints/402
At first glance we may not relate at all to the fool for Christ. However, we probably do relate much more than we think. How many opportunities are we faced with, sometimes each day, where we might consider a display of our faith as foolish? What do I mean? When eating in a public place, do we take the opportunity to pray and make the sign of the cross or do I avoid it not wanting to look odd? Some may even feel odd and avoid praying with close friends, relatives and family. Do we share our faith in Christ with others, even after they have shared theirs with us, or do we keep it ourselves not wanting to appear too religious? In a water-cooler discussion at work, or over dinner with friends, when a controversial moral-ethical topic comes up, do we throw our Orthodox Christian teaching in the ring, or keep it to ourselves, not wanting to appear to conservative, preachy or a prude? What about being approached by a beggar or pan-handler? Do we gladly give a hand-out or do we keep our hands in our pocket, avoid eye contact and keep moving. After all, “A food and his money are soon parted,” right? I like to say, “A generous man and his money are soon parted, but he is all the more rich”. There is no doubt that many segments of today’s society generally look down upon deeply held religious beliefs and the expression thereof and the people expressing them as foolish. Consider for a moment what Christ and St. Paul say about foolishness:
Matthew 7:26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them is like a foolish man”.
Luke 24:25 “O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe”.
1Corinthians 1:20-29 “20Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29that no flesh should glory in His presence”.
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19 KJV).
We must not be afraid to be a fool for Christ’s sake. In other words, we must be willing to live our faith in Christ at all times even if it makes us look silly, weak and foolish to those who do not share that same faith. And remember, not every fool is a fool for Christ’s sake. Amen!
Saint George Greek Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Metropolis Of Chicago