I came across this essay… At first, I thought the topic would be too “ethnic” and Russia-specific for this blog. On the second thought, however, I changed my mind…
The author, a controversial and upstanding Russian journalist, laments the latest Russian official trend of encouraging “religiosity” in the country in dire need of positive symbols and heroes worthy of adoration but not rock-stars. Who else but the holy men and women, Christian saints, have a great chance to become shiny examples of spirituality, devotion and morality? Tongue-in-cheek, the author suggests a list of his “favorite” candidates. The ones I’ve chosen for this post have across the board appeal — none of them is Russian. These holy men are pillars of the faith hailing from centuries back.
Called the Father of Christianity, this third century religious fanatic gave up his job, slept on the bare floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and reportedly castrated himself and fed his penis to the dogs… all for the faith.
This monk chose a previously unknown mode of asceticism. He went up a pillar six to eight feet high, and settled upon it in a little cell, devoting himself to intense prayer and fasting, while enduring many temptations. The monk gradually increased the height of the pillar. His final nesting place surged 80 feet above ground. A double wall was raised around the pillar to fend off gawkers. St. Simeon spent 80 years in arduous monastic feats, 47 years of which he stood upon the pillar. This perfectly saintly lifestyle, however, proved to be highly unhygienic. Worms bred “in the sores of his flesh” encouraged by the man’s habit to rub excrement into his skin.
Theophilus The Weeping
This holy man lived and cried non-stop for 14 years, sometime between the end of the XI and the beginning of the XII centuries. He wept day and night, and lost his sight because of it.
The Holy Eusebius
This guy earned his sainthood shedding buckets of sweat. Eusebius ran around, drugging some 260 pounds of iron chains behind him.
For 90 years, it is said, Paul ate nothing but dates he stole from ravens. “Official” sources, however, insist that God took interest in Paul’s sustenance and kept on sending raven to feed him figs and dates.
Paid a high price for his sanctity. His method of getting rid of the ungodly thoughts was painful. He bought by enduring considerable discomfort by immersing his buttocks and genitals into an anthill.
Now, who is your favorite saint?
Martyrs and extreme fanatics of the faith, it’s been noted, more often than not, are deeply disturbed people devoured by their obsession. The early Christian martyrs and “holy men” have been researched, and hints of paranoia, masochism, and manic depression observed in their response to life and death. Some of them are said to be socially ill–adjusted people who seek to draw attention to themselves, their behavior psychologically no different from the exhibitionism of the psychopath…
No wonder mothers would rather have their children grow up to become bankers than saints.
To the Russian “spirituality activists” the author suggests a reality show (the kind of Survivor, perhaps) which would test the true faith of the participants. Based upon the lives of Christian saints, it’ll have a bare-butt-in-the-anthill event, fight with wrens for figs, growing worms in the crevices of the flesh… What a glorious TV it would make!