samedi 26 novembre 2016


Saint Simeon Stylites, Saint Stylianos et Saint Onuphrius

Le 26 novembre,

Choisi par Dieu depuis le sein de sa mère, Saint Stylianos se détacha des illusions de ce monde, distribua ses biens aux pauvres et embrassa la vie monastique. Il s'illustra avec vaillance dans les combats de l'ascèse et, au bout de quelques années de vie commune, partit pour mener la vie solitaire dans une grotte. Il y recevait sa nourriture de la main d'un Ange et devint bientôt intercesseur efficace auprès de Dieu pour le soulagement des malades: en particulier pour la guérison des maladies infantiles et pour la délivrance des femmes restées stériles. C'est dans ces circonstances que la prière du Saint reste toujours efficace pour ceux qui l'invoquent avec foi de nos jours

Stylianus of Adrianopolis, Hermit (RM)
(also known as Alypius)

Born in Adrianopolis, Paphlagonia, Asia Minor; died 390 (?). This date is given by the Benedictines but may or may not be wrong. The first stylite was in the 5th century; however, the record of Stylianus's life has come to us in a highly legendary form. There are some indications that he was born in the 7th century, yet this could be simply due to the accretions of the story. He was a hermit, possibly in the 4th century. We know very little of Saint Stylianus, so called because he was a stylite, or pillar saint, which was not an easy task though the custom spread quite widely in the East during the 6th through 8th centuries.

His unreliable legend says that his birth in Adrianopolis was announced to his mother by the miraculous vision of a lamb with two flaming candles on its horns, and another vision signified the glorious future of the little child. Bishop Theodore is said to have taken charge of Stylianus at the death of his father, when the saint was three.

As soon as he came of age, his bishop made him a deacon and entrusted him with the care of the parish. But at 30 he felt called to a life of perfection and became a hermit, first in an isolated cell, fasting and mortifying himself out of his love for God. It is said that he was then led by visions to the top of a column, where he stayed for the rest of his life, which lasted almost 100 years. There he was persecuted by demons and accomplished many miracles both before and after his death.

It is said that for 53 years he remained standing, day after day, until at last his legs gave out. For 14 years thereafter, he remained on his side without once leaving his pillar. At age 93 he was delivered from the cold and isolation, from the rain and the insects, from hunger, thirst, and extreme discomfort, and, by the grace of God, ascended into the regions of light and peace.

The tradition of the stylites was begun by Saint Simeon the Ancient (died 459), a rigorous ascetic in the tradition of the Syrian monks, who was plagued by crowds of devoted or curious people. They pressed around him so closely that in order to escape them without running away, he climbed up on top of a column. In addition to solving his immediate problem, he found two other advantages: it was conducive to the stability that was so dear to the hearts of monks in retreat; and it added to his ascetic sufferings. In order to enjoy these advantages, and also to follow the example of Saint Simeon, who was greatly venerated, many other anchorites also became stylites, and thus lived solitary lives without really being solitary.

While stylites rejected the "world" in the New Testament sense of the word, unlike the desert monks, the stylites performed a prophetic ministry and were visited by many people. They preached, gave counsel, reconciled enemies, reproved sinners and led them to repentance, cast out devils, and often manifested a gift of prophecy.

The faithful came unceasingly to the foot of the column. When Simeon saw among them a native of distant Gaul, he entrusted him with an affectionate message for his sister, Saint Geneviève (died 500), the patroness of Paris.

The Pré Spirituel records the strange duel between two stylites--one a Catholic, the other a Monophysite. After long arguments the Catholic stylite, who lived about 30 miles from Aegea, Cilicia, asked the heretic to send him a sample of his eucharist. He then placed the sample in a pot of boiling water, and also added a sample of his own Eucharist. The results of the test were conclusive: Only the Catholic Eucharist was unaffected by the water and heat (It's only a legend, guys!). Another Monophysite stylite, who lived in the region of Hierapolis, admitted his defeat after a debate with Saint Ephraim.

In most cases there was a ladder reaching up to the stylites perch so that people could talk to them confidentially. If there was no ladder, then the visitor called up to the stylite, who told him to come to the foot of the column, and from there they talked to each other without being overheard.

Sometimes the stylite's followers were reluctant to leave his immediate vicinity, and in the case of Saint Stylianus two communities, one of men and the other of women, grew up nearby. Some of them, including his sister Mary, lived at the very foot of the column and his mother set up a tent nearby and did all that she could to relieve the sufferings of the ascetic so far as his piety and resolution would allow her. Services were held seven times daily, and everyone, including Saint Stylianus and his visitors took part.

It is possible that the ancient symbolism of the column as uniting heaven and earth helped to stimulate the practice of stylites, even if they themselves were not aware of the symbolism. It is equally probable that the unusual nature of this way of life played a part in its popularity. But it would be wrong to suppose that the stylites were following a pagan rite or that stylites intended to draw attention to themselves (though this was a side-effect).

Modern Christians should be able to understand the need for the stylites to escape the pressing crowds while still remaining to preach God's love; however, the true value of this kind of asceticism may by harder to understand. Yet, they followed the tendencies of Syrian asceticism in general.

The Syrian monks mortified their bodies by going without rest and sleep, without simple hygiene, and by taking only enough food to avoid suicide. Is this insanity? Not if it is understood. The purpose of such ascetic practices is to use all their powers to prevent the demands of the body from interfering with their spiritual aspirations. Clearly the idea that the body is essentially evil underlay such terrible asceticism; nor is this surprising in view of the influence Manicheeism had on the attitudes and faith of the Syrian Christians.

The rule is this: The more the body suffers, the more the spirit flowers. We can set aside the picturesque and the eccentric aspect. The prophets, too, had strange ways for the ways of the Lord are not our ways. We can also set aside the psycho- physiological aspects--the manifold extensions of the strength of the spirit and the extreme longevity of the stylites--and concentrate on essentials. The theory of the stylites, which they practiced with magnificent heroism, is faithful to the mystical theology of the Eastern Church, in accordance with which supernatural peace is to be obtained by blessed tranquility (hesychia) preceded by perfect temperance (encrateia) and impassiveness (apatheia), or in other words indifference to the needs and claims of the body. Discipline and asceticism were the means to attain these. The stylites held, very logically, that the more severe the discipline, the harsher the asceticism, the greater the hope of winning the palm that Saint Paul promised to the winner of the race (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).

Stylianus is the patron saint of sterile wives. 


Venerable Stylianus of Paphlagonia

Saint Stylianus was born in Paphlagonia of Asia Minor sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries. He inherited a great fortune from his parents when they died, but he did not keep it. He gave it away to the poor according to their need, desiring to help those who were less fortunate.

Stylianus left the city and went to a monastery, where he devoted his life to God. Since he was more zealous and devout than the other monks, he provoked their jealousy and had to leave. He left the monastery to live alone in a cave in the wilderness, where he spent his time in prayer and fasting.

The goodness and piety of the saint soon became evident to the inhabitants of Paphlagonia, and they sought him out to hear his teaching, or to be cured by him. Many were healed of physical and mental illnesses by his prayers.

St Stylianus was known for his love of children, and he would heal them of their infirmities. Even after his death, the citizens of Paphlagonia believed that he could cure their children. Whenever a child became sick, an icon of St Stylianus was painted and was hung over the child’s bed.

At the hour of his death, the face of St Stylianus suddenly became radiant, and an angel appeared to receive his soul.

Known as a protector of children, St Stylianus is depicted in iconography holding an infant in his arms. Pious Christians ask him to help and protect their children, and childless women entreat his intercession so that they might have children.

Saint Stylianos, The Protector of Children

26 November 2013

Saint Stylianos was born in Paphlagonia, Asia Minor, between 400 and 500. He was blessed even from his mother’s womb. As he grew up, by the grace of God he increasingly became a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. From childhood he displayed the rare qualities of his blessed life. When he was young and still an adolescent, although, of course, he was of the flesh, he never allowed desires to pollute his spirit and soul. He was very pure. Nor did he allow any earthly passion to dominate him. He would not permit riches and the love of wealth to permeate his soul and subject him to corruption and perdition.

With the power and grace of God, he fought against all the allurements of this blighted and fleeting life. He thought with the genuine wisdom of God and saw that this material world was transitory and worthless. He decided that henceforth he would walk where his soul led him. His soul called him to fine moral battles. It called him to the exercise of virtue. It showed him the difficult and bumpy road that leads to eternal life and everlasting happiness.

His pure and faithful heart obeyed the voice of his soul. His first act was to sell his belongings and give the proceeds to the poor of the Church. When nothing remained of his inheritance [sources disagree on whether this was large or next to nothing], he was greatly relieved and said “I have cast off a heavy anchor that was keeping me tied to the desires of this mortal flesh. I have discarded corruption and perdition. Now I see before me more plainly the road to real life”. Now relieved of his burden, and with a glad heart, because he had spent his wealth on the unfortunate poor and on other works pleasing to God, the saint considered how to live a more honourable and saintly life.

Owning nothing more than the clothes he stood up in, he began a harsh contest and struggle, in accordance with the teaching of Jesus Christ. So when, through his generosity, the blessed Stylianos had elevated his earthly wealth to the heavens and secured it there, he went to a monastery and adopted the monastic habit. From that moment on, no earthly thought, no material concern was able to wrest him from his faith and his prayers. He cared for nothing else and desired nothing but that which is pleasing to the holy will of God. He struggled to find ways in which to please the Lord, of how to perfect his soul and gain entry into Paradise. No desire of his which ran contrary to the will of God was harboured in his soul. The strict asceticism of his life is beyond description. His sanctity began to blaze forth. His humility shone brightly. His purity was blinding. His fasting most meticulous. His prayer true communion with God.

His vigils were amazing. He set himself three aims to achieve as a monk: poverty, chastity and obedience. And he achieved them all. We have already seen his poverty: he did not keep anything at all for himself, nor did he attempt to acquire anything for himself in life. He lived in poverty and complete penury.

He was scrupulous as regards his purity and morality. He kept his soul free “of every stain of the flesh and spirit”. He fought against the attacks of the spirit so that filthy sin would not touch him. His mind was continually turning over Christ’s words: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. His obedience to his elder and the others in the monastery was exemplary. He worked hard to cut off his own will, since our will is grounded in egotism. This is a very difficult thing to do, as anyone knows who has attempted it. Saint Stylianos struggled mightily in the monastery against the three enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil. If you are to overcome these, it requires a long and constant struggle, harsh and ever-vigilant.

So Saint Stylianos proved to be a stalwart of the ascetic life. He became an example to young and old alike and was a model to be imitated. But the austerity of his ascetic life did not satisfy him and he wished to approach ever more closely to perfection. He now desired complete isolation and the strictest asceticism: that of a hermit. He bade farewell to his fellow monks in the monastery and retreated far off into the desert away from all habitation. There, in the desert, he lived in a cave.

The new phase of his ascetic life was aimed at celestial perfection. The days and nights went by with contemplation, thoughts, and prayers to the Triune God. With all his heart, he hymned God’s majesty, he sang praises to the Holy Trinity. He lived united to God Nothing disturbed his divine serenity.

Everything around him and whatever appeared on the far horizon were for him nothing but proof of the Creator. He studied God’s creation and this strengthened his faith even more.

There, in the peace of the desert, the hermit Stylianos had the time to observe God’s creation and meditate upon it. He saw the Creator in all things, because he reasoned that it was impossible for this wonderful world to have come about by itself, given that it is so beautiful, intentional and harmonious. He saw God in the infinite number of stars in the sky, which whirl through vast space at such speed and with such accuracy.

He saw all this and raised his voice as David had done before him: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of His hands”. Then he would break into a doxology: “How magnificent are Your works, Lord”. You have made everything in wisdom. The earth has been filled with Your creation”.

He read and re-read two books in the desert: the book of nature and that of Holy Scripture. His heart, his understanding, his soul, his whole being was fervently given over to God. A divine and sacred trembling would pass through his ascetic flesh, as his soul delved ever deeper into the beauty of the divine creation. The holy passion of Saint Stylianos’ love for the most holy Name of God shook him to the core. The whole of his strength was concentrated on this divine love. And so the saint abandoned his fleshly existence.  He ceased to care at all about food and nourished himself on desert plants. When there were none of these, God did not leave him in want. God, Who works wonders for His saints, for them and through them, did not allow the blessed man to fade away from hunger. He kept him alive by sending him food at the hands of angels, as He had done with the Prophet Elijah and Saint Mark the Athenian, the philosopher, among others.

He lived the hard life of a hermit for many years, for decades contending with the devil and his own self. He fought to uproot his passions, to acquire virtues and to reach the saintliness that God wants, the God Who said: “Become holy for I am holy”.

The Creator wanted Saint Stylianos to continue living, wanted his virtue to shine and wanted him to be a model for others with the austerity of his ascetic life. He wanted this animate pillar of abstinence, the bright light of the desert, to shine throughout the world. God wanted his virtues to manifest themselves. But a lamp needs to be set on high, not to be hidden under a bushel. So when certain people are radiant through their virtues, God manifests them so that they can light the way of others on the road.

Thus, once Saint Stylianos had been adorned with virtues and was like a candle flaming with warm, sweet light, once he had reached the heights of virtue hard even to envision, he was able to transmit to people the gladsome light of his sanctity, for the glory of God and the salvation of other people. God, Who is just, would again demonstrate to people how He returns glory to those who worship His name  and glorify Him.

So the fame of Saint Stylianos spread everywhere. A host of people gathered from all around to wonder at his sanctity and derive spiritual and bodily benefits from him. His saintly figure, his words of wisdom, his exhortations, changed the lives of many people. There were many who, enthused by his asceticism, abandoned their wicked past, repented and became reborn spiritually. The accounts from Christians who visited him in the desert, where his hermitage was, are very moving. He knew how to calm troubled souls. Other ascetics came to join him, in order to be strengthened in their struggle by his words and radiance. Saint Stylianos knew that, for people to be saved, they needed to have their souls like those of little children, who are innocent. He recognized that children are little angels, which is why he wished to help them and protect them. And God, Who works miracles, granted Stylianos grace in this matter, too.

God rewarded his blessed intent and gave him the wonder-working power to cure ailing children. Mothers from near and far, hastened to him, in pain and faith, bearing sick and crippled children on their shoulders, seeking a cure for their offspring. Some walked for days on end in the wilderness to find the hermit’s cave. When they arrived, they fell at his feet with tears in their eyes, glorifying God that they had finally found the saint and asking him to cure their children. Full of kindness and compassion, Stylianos would take the sick infants into his arms and, with tears in his eyes, beg God to cure them. The Lord of the Heavens would listen to his heartfelt prayer and the saint worked a miracle. Sick children regained their health.

All kinds of illnesses disappeared. No sickness could resist the power of God. Mothers wept for joy at his hermitage. Others covered his hand with kisses, out of respect for and gratitude to the elder, praising God the while. The hermit praised His Holy Name unceasingly and thanked Him for these miracles which He had permitted him to work. Then, with great affection, he would look at the innocent little creature who had been released from sickness. A sweet smile, that of an angel, would brighten the face of the venerable ascetic. These miracles became known everywhere, and a great many people flocked to the saint to ask him to cure their children from some illness or other.

In this way, the Good Lord glorified the name of the Blessed Stylianos, who had dedicated his life to the glory of God. But it was not only the miraculous cures of children which glorified the name of humble Stylianos. The saint acquired the reputation of wonder-worker because he made childless couples child-bearing through his prayers. Many sterile women bore children through his intercessions. Through his blessing, many faithful Christians who had been childless, bore healthy children.

Indeed, after his departure from this life, many good Christians invoked the name of the saint and, as a sacred obligation, copied his icon and then had children, even if they had given up all hope of doing so.

Apart from this, people went from all the monasteries to visit the ascetic elder and rejoice in his company, in the fragrance of his sanctity. Monks and ascetics asked advice of the saintly teacher regarding how to face temptation and how to keep the peace in their coenobitic monasteries. Everyone saw him as a model of the ascetic life. His personality was entirely humble and radiated celestial beauty.

He was tireless in teaching them, with angelic serenity. He guided them, he filled their hearts, confirmed their faith and dispelled their doubts. With his advice from afar, he brought peace to monasteries that were experiencing internal strife.  And so Saint Stylianos lived and glorified the name of God and was glorified by our Heavenly Father. When he was well stricken in years, God sent His angels and they took his holy soul, so that he might rest from his long labours, his privations and the harshness of his ascetic life. The saint fell asleep in the Lord, full of days and virtues.

We do not know where they buried him, nor has any other evidence survived of his exhausting and saintly life. But his name has lived on. All Orthodox Christianity respects and honours him. We call upon him in times of need and, above all, for our children when they are sick.  We build magnificent churches in his name. The miracles of the saint continue even after his demise. To this day, Saint Stylianos continues to be the protector of children.

The saint is represented in his icon as holding an infant, swaddled, in his embrace, which represents the fact that he is the protector of children. We celebrate his memory on 26 November.

Source: ΒΙΟΙ ΑΓΙΩΝ (Saints’ Lives) by Archimandrite Haralambos, D. Vasilopoulos, Orthodox Press.