Holy Fool for Christ
Repose of the Blessed Herodion of Kapsala of Mount Athos the Fool-for-Christ the Romanian on December 12, 1990.
St. Paul wrote “…we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake.” (1 Corinthians 4:10 KJV)
“The Fool in Christ is a Prophet and a Apostle, is the living conscience of society.”Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Inspired by the Spirit, the fool carries the act of metanoia or ‘change of mind’ to its farthest extent. More radically than anyone else, he stands the pyramid on its head. He is a living witness to the truth that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world; he testifies to the reality of the ‘anti-world’, to the possibility of the impossible. He practises an absolute voluntary poverty, identifying himself with the humiliated Christ…Forgoing family life, he is the wanderer or pilgrim who feels equally at home everywhere, yet settles down nowhere… Yet thereby he becomes a channel for the higher wisdom of the Spirit.He is the living conscience of society. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware)
Foolishness-for-Christ’s-sake is considered to be the most difficult of Christian spiritual exploits.
The life of a holy fool is thought to be lived in imitation of the advice of St. Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world, is foolishness in the eyes of God” (3:18-19).
The Yurodivy is a Saint who acts intentionally foolish in the eyes of men while at the same time mysteriously helping people. Fools-for-Christ may employ unexpected and unconventional behavior to deliver prophecies, reveal the truth, unmask delusions, and beneficially influence those who are indifferent. In this way the Yurodivy conceal their virtues, increase their humility, eradicate pride (by avoiding man pleasing and the praise of men) and dedicate themselves, wholeheartedly, to fulfilling the will of God.
The essence of this exploit is in a voluntary acceptance of humiliation and insults in order to achieve the height of humility, meekness and goodness of heart and by this to cultivate love even for one’s enemies and persecutors. It is a life-and-death struggle not only with sin, but with the root of sin – pride in all its secret displays. A fool-for-Christ (yurodivy) is determined to follow the crucified Christ and to live keeping completely away from all earthly comforts. But at the same time he is aware that such behaviour threatens to create for him the reputation of a saint among the people and to strengthen his self-love and increase his pride as being one of God’s elect – which is one of the most dangerous rocks in one’s struggle for sanctity. So as not to be taken for a saint, a fool-for-Christ rejects the outer aspect of dignity and composure of mind that inspires respect and prefers to appear a miserable, weak creature, deserving mockery and even violence. Deprivations to which they subject themselves, their heroic, almost superhuman ascetic podvigs – all this must seem to be devoid of any value and to evoke nothing but contempt. In other words it is a complete denial of human dignity and even any spiritual value of one’s own being – humility raised to a heroic degree and at times, as it may seem on the surface, falling into the extreme. But in the heart of a fool-for-Christ lives the memory of the Cross and the One Crucified, the slaps on His face, the spitting and the flagellation, which encourages them at any moment to endure any reviling and oppression for Christ’s sake.
A fool-for-Christ does not in the least seek esteem or love from people; he even does not care to leave a good memory of himself among people. This main principle was the source of the strength and courage shown by fools-for-Christ, when they took their sorrowful way of exile and opposed evil and injustice, regardless of their source or the respect or social position of those who committed them.