Saints Holy Fools

Penitent

Woodpecker
Orthodox
There is a common misconception about the tradition of Holy Fools in the Orthodox Church. The term fool in this context is meant to convey the meaning of somebody who acts in an irrational manner. In other words, they act like an insane person would act. They are in fact considered insane by many. This is true. Where people's understanding goes wrong is when they think that the person is actually insane, and happens to chance upon holiness somehow - perhaps by virtue of his mental illness. This couldn't be further from the truth. In actual fact, when a person takes on the podvig of foolishness-for-Christ, they are doing it voluntarily. They could, if they so wished, revert to acting like a normal person in full possession of their reasoning faculty. The reason they act foolishly is because they want to hide their holiness and also invite upon themselves ridicule in order to further acquire more holiness through the humility that comes along with being scorned by society. This is one of the most difficult spiritual feats that can be accomplished, and it presupposes a high level of perfection and spiritual achievement. Often these saints were found to spend whole nights in prayer. A person who is insane cannot be expected to reach a high spiritual state, and their illness necessarily obviates the ability to perform this spiritual feat. It is enough for them to bear their infirmity with patience, and they will be saved.
 

JohnTheSmall

Pigeon
Orthodox
I could recommend an excellent book that delves into this topic. It’s a novel called
‘Laurus’ by Eugene Vodolazkin. It’s superb.

 

Paisios Harlan

Pigeon
Orthodox
The excellent movie Ostrov (The Island) demonstrates exactly what the fool-for-Christ phenomenon is all about. My former priest, before I moved, liked to caution us to never try and be one; if God grants it, He will, but seeking holy foolishness is a shortcut to dysfunction.
You are right. However, there is also this perspective, that we are a type of fool-for-Christ just by being faithful to tradition and Orthodox beliefs.

 

Penitent

Woodpecker
Orthodox
In this most recent episode of The Arena Fr. Josiah compares Zacchaeus from the Gospel to a fool-for-Christ. An interesting take that I had never considered:
 

Laurus

 
Banned
Trad Catholic
Good examples from novels are Prince Myshkin from Dostoyevsky's The Idiot and Arseni from Evegenyi Volodazkin's Laurus. Prince Myshkin was mistaken for one because of his inherent goodwill and non-materialistic attitude; he perceived all the cunning and interplay of the low nobility of the local Russians better than anybody in the novel, but it did not prevent him from going actually insane in the end. In Laurus, Arseni actually becomes a Fool for Christ and "shares" the city of Pskov with two other holy fools, who were there long before him. What strikes me is that those three immediately understood each other without saying a word, it is as if they could read each other's minds and were in constant communion with each other even throughout long distances. They performed many miracles, such as walking and having a fight on the river.
 

Penitent

Woodpecker
Orthodox
In Laurus, Arseni actually becomes a Fool for Christ and "shares" the city of Pskov with two other holy fools, who were there long before him.

This part of the book is a nod to the life of Righteous Theodore of Novgorod the Fool-For-Christ who was celebrated by the Church a few days ago. During his life he divided his city up into territories which were shared between him and Blessed Nicholas Konchanov, Fool-For-Christ as a way to call attention to the sinfulness of the inhabitants of the city who were in the midst of a feud. "Konchanov" means "head of cabbage." The two are most famous for having both run onto the Volkhov River while throwing heads of cabbage at each other.
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