Thousands of Christians have made the ultimate sacrifice, they have given up their lives, often after first being tortured, rather than giving up their faith. This is a powerful measure of the message of God. However, in many ways, others have made even more difficult sacrifices to do God's work without giving up their lives.
Among this group, which also numbers in the thousands, is a relatively small but fascinating group that have elected to live on tiny platforms on top of poles for many years.
St. Daniel the Stylite (409-493) spent thirty-three years on a series of pillars built near Constantinople and was ordained on one of them when he refused to come down for his ordination. He became famed for his holiness and miracles of healing, attracting huge crowds with the sermons he delivered from the top of his pillar. Daniel died on his pillar and was buried at its foot. The reason he did this is because he met St. Simeon the Elder who lived on a pillar. After nine years as a hermit, Daniel decided to emulate Simeon.
St. Simeon Stylites (390-459) was thirteen when he had a vision that foretold his later life on pillars. First he was a hermit and his holiness attracted large crowds. To escape them, in 423, he erected a ten-foot-high pillar and lived on top of it---he spent the rest of his life living on successively higher pillars (stylites is from the Greek word stylos, meaning pillar). The top of the pillars were no larger than six feet in diameter and his last pillar was sixty feet high. He practiced the greatest austerities, slept little if at all, was clad only in the skins of wild beasts, and fasted completely during Lent for forty years. He preached daily exhorting his endless stream of listeners to greater holiness, converted many, and was listened to and consulted by all, from Emperors and prelates to commoners. He was the first of the pillar ascetics.
St. Simeon Stylites the Younger (517-592) lived on a pillar that was to be his home for sixty-eight years. Huge crowds were attracted to his pillars because of his preaching, and he was venerated for his holiness, spiritual wisdom and advice, prophecies, and the miracles reported of him. He went for long periods of time with hardly any sleep or nourishment.
The next time you moan because of a power failure that makes you miss your favorite television show, think on these men and the sacrifices they made.
The next time you luxuriate amid your home and possessions while you plan your next purchase, think on these men and the sacrifices they made.
What sacrifices are you prepared to make for your beliefs?Back to the syllabus