Monday, August 29, 2011

Holy Fools

St Basil's Cathedral

So, I haven't blogged for a while nor created any visual narratives, but wait we have "Of Jesters, Batman, Fools and St. Basil", so what could that mean? Well to get a drift, here is some background entries on the topic -- but no Rasputins.

Of Jesters, Batman, Fools & St. Basil
The question is, did you ever feel like a holy fool?
"The "holy fool" type conceals a radical Christianity under the mask of foolishness and holds the truth of the gospel, in the disguise of folly, before the eyes of highly placed personalities: the worldy and the princes of the church who do not brook unmasked truth. This type, which frequently appeared in the Byzantine Church, has been represented especially in Western Christianity as the 'Holy Fool.'" (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Extracts from National Catholic Reporter (Http:// 
Lurodstov is the Russian word for the idea of "holy foolishness" for Christ's sake. Its practitioners feign madness in order to provide the public with spiritual guidance and usually to say things, what we would say in our generation as politically incorrect, to rulers and kings. They dared to speak the truth to the powerful, being virtually the only group that could openly criticise the Kremlin rulers and channel ordinary people's frustration. St. Basil fearlessly lambasted the tyrannical policies of Ivan the Terrible – one of Russia's most violent tsars. And the moody, pious tsar, whose slaughters claimed tens of thousands of lives, feared the naked ascetic whom he considered "the seer of people's hearts and minds," according to a church chronicle. Ivan commissioned a massive cathedral that was erected over Basil's burial site whose grave wrought many a miracle over the years.

According to Russian Orthodox scholar Svetlana Kobets: "By his feigned madness the holy fool opts to say that the lowliest of the low can be not the poor wretch he appears to be, but a holy one and God's prophet. He shares his power and authority with all the weak, mocked and despised thus symbolically destroying clear-cut distinctions between the profane and the sacred."

In the Russian church it is regarded as the most difficult and controversial of all spiritual practices, possibly because of its association now with the mystic Rasputin. Thirty-six holy fools have been canonized by the Orthodox church. Foolishness-for-Christ was not a common phenomenon. They fasted and never slept indoors, uttered prophecies, performed healings and even walked on water, according to their hagiographies.

In Russian history the greatest of the 'holy fools' was Basil the Blessed, a man so revered that the famous Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square next to the Kremlin was named in his honour. Basil walked through Moscow wearing nothing more than a long beard. He threw rocks at wealthy people's houses and stole form dishonest traders in the Red Square. He was a peasant's son nicknamed "the Naked Walker" and revered by Muscovites for healings and prophecies.

The holy fools were echoing St Paul's famous words (1 Corinthians 1: 27 - 29) about God's choosing the foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory in his presence."

And 1 Corinthians 4: 9 - 10:
" … we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake."

Foolishness-for-Christ's sake is considered to be the most difficult of Christian spiritual exploits. It is frequently misunderstood and, if undertaken outside the will of God, is a sign of spiritual deception -- prelest.

Other fools for Christ were St Seraphim of Sarov, St Andrew of Constantinople, St Xenia of Petersburg, Blessed Feofil of the kiev Caves, and Pelegia Ivanovna. The painter, M. P. Petrov came under this sister's influence and on visiting her she was able to tell him all about his past life, including details which on one but he knew himself. Astounded by this Petrov fell to his knees and kissed her hand. From then on he became her earnest visitor and admirer. "She pulled me from the depths of hell," he had said.

However, it is to be noted that some of these fools clearly went out of the will of God and strayed, shipwrecking their salvation as their mysticism was replaced with psychotic behaviour. Running around naked, shouting foul language -- more likely to be demon possession than mysticism.

And so here is our visual narrative.

Playing the Fool's Card