Augustine Sokolovski

On May 7, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Thomas the Fool. The saint was a monk, abbot of the monastery, a seer, and a miracle worker, through whose prayers people were healed not only and not so much from ordinary diseases, but from the epidemics that prevailed then.

The saint was highly revered after his death in the middle of the 6th century. However, his name was soon forgotten and in the following centuries, as, unfortunately, happens with most saints, it turned into a kind of “serial number”. To this day, it remains only a "line" in the liturgical calendar.

Thomas was a native of Caesarea in Cappadocia. However, his whole life as an ascetic related to Syria. In Emesus, modern Homs, Thomas was the procurator of the monastery. In those days, such obedience meant the need to constantly be in search of alms in the cities for the needs of the brethren of the monastery.

The procurators of the monasteries in those days corresponded, or were better opposed, to the procurators of the parish churches. Their ministry involved a much greater responsibility, since the churches, according to the law, were really entrusted with the care of the poor, the sick, orphans and widows. The other side of this responsibility was often the considerable wealth that remained in their hands.

So, Thomas came to Antioch for alms for the monks of his monastery and turned to the procurator of one of the capital's churches, with the name Theophilus, that is, literally, "lover of God." Irritated by the requests of the ascetic, the God-lover struck the saint on the cheek. Thomas did not answer, was silent, but said some words only about the proximity of death. Whose death it was became known soon.

The holy fool left and soon died on the way. It happened in the elite suburb of Antioch, the resort quarter of Daphne. It is possible that this death occurred because of an injury from a slap in the face. After all, the blow of a strong and healthy person for a monk of that time - and they were all extremely thin and weak - could really be the last. Therefore, the ancient canons carefully warned the laity of that time against from the blows and injuries of the clerics.

Вскоре за Фомой Юродивым, в Столице всего Востока, каковой в древние времена была Антиохия, умер боголюбивый эконом-богач (ср. Лк.16,22). Он умер от эпидемии. С 541 года в Римской Империи свирепствовала Юстинианова Чума. 

Фому же похоронили в месте для погребения странных. Вслед за внезапно «умершим бродягой» - вне всякого сомнения, именно так со стороны выглядела для «светского общества» смерть монаха-попрошайки, в ту же самую братскую могилу странников поочередно пытались ‘подхоронить’ двух женщин. Очевидно, что могильщики не знали, что ‘нелепый мертвец’ был монах. 

Однако, из этого ничего не вышло. Ибо «земля», как казалось, зримым образом, выбрасывала «подхороненные» к подвижнику тела. Эти последовавшие знамения привлекли внимание местной церкви. Об обстоятельствах узнал Патриарх Домн III (545–569). 

Soon after Thomas the Fool, in the Capital of the whole East, which in ancient times was Antioch, a God-loving procurator died (cf. Lk. 16:22). He died from an epidemic. From 541, the Justinian Plague raged in the Roman Empire.

Thomas was buried in a place for the burial of stranger. So he became the suddenly "dead vagabond" - no doubt, this is what it looked like from the outside for the "secular society" the death of a beggar monk - they alternately tried to 'bury' two women in the same mass grave of wanderers. Obviously, the gravediggers did not know that the 'priceless dead man' was a monk.

However, nothing came of it. For the "earth", as it seemed, in a visible way, threw out the bodies "buried" to the ascetic. These signs that followed attracted the attention of the local Church. Patriarch Domnus III of Antioch (545-569) learned about the circumstances.

It is also important to remember that in 518 the Antiochian Church was split in two, there were two parallel hierarchies (!), each of which had “its own” Patriarch. The reason for this division, which exists to this day, was the rejection of the decisions of the IV Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451by a significant part of the monks and faithful and especially of the monks. The opponents of Patriarch Domnus were then called "Monophysites". They were predominantly not Greeks, but Syrians, and their positions were extremely strong. Almost simultaneously, the first plague in history broke out in the Empire.

Moved by fear, Patriarch Domnus transferred the body of Saint Thomas to Antioch, to the tomb of the martyrs. There, in the host of saints, rested the great Bishop of Antioch, Saint Ignatius (+ c. 70). It soon became clear that Thomas received from God the gift to heal people and even stop the epidemic. A chapel was built at the place of his repose.

In the liturgical calendar, Thomas is referred to as "the salos". Translated into English from Greek, this word literally means "madman", "idiot" (cf. the title of Dostoevsky's novel). In Orthodox worship, in the liturgy of John Chrysostom, holy fools are commemorated as a separate order of holiness.

How and why could a pious Christian people, whose worldview and, most importantly, a sense of truth in those ancient times, be especially close to those of the Bible, honor people who seemed or actually were insane?

The fact is that a man deprived of reason, and at the same time leading a pious Christian lifestyle, abiding in prayer, poverty, and loneliness, was perceived in the context of New Testament and patristic anthropology.

According to the classical philosophy of antiquity, namely this philosophy always was and will be the matrix of all thinking, a person consisted of a spirit, soul, and body. At the same time, the "spirit" was identical or almost identical with the mind. The Apostle Paul also agreed with such a division of human nature, as he repeatedly testifies in his Scriptures. “And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you in all its fullness and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved in its entirety without blemish at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” says the Epistle to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

So, the foolish, insane, "salos", as this word sounded in Greek, for some special reason was "deprived" of his mind. Such deprivation could be innate or voluntary. The main thing was the presence of faith and life, inspired by the name of the Lord Jesus. Hence, the more extensive name of the “holy fools”: foolishness for the sake of Christ.

So, when meeting with the holy fool, people of that time knew that, in fact, he was not at all devoid of mind. He is mad in a visible way. However, this madness comes from the fact that his mind has remained in Heaven and is before God. Therefore, the prayer of the holy fool, devoid of the barriers, obstacles, and distraction absent-mindedness inherent in the prayer of an ordinary person, is directly audible to God. The prayer of an "idiot" immediately "ascends before God, the Creator and Redeemer."

The holy fools were revered, their wrath was feared, they tried to help them in every possible way. ‘Be careful not to despise one of these little ones: I say to you, as if their angels in heaven always see the face of the Father’ (Mt. 18:10). Holy fools - insane, devoid of reason, idiots, children of the mind, losers, born to lose - their word is ridiculous for the world, but heard by Christ. Fools must be remembered to quietly ask for their intercession in loud, crazy times.