Iurodivye [юродивый]: Fools for Christ

“IURODSTVO (or holy foolishness for Christ’s sake) is a peculiar form of Eastern Orthodox asceticism. This ascetic exploit is marked by the subversive behavior of its practitioners who feign madness in order to provide public with spiritual guidance and yet not be praised for their saintliness. Phenomenology of iurodstvo and its endorsement in hagiography reached their full development in the fifth-century Byzantium and then in the fourteenth-century Russia. A Medieval Russian iurodivy to a great degree resembles his Byzantine ancestor and displays all the attributes of the holy foolish paradigm: he feigns madness, goes around naked or half-naked, is homeless, talks in riddles, is eccentric, gives away whatever is given to him, is socially disruptive. On the other hand, he is a clairvoyant and a prophet, he performs miracles and, in most cases, only upon his death he is recognized as a saint.”
fool pavel
Pavel Svedomsky (Павел Александрович Сведомский )(1849-1904) “A Fool-in-Christ” ( no date – circa late 19th century)

“The holy fool’s exploit is that of secret sanctity, which above all promotes the non-ontological understanding that all of God’s created world is a sacred place. By his feigned madness the holy fool opts to say that the lowliest of the lowliest can be not the poor wretch that he appears to be, but a holy man 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 irreconcilable for the profane mind opposites.
The Greek term descriptive of the ascetic exploit of foolishness in Christ is salos (pl. saloi), which means “mentally deranged.” While many languages simply added the Greek salos to their vocabularies (e.g. Georgian, Latin), Russian term is its own. The term iurodivy or urodivy, derives from Russian urod, which means ugly, crippled, an individual with congenital defects. Other words that initially designated the fool in Christ are bui, blazhennyi, and pokhab. These three words used to reflect such different facets of the holy fool’s phenomenology as aggression (bui), state of beatitude (blazhennyi), and explicit indecency (pokhab). Unlike bui and pokhab, blazennyi continues to be synonymous to iurodivyi. In modern Russian language iurodivyi has a meaning of an eccentric, a simpleton, someone who pretends to be a fool with a purpose to make his point, someone who displays unorthodox behavior and trespasses against social conventions.
In Russian Orthodoxy foolishness in Christ has long been a mode of popular religiosity. At the same time it is a theological category denoting one of the non-orthodox forms of Christian asceticism. The exploit of foolishness for Christ’s sake belongs to opera superagotoria or is an optional ascetic exploit. It is regarded as the most difficult and controversial of all ascetic practices. Russian Church canonized about thirty-six of its holy fools and many more have been venerated locally. Unlike other ascetics the fool in Christ does not renounce the profane world. He feigns madness and instead of going into hermetic or monastic seclusion becomes a part of secular life.”
Gabriel fool
Saint Gabriel (Urgebadze) (1929-1995) of the Monastery of Saint Nino (Georgia) was a deeply eccentric character and to the Soviet authorities he was considered to be insane. He was renowned during his life as a “Fool-for-Christ“; in Greek the term is “Salos”.
See http://www.pravmir.com/canonisation-of-saint-gabriel-confessor-and-fool-for-christ/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_%28Urgebadze%29 and http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/12/elder-gabriel-urgebadze-has-been.html

“The figure of a paradigmatic iurodivy belongs to the fourteenth-sixteenth centuries, the heyday of Russian foolishness in Christ. Then iurodivy amounts to one of Russia’s most popular spectacles and saints. He is to be encountered on the street, market place, and church steps where he is invariably surrounded by the crowd of onlookers. He goes around naked and barefoot even in the depth of winter. He wears chains and other iron objects. This extravagant attire and wild look allow the public to identify him as both an ascetic and a madman. His behavior is offensive and bizarre. By renouncing all communal norms and by continuously displaying offensive, controversial behaviors, the iurodivy makes himself a spectacle. The holy fool would disrupt church services and conspicuously break Lent. He would confront the highest authorities, including the Tsar, insult his audience, and continuously trespass against social regulations and norms of decency. At the same time he would utter prophecies, perform miracles and feats feasible uniquely for saints. While he makes his offensive and eccentric behaviors conspicuous, he keeps his saintly deeds secret from the public.
Extract from Svitlana Kobets (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) “Iurodstvo” in Paul D. Steeves, ed. “The Modern Encyclopedia of Religions in Russia and Eurasia”, (Gulf Breeze, Florida: Academic International Press) at
Agathon of Kafsokalivia on Mount Athos, Fool for Christ, during the decades of the 1920’s and 1930’s: see http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2011/01/agathon-fool-for-christ.html

Eastern Orthodox Christianity has a unique category of saints, the holy fools for Christ’s sake, who in the Byzantine tradition were called saloi and in Russia are known as iurodivye . These saints are representative of a special kind of Christian asceticism. While a “conventional” ascetic renounces the profane world in order to devote his life to God unconditionally through chastity, poverty, and humility, the fool for Christ’s sake rejects the mandatory practices of hermetic or monastic seclusion and instead chooses to live in the secular world. Moreover, the madness the holy fool feigns allows him not only to participate in profane life but also to be a conspicuously public figure.
Holy fools have been portrayed in numerous East Orthodox hagiographies, first Byzantine and subsequently Russian. Indeed, as the writings of foreign travelers to Muscovy show, the iurodivye were an integral part of the Medieval Russian scene. These visitors were invariably puzzled by the exotic figure of the saintly fool. Giles Fletcher, the English ambassador to Russia, had this to say about the subject in his book “Of the Russe Commonwealth”, 1591: ‘…they have certeyne Eremites, (whome they call Holy men) that are like … Gymnosophists for their life and behaviour: though farre unlike for their knowledge and learning. They use to go starke naked save a clout(h) about their middle, with their hair hanging long, and wildly about their shoulders, and many of them with an iron collar or chain about their neckes, or middles, even in the very extremity of winter. These they take as Prophets and men of great holiness giving them a liberty to speak what they list without any controlment, though it be of the very highest himself. So that if he reprove any openly, in what sort soever, they answere nothing, but that it is po gracum, that is, for their sinnes. And if any of them take some piece of salesware from anie man’s shop as he passeth by, to give where he list, he thinketh himself much beloved of God and much beholding to the holy man for taking it in that sort.’…..

In his account this Englishman, who was of course an outsider to Russian culture, lists some of the holy fool’s most prominent extrinsic characteristics. To begin with, he describes a figure whose complex of behaviors displays both religious and secular elements. While physically the holy fool belongs to the profane dimension and is to be encountered on the street, rather than in a church or monastery, he is revered as a saint and even feared as God’s scourge. Fletcher notes that he is regarded a prophet; that his nakedness, extravagant attire (cf. “iron collar or chain”) and unkempt appearance are perceived as the features of an ascetic (“eremite”); that his actions, which if carried out by someone else would be considered offensive or criminal (cf. the taking of a shopkeeper’s merchandise), are accepted as a blessing. The iurodivyi’s freedom to behave this way derives from his saintly status: he stands above, or rather outside, all communal laws and regulations. Along with the iurodivyi’s license to speak “without controlment,” Fletcher notes that he was free to confront even the tsar himself -“the olde Emperour” in question being none other than Ivan the Terrible! As is the case with saints in general, after his death the holy fool’s importance to the community is not eclipsed but is actually enhanced. Indeed, the holy fool loses his marginality only posthumously, when he becomes canonized-and consequently legitimized and appropriated-by the Church. To illustrate the holy fool’s posthumous significance Fletcher adduces the example of the most famous Russian holy fool, St. Basil the Blessed: his miracle-working relics were enshrined into a “sumptuous Church” and he was venerated by both the common people and the nobility, including the Tsar. The holy fool functions within the profane dimension of the Christian macrocosm, where he makes himself conspicuous through his speech, conduct, and attire. He is always surrounded by people, for whom he conducts a performance that is designed to provoke their meditation on issues that ultimately lead to an understanding of the divine…….

The holy fool consistently defies the rules set by society. Yet as Fletcher notes, his freedom from any and all social restrictions or regulations is in itself a communal convention. The holy fool could denounce the Tsar himself to his face and yet remain unpunished. In fact, Russian rulers feared the harsh criticism offered by the holy fools and displayed a reverent attitude towards them. Tsar Boris Godunov (1598-1605), for example, humbly listened to the dark prophesies, accusations, and curses of the iurodivye Ivan the Big-Cap (d. 1589) and Elena the Fool without ever punishing them (cf. Nikolka in Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov).

The immunity enjoyed by the holy fool added to his great authority among his countrymen and enabled him at times to play the role of spokesman on their behalf. Nevertheless, this authority was not unlimited. Many among his audience interpreted the holy fool’s behavior as criminal or sinful and treated him as a madman and nothing more. Indeed, a holy fool had to have an audience that was in part bewildered or angered by his words and actions. He challenged his audience by constantly contravening both social and religious norms. Not only did he go around naked, perform outrageous or even obscene actions, and insult people, but he was also often unequivocally blasphemous. Holy fools were known to disrupt church services, break lent, visit brothels, and perform other sinful and sacrilegious acts. As a result they were cruelly beaten, mocked, and chased through the streets, as the vitae make plain, only to rejoice in being able to emulate through their suffering the Passion of the humiliated and crucified Christ.

Though often ostentatiously and militantly anticlerical, the holy fool was known to be a true son of the Church and his status as an ascetic was widely recognized. Indeed, he exposed and mortified his body (going about barefoot and unclothed even in the depths of winter, wearing fetters, constantly fasting), had no material possessions (whatever alms he received he would pass on to the needy), and spent his nights in prayer….

The iurodivyi is an ambiguous and paradoxical figure that defies any straightforward approach or interpretation: he exists both within and outside the Church, he is both a saint and a sinner, he embraces and promotes Christ’s teachings yet leads his audience into temptation, thus transgressing the Christian principle enunciated in the Lord’s Prayer. Although rhetorically and behaviorally he adopts an assertive stance, he teaches by negation: he may be aggressive, but he preaches meekness and humility; he may be intentionally and overtly blasphemous, but is neither a heretic nor a religious reformer.

Since the holy fool unequivocally operates within the Orthodox Christian context, the eccentricities of his behavior, which when taken on their own might appear to be acts of anti-Christian rebellion, are in fact designed to promote a non-dogmatic Christian awareness. The iurodivyi undermines not Christianity itself but the limits imposed by church dogma on the valuation of the divine, grace, righteousness and other notions that define the Christian worldview.”
Extract from Svitlana Kobets (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) “Foolishness in Christ: East vs. West” in “Canadian-American Slavic Studies” Vol. 34, No. 3, Fall 2000, pp. 337-363 On-line at http://www.slavdom.com/index.php?id=21
alypia fool
The Blessed Nun Alypia (Avdeeva) of the Florov Ascension Monastery, Fool-for-Christ: see http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/49529.htm
“Holy folly and the more general concept of concealed sanctity advance a search for a literary and religious context for Leontius’s tale of a holy man’s public deviance. Our concern here is not to construct a history of folly-oriented praxis, but rather to consider the history of the composition of stories of folly and concealed sanctity in Late Antique and Early Byzantine culture. Long before Leontius of Neapolis composed the Life of Symeon the Fool, tales of Christian holy men and women who pretended to be crazy were common. Much briefer than the Life of Symeon, each of these accounts is no more than a cursory attempt to explain the unusual behavior described. Nevertheless these stories share a number of themes with the Life of Symeon.
The oldest surviving Christian account of a holy person who feigns madness is found in the thirty-fourth chapter of Palladius’s anthology of desert ascetics’ lives, the Lausiac History, written around 420. Here Palladius relates how the monk Piteroum once visited a nunnery at Tabennisi where he encountered a nun who feigned madness and demonic possession. None of the sisters ever saw her eat, and she was never angry, although she was often abused. Instructed in a vision to seek her out, Piteroum asked the sisters about her and was told that she was σαλή, “mad.” The monk then revealed the woman’s true nature, after which she disappeared, “unable to bear the praise and honor of her sisters.” Despite Palladius’s initial statement that she feigned madness, there is little to suggest that she was not, in fact, mad. Like Symeon, the nun shuns recognition, yet in important ways, she differs from Symeon, whose disguise is elaborately calculated and who actively and aggressively confronts oth-ers under the guise.
As an appendix to his edition of the Syriac version of John Rufus’s “Plerophoriae”, F. Nau published a rare fragment of the original Greek text, which was composed in the second decade of the sixth century. In one episode, Rufus tells how in Silvanus’s monastery near Eleutheropolis (lower Egypt) there was a monk who pretended to be mad (προσποιούμενος μωρίαν). He laughed when others came near him. When three visitors came to the monastery and asked to see all the monks, Silvanus told them not to try to see the σαλός, the “crazy one,” because he would scandalize them (σκανδαλίζω). They demanded to see him, and found him in his cell where he was putting pebbles in two baskets. He answered their questions by laughing at them. Later he explained to Silvanus that he picked up each pebble and placed it in the basket on the right or the one on the left depending on whether it prompted him to think a good thought or a bad one. At the end of the day, if there were more pebbles in the good basket than in the bad, he would eat; otherwise, he would not. Silvanus alone perceives the monk’s virtue. In the Life of Symeon, Symeon also makes fun of those who try to talk with him. And like those who see this monk, Symeon scandalizes those who watch him. Nevertheless, Rufus’s monk seems gentle rather than raucous, and as in Palladius’s narrative, Rufus appears more than anything else to be constructing an apology for the sorts of peculiar figures engaging in cenobitic life in Late Antiquity.
symeon the holy fool
Extract from Derek Krueger “Symeon the Holy Fool. Leontius’ Life and the Late Antique City” [University of Califotrnia Press, 1998]
Text available on-line at http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft6k4007sx&chunk.id=ch1&toc.id=ch1&brand=ucpress

“What is the significance of the deployment of madness in the early Christian ascetic experience of holiness? The first Byzantine holy fools – themselves critics of monastic orders
– represent the consistent and logical conclusion of the theology and practice of the early
Christian ascetics, and in particular that of the followers of Anthony and Pachomius. The
flight to the desert of the first Christian anchorites and coenobites was an attempt to transform the experience and theology of holiness in church and society by transgressing the rules and thoughts of the city in a practical outworking of negative theology. The transgressive behaviour of the holy fools renewed that transformation by accepting neither secular nor religious truth and life. Where desert fathers and mothers had transformed the production of norms by their obedience and ascetic transcendence of human life, holy fools undermined the religious production of norms through their masterless obedience, defeat of vainglory, and foreignness to self. The transformation of the production of ethical knowledge amongst early Christian ascetics – through control of passions, representations, and silence – was followed through by the holy fools’ apophatic babble and rejection of religious loci of knowledge production in liturgy, confession, religious community and ecclesial authority. As a continuation of ascetic methods of reforming the self’s relation to society by brutal truth-telling and truth-hearing, the holy fools used self-ostracising insult and laughter to follow divine truth into the periphery without legislating universal modesty and submission to group truths. As such, the holy fools exemplify the practices most idealised in early Christian asceticism – humility, suspicion of fixed orders and truths, apophatic critique of doctrine and legislation – with renewed innovation and commitment to city life. They applied the strategic moves and principles of negative theology to the Christian theology and practice of holiness through aspiring to desert freedom, the practice of ignorance, and the unserious self.”
Extract from Andrew Thomas “The Holy Fools. A Theological Enquiry”. Thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, May 2009.
On-line at http://etheses.nottingham.ac.uk/797/1/The_Holy_Fools_A_Theological_Enquiry.pdf
“Boyarynya Morozova” (Боярыня Морозова) (1887) by Vasily Surikov (Василий Суриков)( 1848-1916), Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia. Note the Fool-for-Christ in the bottom right hand corner. “Feodosia Prokopiyevna Morozova (Russian: Феодо́сия Проко́пьевна Моро́зова) (1632–1675) was one of the best-known partisans of the Old Believer movement. She was born on May 21, 1632 into a family of the okolnichi Prokopy Feodorovich Sokovnin. At the age of 17, she was married to the boyar Gleb Morozov, brother to the tsar’s tutor Boris Morozov. After her husband’s early death in 1662, she retained a prominent position at the Russian court.
During the Raskol, because Archpriest Avvakum was her confessor, Feodosia joined the Old Believers’ movement and secretly took monastic vows with the name Theodora. She played an important role in convincing her sister, Princess Evdokia Urusova, to join the Old Believers. After many misfortunes the sisters were incarcerated in an underground cellar of the St. Paphnutius Monastery at Borovsk, where Feodosia succumbed to starvation on December 1, 1675. Many Old Believer communities venerate her as a martyr.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feodosia_Morozova

“The phenomenon of holy folly is present in different cultures and different historical phases: as a historical figure (Islamic malamatiya); a ritual figure (a ritual clown in the American Indian culture); a mythological figure (a trickster); in Western Christianity (Francis of Assisi, d.1226, for example). However, the holy fool finds its major expressive richness in Eastern Orthodoxy, through the Byzantine salos and the Russian jurodivyj. The Byzantine phenomenon is present from the 4th to the 16th century, and the Russian from the 11th century on. Salos stands for “mad”, while jurodivyj derives from the ancient Russian form урод (urod), whose original meaning is “one who is born with an error”, whether physical or psychological.
At the end of the 3rd century, and even more in the 4th, after Christianity was declared the official religion of the Empire, there was a mass exodus to the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia. In this historical moment anachoresis (02), i.e. retirement to the desert, reaches its climax. Crowds of people in search of God hide themselves in the desert in order to practice askesis, the spiritual exercise, which consists essentially of isolation, prayer and fasting.
In the desert the monk has the role of “warrior saint”. The ascetic, in fact, passes all his days and nights in battle against demons, against what Evagrius Ponticus called logismoi (03), literally “evil thoughts”. The monk’s praktike, that is, the spiritual method of purification of the passionate part of the soul, consists of the analysis of and the fight against these demons. In the Christian tradition “demons” and “diabolis” stand for what literally divides one from the other. Therefore, these thoughts against which the monk struggles become obstacles to the unity of man, to his unity with others, to his union with God: a hindrance to “the total man”.
The demon most difficult to conquer (from Gk., daimon, divine power) for a monk is the sin of pride, which brings into the hermitic life a strong feeling of competition and heroism. In this way, the sin of vainglory, in association with a constant striving for perfection, causes the invention of the most extreme forms of ascesis as the stylites or Pillar-Saints, boskoi or herbivores (ascetics living a savage kind of life, refusing to use fire and eating just spontaneous vegetation), dendrites (living on trees or in concavities in trees), or those who express their excess in self-mortification by burdening their body with chains, as well as the fools for Christ’s sake.
One of the major differences between Christian and other forms of holy foolery is that a Christian holy fool is not a fool regarding God in general, but Christ in particular. This is the exact reason why he is called the fool for Christ’s sake or the fool in Christ. The motif, the aim, the example of his folly is the Crucified; his askesis, his way of approaching the God-man, is imitatio Christi.
The gospel of the holy fools, the principle on which their philosophy is based, or as we shall soon see, their theatre, is St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 4,10-13; 1 Cor 1,18-21) which expresses, essentially, the concept of stultitia crucis and the power of the weak. The holy fool takes Paul’s words literally: he feigns foolishness in order to be reviled and despised; he walks around the city naked, hungry and thirsty: he provokes in order to be buffeted, beaten and mistreated; he does everything to be annulled, reduced to nothing, to the “refuse of this world”, “the offscouring of all”. The world of the holy folly is an upside-down world where everything signifies its contrary, foolishness is wisdom, wisdom foolishness; foolishness is the way to be saved, wisdom is void. Paul invites to a total transformation of the mind, to a conversion, which is metanoia, a radical new way of conceiving reality.
From Tihana Maravić (Croatia, Italy)
“Holy Fool as a Performer” (2010) http://kontejner.org/holy-fool-as-a-performer-english
peter fool
Peter of Pochaev (d. mid-1980s), Fool-for-Christ of Pochaev Monastery: see http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/48564.htm

“The Church occasionally canonizes people known as Holy Fools, people whose lives are so at odds with civil and ecclesiastical society that others, even Christians, find them troubling, but whose lives undeniably manifest the Gospel attributes of humility, obedience, and compassion.
Yet it is the special vocation of Holy Fools to live out in a rough, literal, breathtaking way the “hard sayings” of Jesus. Like the Son of Man, they have no place to lay their heads, and like him, they live without money in their pockets. Also like Jesus, they generally come on the scene when civil society, remade in the image of religion but bereft of its spirit and understanding, requires bracing lessons delivered in counter cultural ways.
Clearly Holy Fools challenge an understanding of Christianity that gives people with certain intellectual and vocational gifts a head start in economic, social, and spiritual arenas. While never harming anyone, Holy Fools often raise their voices against those who lie and cheat and do violence to others, but at the same time they are always ready to embrace these same greedy and ruthless people. No one, absolutely no one, is unimportant. In fact the only thing always important for them, apart from God and angels, are the people around them, whoever they are, no matter how limited they are. Their dramatic gestures, however shocking, always have to do with revealing the person of Christ and his mercy.
For most people, clothing serves as a message of how high they have risen and how secure—or insecure—they are. Holy Fools wear the wrong clothes, or rags, or even nothing at all. This is a witness that they have nothing to lose. There is nothing to cling to and nothing for anyone to steal. Inevitably, the voluntary destitution and absolute vulnerability of the Holy Fool challenges us with our locks and keys and schemes to outwit destitution, suffering, and death.
The most famous of Russia’s Holy Fools is Saint Basil the Blessed, after whom the colorful cathedral on Red Square takes its name. In an icon housed in that church, Basil is shown clothed only in his beard and a loin cloth. In the background is the Savior Tower and the churches packed within Moscow’s Kremlin walls. Basil’s hands are raised in prayer toward a small image of Jesus revealed in an opening in the sky. The fool has a meek quality, but a single minded, intelligent face.
basil fool for christ
It is hard to find the actual man beneath the thicket of tales and legends that grew up around his memory, but according to tradition Basil was clairvoyant from an early age. Thus, while a cobbler’s apprentice, he first laughed and then wept when a certain merchant ordered a pair of boots, for Basil saw that the man would be wearing a coffin before his new boots were ready. We can imagine that the merchant was not amused at the boy’s behavior. Soon after, Basil became a vagrant. Dressing as if for the Garden of Eden, Basil’s survival of many bitter Russian winters must be reckoned among the miracles associated with his life.
It isn’t surprising that a naked man wandering the streets of the capital city became famous—especially for the wealthy, he was not a comfort either to eye or ear. In the eyes of some, he was a trouble maker. There are tales of him destroying merchandise of dishonest tradesmen at the market on Red Square. He Even hurled stones at the houses of the wealthy; yet as if reverencing icons, he sometimes kissed the stones on the outside of houses in which evil had been committed, as if to say that no matter what happens within these walls, there is still hope of conversion.
basil of moscow
Basil was one of the few who dared warn Ivan the Terrible that his violent deeds would doom him to hell. Ivan, whose irritated glance was a death sentence to others, is said to have lived in dread of Basil and would allow no harm to be done to him.
According to one story, in the midst of Lent, when Orthodox Russians keep a rigorous vegetarian fast, Basil presented the czar with a slab of raw beef, asking him “Why abstain from meat when you murder men? Occasionally Ivan even sent gifts to the naked prophet of the streets, but Basil kept none of these for himself. Most that he received he gave to beggars, though in one surprising case a gift of gold from the czar was passed on to a merchant. Others imagined the man was well off, but Basil discerned the man had been ruined and was actually starving, but was too proud to beg.
Basil was so revered by Muscovites that, when he died, his thin body was buried, not in a pauper’s grave on the city’s edge, but next to the newly erected Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God. The people began to call the church Saint Basil’s, for to go there meant to pray at Basil’s grave. Not many years passed before Basil was formally canonized by the Russian Church. A chapel built over his grave became an integral part of the great building, adding a ninth dome to the eight already there.
cathedral moscow
We again—or still—live in times like Basil’s, where it is easy to confuse religious and civil society, to cross governmental and ecclesial purposes, or equate spiritual with secular values and aims. These often run parallel but are too often conflated.
While it seems that very few of us are called to live out a corrective message in-the-flesh the way that Holy Fools did, all are called to recognize that message. A popular myth says that counterfeit currency agents working for governments study only authentic bills and thereby recognize fakes because they simply do not bear the right image. Not a bad lesson for us as by contemplating the lives of Holy Fools, we become better familiar with authentic prophetic voices and examples within the Church and society.
(Adapted from a chapter in Praying with Icons by Jim Forest)”

See also
Holy Fools Byzantium
Sergey A. Ivanov “Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond” (trans. Simon Franklin). (Oxford Studies in Byzantium.) [ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006]
For a review see “The Journal of Ecclesiastical History” Volume 59, Issue 01, January 2008, pp 103-103 on-line at http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=BAF80E39C9BD63941AE59B75B3AE2D60.journals?fromPage=online&aid=1683708
street philosopher
Kociejowski, Marius “The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool: A Syrian Journey” [Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 2004]
holy foolishness
Priscilla Hunt and Svitlana Kobets (eds) “Holy Foolishness in Russia. New Perspectives” [Slavica Publishers, 2011]
Available on-line at http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780893578831


“Holy Fools in Russian Literature” at http://www.incommunion.org/2007/02/02/holy-fools-in-russian-literature/

“Diveyevo’s Holy “Fools”” at http://www.roca.org/OA/105/105f.htm

“The Way of the Holy Fools” at http://jimandnancyforest.com/2008/09/the-way-of-the-holy-fools/

“Fools for Christ”at http://www.shepherdsguild.org/id60.html

“Foolishness for Christ” at http://www.pravmir.com/article_205.html
Haralambis Papadogiannis (1896-1974), Greek Fool-for-Christ: see http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/10/haralambis-fool-for-christ-and-my.html

A list of some of the Fools-for-Christ:

• Anastasia Andretevna, Fool-for-Christ (March 1)
• Blessed Andrew the Fool-for-Christ of Constantinople (October 2) (d. 936)
• Blessed Andrew of Totma, the Fool-for-Christ (October 10)
• Blessed Anthony Alexseevich, Fool-for-Christ of Zadonsk (September 29 – repose of) (1851)
• Anthony Ivanovich, Fool-for-Christ of Valaam (June 7 – repose of) (1832)
• Saint Arsenius of Novgorod, Fool-for-Christ (May 8)
• Asenatha of Goritsky, Fool-for-Christ (April 19 – repose of) (1892)
• Blessed Athanasius Adrewyevich of Orel, Fool-for-Christ (April 12 – repose of) (1967)
basil of moscow 2
• Blessed Basil of Moscow, Fool-for-Christ (August 2)
• Blessed Cyprian of Suzdal (October 2)
• Blessed George of Shenkursk, Fool-for-Christ (April 23)
• Saint Isidore the Fool of Tabenna in Egypt (May 10)
isidore rosto
• Venerable Isidore the Fool-for-Christ and Wonder-worker of Rostov (May 14)
john the fool
• Blessed John “the Hairy” the Fool-for-Christ at Rostov (September 3 and November 12)
• Venerable John the Ascetic and Fool-for-Christ
• Blessed John of Ustiug the Fool-for-Christ (March 14 and May 29 – repose of) (1893)
• Blessed John of Moscow, Miracle-worker and Fool-for-Christ (July 3)
• Jonah, Fool-for-Christ of Peshnosha Monastery (June 15 – repose of) (1838)
laurence fool
• Blessed Laurence the Fool-for-Christ at Kaluga (August 10)
• Saint Maximus Kausokalyves (Mt. Athos), (January 13)
• Blessed Maximus of Totma (Vologda), Fool-for-Christ (January 16)
Maximus of Moscow
• Venerable Maximus of Moscow the Fool-for-Christ (August 13 – opening of his relics)
• Venerable Michael the Fool-for-Christ of the Klops Monastery (January 11) (June 23 – translation of his relics)
• New-Martyr Michael (Misha), Fool-for-Christ (April 1) (1931)
• Blessed Michael and Thomas, Fools-for-Christ of Solvychegodsk (Vologda) (July 3)
nicholas of salos
• Blessed Nicholas of Salos of Pskov the Fool-for-Christ (February 28)
• Blessed Nicholas Kochanov, Fool-for-Christ at Novgorod (July 27)
• Blessed Paisius, Fool-for-Christ of the Kiev Caves (April 17 – repose of) (1893)
• Blessed Parasceva “Pasha of Sarov,” Fool-for Christ of Diveyevo Convent (September 22) (1915)
• Saint Paul, Fool-for-Christ (November 6)
• Pelagia Ivanovna Serebrennikova
• Blessed Procopius of Vyatka, Fool-for-Christ (December 21)
• Saint Procopius the Fool-for-Christ and Wonder-worker of Ustiug (July 8)
• Righteous Procopius of Usya (Vologda), Fool-for-Christ (July 8)
symeon the fool 2
• Venerable Symeon of Emesa the Fool-for-Christ (July 21)
• Blessed Simon of Yurievits, Fool-for-Christ (May 10)
• Blessed Theodore of Novgorod, Fool-for-Christ (January 19)
• Saint Theodore, Fool-for-Christ (February 25)
• New-Martyr Theoktista Michailovna of Voronezh (February 22) (1936)
theophilus fool
• Blessed Schema-hieromonk Theophilus, Fool-for-Christ of the Kiev Caves (October 28 – repose of) (1852)
• Saint Thomas the Fool of Syria (April 24)
• Saint Xenia of St. Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ (January 24)


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