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A Fool for Christ?

A Fool for Christ. This certainly is an interesting term, perhaps even an oxymoron. Yet, the meaning of the term was mentioned by St Paul:  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ (1 Cor 4:10)!
 
St Paul is using sarcasm and irony to compare the comfort of the Corinthians to the persecuted Apostles. Only a fool would suffer and voluntarily be poor for no reason. Yet, when we pick up our own cross and follow Him, we are a fool for His sake. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness (1 Cor 1:18,23).
 
The term fool implies feeblemindedness, suggesting some sort of mental deficiency. However, a Fool-for-Christ masks his or her piety with unusual and imprudent behavior. On October 2, the Orthodox Church celebrates Blessed Andrew the Fool-for-Christ from Constantinople. The title blessed is synonymous with holy, referring to innocence and humility. 
 
Andrew was a Slav that lived in Constantinople during the 10th Century. From a young age he had an affinity to the Gospel and wanted to serve Christ. Once in a dream, Andrew envisioned two opposing armies, black and white. The white, radiant army was comprised of Heavenly Hosts and the black were demons. 
 
One of the angels beholding a crown told Andrew that this was a celestial treasure awarded to martyrs of Christ. The angel told Andrew to be a Fool for Christ’s sake and he would indeed inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. From that moment on, Andrew lived in poverty. He walked through the streets wearing rags, went without food and experienced extreme temperatures. 
 
Andrew was also mocked and insulted, at times succumbing to beatings. He would even beg for food, only to give it away to the poor. For his humility and hardships, the Lord granted Andrew the gift of prophecy and wisdom. He also was blessed by the presence of the Theotokos in the Blachernae Church in Constantinople. 
 
One night while facing an impending invasion against the City, the faithful gathered for an all-night vigil. At the fourth hour (10 AM), Andrew who was present, looked up towards Heaven and beheld the Theotokos coming through the air, surrounded by a gleaming light. She was surrounded by an assembly of Saints, John the Baptist and the Apostle John. 
 
On bended knees and with tears in Her eyes, the Virgin Mary prayed for the Christians. After a considerate time past, She went to the Bishop’s Throne and continued Her prayer. Once the Theotokos completed Her prayer, She spread Her veil over everyone present; protecting them from visible and invisible enemies. The invaders soon retreated and the City was spared by Her intercession. 
 
This amazing event is celebrated as the Feast of Holy Protection, celebrated October 28 in the Greek tradition; October 1 in the Slavic tradition. Andrew later died peacefully in the year 936. Since Holy Protection was celebrated yesterday, it is fitting to remember St Andrew today.
 
A fool imitates Christ Himself, since He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2:6-7). There are many other Fools-for-Christ: Xenia of St. Petersburg, Nicholas of Novgorod, John and Symeon and Venerable Thomas of Syria, just to name a few. 
 
Did not Christ say: Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3)? A little child signifies humility, simplicity and lowliness. This is what is needed to pass through the narrow gate to salvation. For whoever humbles himself will be exalted (ibid,23:12).
 
Nothing could be foolish as long as it is done selflessly and with love. Was it not foolish for Christ to submit to crucifixion? Yet, He did it out of love for us. Likewise, as long as a fool sacrifices for his neighbor, he is doing it for Christ. 
 
In recent times, it certainly would seem foolish for someone to risk their lives and that of their families by being an essential worker. All that matters, however, is what God sees. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls (Rom 14:4).  Yes, they sacrificed their well-being and that of their families so that others and their families may live. I was sick and you visited me (Mt 25:36).
 
COVID-19 is still a challenge for us all, especially spiritually. We have all witnessed the devastation of this virus and the unknown awaits us. We don’t know when this virus will be totally eradicated or when life will fully resume back to normal. All we could do is be vigilant, putting our hope in God. Many have died so that many more would live. Here, of course, I am referring to the Essential Workers who served humanity despite the high risk. May the Lord remember them in His Kingdom! For those who risked their well-being and are still living, would it be foolish of them to do it again, if need be? 
 
Thou didst choose foolishness for the sake of Christ. And didst make the crafty one foolish. Thou didst persevere with thy struggle in the midst of turmoil, and Christ has brought thee to paradise. Intercede with Him, O Andrew for those who honor thee (Festal Apolytikion).
 

-John Athanasatos 

A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.

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