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Foolishness: seduction and insanitySor for peace, dust, all trampled down

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Foolishness: seduction and madness

Sora for the world

Judaism in the Bible

The text, which can be called the theology of foolishness, is contained in the first letter to the Corinthians of the Apostle Paul.

In the first chapter: “After all, since the world, through its wisdom, did not know God in the wisdom of God,” it pleased God by the madness of preaching to save believers. For both the Jews demand signs, and the Greeks seek wisdom, we preach Christ crucified, for the Jews are tempted, and for the pagans are madness, for the very called, both the Jews and the Greeks, Christ is God's power and God's wisdom, because God's insane wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. "

And in the fourth: “I think that for us, the last messengers, God judged to be condemned to death, because we became a shame for the world, for angels and men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak and you are strong; you are honored, but we are dishonorable. Even to this day we endure hunger and thirst, and nudity and beating, and we wander and work, working with our own hands. Slander us, we bless; they persecute us, we endure; blaspheme us, we pray; we are like a litter for the world, (as) dust, by all (trampled on) to this day. I am not writing this shame to you, but I warn you, as my beloved children. For though you have thousands of teachers in Christ, there are not many fathers; I have begotten you in Christ Jesus by the gospel. Therefore, I implore you: imitate me as I am to Christ. "


Many prophets did things that can be called foolishness: Ezekiel eats flat cakes from cow droppings (Ezek. 4: 12–15), Hosea marries a harlot (Hos. 1: 2), Isaiah walks naked (Isa. 20: 2), Jeremiah wears a yoke around his neck (Jer. 27.2), and Zedekiah has iron horns on his head (1 Kings. 22:11). As a result, prophets are often mistaken for insane (2 Kings 9:11; Hos. 9: 7; Jer. 29:26).

Why are they doing that? Such actions for the prophets are a sermon, not only in words, but in actions, gestures; now we would call it a performance. With such extravagant actions, the prophets provoke their hearers who have strayed from God's ways to finally understand the will of God. Their goal is to knock a person out of the usual.

To preach by actions, to provoke with deeds for a change in the mindset of the listeners (that is, for methanoia and repentance) – so will many fools.


Wasn’t the same the provocation of the Divine Incarnation itself? The humiliation of God, His humility; The Creator of the world, Who became the litter for the world, ashes, garbage. Christ, feasting with harlots and tax collectors; Christ speaking strange provocative parables, Christ parading the commandments and arranging a provocation in the Temple; Christ, beating and dying a shameful death – this is the first hero of foolishness.

It’s not just that the world decided to kill its Creator.


Christianity is seduction and madness, no doubt. Temptation, blasphemy for religion; madness, stupidity for reason, philosophy. So for the world has always been. When true Christianity becomes so for the Church itself, the holy fools come.

Foolishness in the strict sense is a phenomenon clearly historically and culturally limited. The fools come to the “prosperous Christian world”, the world of victorious external piety – where all Christians are like: fast, confess, communion. The fool becomes a temptation and insanity for "good Christians."

The holy fool provokes the detection of sin, the exit of Christians from the hypocrisy of external piety. Outward piety triumphed, "all are Christians." But here comes the holy fool, and the “Christians” find themselves: they squirrel a beggar naked monster with stones, sneering mocking songs, in the limit – they kill him. And somehow it immediately becomes clear that there is something wrong with the victorious Christianity.

In fact, the holy fool plays the typical "convenient sacrifice," such that it is difficult not to persecute her. A kind of test of humility and mercy is conducted – and often an experiment shows that the gospel in prosperous Christian societies does not smell. The simplest test for the authenticity of Christianity: to substitute the other cheek. Here is a holy fool (though not necessarily a holy fool) arranges a riot in the church. If the parishioners respond with aggression, it means that they are simply not Christians, because Christians are behaving in the opposite way. We add that such a pagan reaction to the “insult” of its shrine also makes the shrine itself – pagan.

A wonderful example is an episode from the life of St. Basil. Vasily asks his pupil to smash the wonderworking (so!) Icon with the stone. But why? The miraculous icon is the very embodiment of Orthodox piety. And now – it must be destroyed. According to the legend, Vasily saw that the “first layer” of the icon was Satan himself. The moral is simple: in the middle of the victorious piety, calm and confident, the devil sits. The holy fool comes to kill him.

The holy fool comes to remind of the Kingdom not of this world, therefore there is nothing in it of the world itself – it is a beggar, a crazy, naked freak who challenges the authorities. He is the herald of the coming Christ, who is going to destroy this world. The heyday of Byzantine foolishness accounted for the heyday of Byzantium as an Orthodox empire; the heyday of ancient Russian foolishness – the heyday of Orthodox Muscovy. Often, some features of the foolish behavior are found in monasteries, i.e., in “super-goodbearing conditions”. In foolishness fatigue from excessive piety, from church calmness, and thirst for fiery Christianity are felt.


Before proceeding to the lives of the holy fools, we describe the mechanism of the foolish glam. In general: the holy fool pretends to be a “poop” when this world pretends to be Christian. The holy fool deliberately becomes a scapegoat so that the world sacrificed him, thus confirming that he remained pagan, that the Gospel did not reborn this community.

Scapegoat can be different. The fools are very often foreigners, and no one likes foreigners. They are homeless and beggars: nobody loves them either. These are the passive features of foolishness.

There are active. The fool mocks society's morality in order to show that in Christianity the society has no morality: it publicly defecates, changes into the clothing of the opposite sex, more often it goes without any clothes at all; walks in a brothel, communicates with prostitutes. There are provocations in the religious sphere: violation of fasting, a riot in the temple. The goal of the city is to be a “disgrace for men and angels,” litter, dust. To call upon the world to hate upon itself so that it will be revealed.

All this is a challenge: "strike me." And Christians strike the yurod. But the fools are winning: after all, they managed to expose the pagan essence of "Christian societies". They laughed at the world, well mocked him. For the Greeks – madness, for the Jews – a temptation, but for Christians – the real – the power and wisdom.

Interestingly, according to the apostle Paul, Christianity opposes wisdom equally, as does religion: the Hellenes seek wisdom, and the Jews – signs: Christianity will not give either one or the other: it is a temptation (for religion), insanity (for wisdom). Religion and philosophy equally deny Christianity, and it – them. But nevertheless, the aspirations of both religion and philosophy are realized in Christianity: strength and wisdom.

The point, of course, is not only in the external influence of foolishness – he also has a subjective side. This is freedom, impassivity, humility of the fools: they are no longer in this world. They are free from fetters: national, social, gender, religious. For them, there is no difference between a city and a desert, a woman and a man. They are the Christ.


A sample of the foolish hagiography is the Life of Simeon. Leonty of Naples. This life is perhaps the most radical: sexual provocation, public defecation, "blasphemy" in the Liturgy, etc. The first and exemplary life of the legal person.

The second classic text is the Life of Andrei of Constantinople. Andrei is a Scythian (a foreigner) and a slave (that is, a very modern figure: an employee who has been taken from a distant country to a megalopolis, a guest worker). This is the embodiment of "litter." Andrei sneered at the capital of the Christian empire: he walked around the streets of Constantinople half-naked, barely covered with rags, patiently carried off ridicule, voluntarily subjected to beating, slept in the sun or in a putrefaction, communicated with harlots, etc. In this life, the eschatologism of the fool was particularly well seen, I communicated with harlots, etc. part of the text was made up of Andrew’s own story about the End of the World – the world where the inhabitants of big cities do not like the poor immigrants.

Close in spirit to the Life of Andrey The Life of Vasily the New. Basil is mistaken for a spy — the enemy of the Byzantines (that is, Basil is more suitable for bullying than even Andrei is not just a stranger, but a spy is a malicious stranger). This life contains the famous Vision of the ordeals of the Venerable. Theodora: that is, here, as in the case of Andrew, the life of the holy fool develops into a story about the End of the World.

Prokopy of Ustyug – the first Russian fool. A foreigner, he comes to Ustyug and begins to sneer at the Orthodox city. Ustyuzhane respond angrily. For these mockeries and for other sins, and most importantly, for the reluctance to repent, Prokopy prophesies the death of the city "with fire and water." The beginning of Life is beautiful: “With a bright vision and sweet laughter on his face from many things, like the sun to the highness” – this is how the Life of Procopius sees it, although the world saw it as a beggar homeless.

“The memory of Saint Sydor, the holy fool … nicknamed Tverdislov …” is a very small essay, apparently devoid of any historical features. However, “Memory of Tverdislov” is remarkable for its nature as a “common place” of foolishness – it paints a sample of the holy fool, in which there is little left except for the “sample” (although there is no such important feature of the holy fool as social protest here). This text opens absolutely wonderfully: “Tverdislov rightly called this name, for he strengthened his mind with firmness along with the word, as promised to God. And, playfully, let Isidore live, his life, and he will reach the kingdom of heaven. ”

John Vlasatiy is interesting in that he was almost certainly a real foreigner (in other cases, perhaps this is an hagiographic stamp). The stranger, the homeless, "hairy" – this was enough to strengthen him the title of holy fool.

Procopius, Tverdislov, and John — homeless tramps who came from nowhere. You can not say this about Abraham of Smolensk and Michael Klopsky. Abraham is an intellectual, icon painter, preacher, a very "atypical" saint. Smolensk clergy began persecution of him, the monk began to play the foolishness. Michael – generally devoid of features of foolishness. Most likely, he is worshiped by holy fools for his prophecies and denunciations of those in power (“you are not a prince, but dirt” – St. Michael allowed himself such frivolities with regard to those in power).

In Muscovy in the era of Ivan the Terrible, foolishness flourishes as never before. Opposition to the king became the lot of a madman; the king of the Orthodox kingdom is a temptation. First of all, these are the blessed Vasily and Maxim in Moscow and Nikolai Salos in Pskov, who saved his city from the massacre that Ivan the Terrible intended to hold there.

Foolishness was not always so global. For example, on the orders of the local governor, Simon Yuryevetsky was slaughtered to death in a provincial town.

And it is not only in opposition to the king. Novgorod fools fought against the Novgorod freemen. The fools Theodore of Novgorod and Nikolai Kochanov acted out swearing and fighting in front of their city, so that its inhabitants could understand what the political feuds lead to.

There was a lot of fools in general. Bolshaya Kolpak, bred by Pushkin in Boris Godunov, was remembered for his long hair, chains and copper rings. John of Ustyug – youth and kindness. The fools are seemingly miserable victims, but as we have said, they carry the News of the End of this world. So, the child who hit Andrei Totemsky dies as a punishment.

Of course, it is necessary to mention the so revered modern holy fool – Xenia the Blessed, who carried her feat in the new capital of the new European Russia. Having lost her husband, she began to play the fool: she distributed all the property, lived homeless, put on her husband's clothes and claimed that she died, and not him.


For obvious reasons, those who brought into the "prosperous Christianity" temptation and insanity, can cause the temptation of the most convenient. The attitude of the Church towards foolishness has always been wary. Nobody is called to foolishness. We are called upon to obey the commandments, for example, to charity, to turn the cheek, to humility, to non-condemnation (for which the fools ultimately work). Therefore, we give the warning of Simeon the New Theologian. His words are particularly significant, for he himself was in conflict with the Church contemporary to him and precisely because of his defense of Simeon the Awe, in whose behavior was much from the foolishness. Here it is:

“People who live in humble abstinence are considered to be a pretender, and those who eat like a glutton are held for the unsophisticated and simple-minded, and often with pleasure they eat together with him, indulging their own weakness. Moreover, even those who pretend to be mad, sharpen, talk utter nonsense, accept obscene poses and cause people to laugh, even they are honored as impassioned and saints, believing that they are trying to hide their own tricks, grimaces and speeches virtue and passionlessness; but those who live in reverence, virtue and simplicity of heart and are in fact holy, are not paid attention to, as if by ordinary people, and are passed by. ”

Books on Foolishness

"The fool as a prophet and apostle"

Bishop Callistus (Ware)

The wonderful article of Vladyka Callista speaks about the most basic features and significance of foolishness.

“In the spiritual tradition of the Christian East, there is no more paradoxical figure, and even, as many believe, scandalous than the“ fool of God ”, the fool for Christ’s sake, in Greek salos.”


G.P. Fedotov

The head of the classic "Saints of Ancient Russia" Fedotov. Here you can find all the basic information about the Russian people.

Also in his fundamental “Russian religiosity” there is a chapter dedicated to foolishness.

"Blessed povyba"

S. A. Ivanov

Maybe the best book on foolishness. A fundamental study of the holy fools, a whole encyclopedia. In addition to the huge factual material, an attempt was made here to build a holistic concept of foolishness. We strongly advise.

We also have two video lectures of Ivanov, briefly summarizing his research.

“A man of reverse perspective. The experience of philosophical understanding of the phenomenon of the foolishness of Christ for the sake of "

N.N. Rostov

It seems the first attempt to build a philosophy of foolishness. Here the reader will find a philosophical analysis of specific life of the fools, the argument about the nudity of the fools, the relation of foolishness to the laughter culture, and many other topics.

"Laughter is a spectacle"

A.M. Panchenko

Monograph of the outstanding philologist Panchenko. The classic work of foolishness and laughter world of Russia.

It must be borne in mind that this work was written on a cultural plane, and not on a theological or hagiological one. Panchenko examines the foolishness first as a specific phenomenon of Ancient Russia, then as a spectacle, and in the third part of the work as a social protest.

"Foolishness and pillars: a religious-psychological study"

Archbishop Alexy (Kuznetsov)

Pre-revolutionary monograph. If the books of Ivanov and Panchenko are “secular”, approaching foolishness as a cultural phenomenon, then Vladyka Alexy examines foolishness from a theological point of view.

“Foolishness” and “pillars” look no more than a strange, incomprehensible phenomenon to the gaze of a modern person, then, as aimless, unreasonable, even able, especially “foolishness”, to lead others into temptation, therefore, directly destructive the sphere of morality. "

“So,“ foolishness ”and“ pillars ”, both in their own way — by their unusualness and rarity, and by the reproaches and attacks they are subjected to by their opponents, must unwittingly pay attention to everyone who takes part in the affairs of the Church of Christ. and for whom it is dear and all, and the more extraordinary, the phenomenon that occurs in it. "

"Foolishness of Christ"

I. Kovalevsky

“The foolishness of Christ and Christ for the fools of the Eastern and Russian Church. Historical essay and the lives of these devotees of piety "- a monograph of the pre-revolutionary author, the priest John Kovolevsky. Here an attempt is made to theological and historical consideration of foolishness, as well as the lives of the fools.

"Women's foolishness in the Orthodox Church: the history and content of the feat"

E. Grudeva

The book seems to be on a unique topic: holy fools. On the basis of 16 lives of the Byzantine and Russian holy fools, an analysis of women's foolishness is proposed: the time and reasons for the appearance of holy wives, for the sake of the holy fools, women's foolishness in the monastery and in the world, appearance and speech behavior, typical asocial acts, prophecies and miracles, ascetic feats and secret virtuous doing, spiritual connection between holy holy fools, female foolishness versus male in its typical manifestation, etc.

“In the special literature devoted to the feat of the foolishness of Christ for the sake of Christ, mainly the lives of holy holy fools are considered. So, in the book of priest. И. Ковалевского в разделах, посвященных описанию подвига конкретных святых, представлены жизнеописания пяти святых юродивых Греческой Церкви и двадцати святых юродивых Русской Православной Церкви. Среди них нет ни одного жизнеописания святой юродивой, хотя в разделе, посвященном историческим предпосылкам появления юродства, есть упоминания о первой юродивой – св. Исидоре Тавенисиотской.

В силу сказанного представления о подвиге юродства в основном сформированы под воздействием жизнеописаний святых юродивых мужей.»

«Христианское юродство и христианская сила»

В. И. Экземплярский

Статья выдающегося мыслителя и богослова Экземплярского. Здесь киевский философ рассуждает о «о смысле христианской жизни и работы в мире», о том что значит быть «рядовым» христианином.

Причем же здесь юродство? Христианин «не находит покоя ду­ши, пока сердцем своим не примет слова Евангельского в юродстве и силе его»: каждый христианин — если он христианин — юрод, безумец в глазах мира.

«Восстань во имя Христа против обычаев мира, и миллионы раздавят тебя, не люди даже, а этот самый быт, весь уклад жизни раздавит, — и не как героя, не как мученика за Христа, не как преступника даже, а просто как человека, неспособного к жизни, ненормального, чудака, самодура».

«Вот это, как мне думается, и есть первое и великое препятствие на пути к осмысленной христианской жизни в мире: нужно обезуметь, чтобы жить в мире по законам Божьего Царства. Можно сказать, что степенью такого безумия измеряется степень преданности Христу, степень отрешенности от себя и от всего «мирского», и не в мо­настырском смысле, когда тщетно пытаются создать новый мир, но в обычном, будничном смысле, когда жить хотят по-Божьему. И здесь нужно настойчиво подчеркнуть, что речь о юродстве как пути христианской жизни в мире не является измышлением чьей бы то ни было богословской фантазии, но это есть то, что описано и предсказано Евангелием, как и всем вообще новозаветным Откровением».

«Козел отпущения»

Р. Жирар

Мы говорили о том, что юродивые сознательно делали из себя козлов отпущения затем, чтобы изобличить работающий механизм козла отпущения в якобы «христианском» обществе.

Жирар видит в механизме козла отпущения самую сердцевину мира сего. Согласно Жирару, Страсти Христа разрушили его, учредив возможность другого социума (общества любви — Церкви).

Как кажется, книга Жирара поможет лучше понять не только функцию юродства, но и вообще то, что «хочет сделать» христианство с миром.


Евгений Водолазкин

Роман Евгения Водолазкина, одно из главных событий современной русской литературы и не только: The Guardian например включило «Лавр»  в десятку лучших книг о Боге. Древнерусский (впрочем не все так просто) роман о странствующем травнике, юродивом, монахе Лавре. Увлекательная проза с одной стороны, крайне изощренная с филологической точки зрения, но главное: роман о святости («роман-житие»).

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