(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saints, Daniel the Stylite, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
Saint Daniel the Stylite
The boyhood wish of Daniel of Samosata, Syria, was not taken seriously because in the fifth century it was not uncommon for boys to say they wished to become famous monks when they grew up, a wish that seemed to fade in favor of another pursuit by the time the boys reached their teens. Daniel was the exception, however, and long before he reached his teens he was resolute enough to keep his goal within reach by actually applying himself to studies in advance of his years. When his parents realized the sincerity of his motive, they encouraged him, and it is to their everlasting credit that they saw that nothing stood in the boy’s way and that the incredulous were ignored.
At the tender age of twelve Daniel, after an intensive interview, was given conditional admission to a monastery not too far from his home, where he proceeded to astound the seasoned monks with his adult wisdom and his mature approach to the requirements of monks. This anticipated brief stay was to extend over a period of years, during which time Daniel not only made his presence felt within the cloister but outside of it as well. The abbot of the monastery held the youthful monk in the highest esteem for his erudition and asceticism, both of which he combined in preparation for a greater service to the Savior and to mankind.
The youngest to have been tonsured a monk, Daniel was the logical choice of the abbot when he announced a pilgrimage to be made to the Holy Land to pray at the tomb of Jesus Christ. Accompanied by others, he and the abbot set out with eager anticipation, but it was a trip that Daniel never quite finished. En route to the holy city of Jerusalem the entourage paused at the base of the pillar of the renowned St. Symeon Stylites, who already had spent decades atop the huge pillar in a lone vigil for Christ. The great saint looked downward to invoke his blessing on the group below, but singled out Daniel to ascend a rope ladder.
When he reached the top of the pillar, Daniel was awestruck at the sight of the bearded ascetic perched there like a flightless bird whose serenity and bearing explained why he preferred to be thrust skyward, as though to remind all below that they too needed to look upward if they hoped to attain salvation through the Savior. After a brief discussion, the aging ascetic dismissed his young visitor with the prediction that he too would achieve renown by ascending a pillar in asceticism. When the journey resumed, Daniel was diverted from Jerusalem to Constantinople after being told in a vision that his destiny lay in the capital of the Byzantine empire.
After a brief stay in Constantinople, during which time his brilliance outshone those who preferred to see him elsewhere, he was assigned to an abandoned temple in the city of Philempora, where it was hoped this bright light would be reduced to a remote dimness. He had such a spectacular success there as an endowed eremite to whom people would go for spiritual assistance that he was called upon by no less a person than Patriarch Anatolios, who wished to see for himself the miracles this young monk had wrought.
A student of St. Symeon named Sergios came to Daniel bearing a robe from the venerable ascetic of the pillar, who had died expressing the hope that Daniel would pick up where he left off . Daniel lost no time in having a pillar erected just outside the wall of the city of Constantinople. From this lofty perch, he commenced his own vigil for Christ in a stint of religious expression that was to last for more than forty years, during which time he paralleled the life of his boyhood idol. When the pillar showed early signs of deterioration, a second, more sturdy one was built for him by the emperor. A prefect of Constantinople named Kyros, whose daughter had been healed by Daniel, placed a bronze plaque at the base of the pillar which read:
Standing twixt the earth and heaven a man to see;
Who fears no gales that all about him fret;
Daniel his name, Great Symeon’s rival be;
Upon a double column firm his feet are set;
Ambrosial hunger, bloodless thirst support his frame;
And thus the Virgin Mother’s Son doth he proclaim.
He died on December 11, 493, at the age of eighty-four.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.