The idea of the holy fool, which was new to me last year, is one of Christianity's oldest, especially in the East, where ascetics roamed from town to town barefoot, sometimes naked, converting heretics and bringing lost sheep back to the fold. The Russian Orthodox Church honors St. Procopius, a medieval merchant in Novgorod who gave all his wealth to the poor and slept on church porches, and St. Basil of Moscow, who wandered around the city barefoot and bareheaded in all weather, reprimanding sinners, including the czar, Ivan the Terrible.

My own stint as a holy fool (and perhaps Fr. Brainerd's, too) was obviously not so onerous as those of the Eastern saints, but I feel peculiarly blessed to have belonged, if only briefly, to the tradition. Christ, in his passion, had a robe of purple mockingly thrown upon him and was made to play the fool. I was robed in convert's white. I do not know what God's purpose was at my Easter baptism last year, but, a year later, I hope a little speculation is forgivable. I was made a fool for Christ, I think, so that I and everyone present would see that the august ceremony was also human, just as God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became human. Our baptisms are, among other things, a recapitulation of Christ's crucifixion, the offer of salvation here and now, in this our imperfect world.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus