Saint of the Day – 18 February – St Simeon (Died c 106) Martyr, Bishop of Jerusalem, son of Cleopas, was a Jewish Christian leader and the second Bishop of Jerusalem (62 or 70–106). Died by crucifixion in c 106. Aldo known as – Simon. Saint Simeon succeeded his kinsman, Saint James the Lesser, during the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. He led the early Church in that City for nearly 50 years until his Martyrdom.
The Roman Martyrology states: “At Jerusalem, the birthday of St Simeon, Bishop and Martyr, who is said to have been the son of Cleopas and a relative of the Saviour according to the flesh. He was Consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem after St James, the kinsman of our Lord and in the persecution of Trajan, after having endured many torments, he consummated his Martyrdom. All who were present, even the Judge himself, were astonished that a man, one hundred and twenty years of age, could bear the torment of crucifixion with such fortitude and sonstancy.”
Cleophas, according to tradition, was Saint Joseph’s brother, making Saint Simeon the first cousin of Jesus.
Simeon is mentioned only three times in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and in the Acts of the Apostles. When Jesus preached in His hometown and was poorly received, Simeon was present:
“53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simeon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13: 53-58)
No doubt he was one of those brethren of Christ who are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as having received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. St Eusebius says that when the Jews massacred St James the Lesser, Simeon upbraided them for their cruelty. The Apostles and disciples afterwards met together to appoint a successor to James as Bishop of Jerusalem and they unanimously chose Simeon, who had probably assisted in the government of that Church.
In the year 66 civil war broke out in Palestine, as a consequence of Jewish opposition to the Romans. The Christians in Jerusalem were warned of the impending destruction of the City and appear to have been divinely ordered to leave it. Accordingly that same year, before Vespasian entered Judaea, they retired with St Simeon at their head, to the other side of the Jordan, occupying a small City called Pella.
After the capture and burning of Jerusalem, the Christians returned and settled among the ruins until the Emperor Hadrian afterwards entirely razed it. We are told by Eusebius that the Church here flourished greatly and that many Jews were converted by the miracles wrought by the Saints.
When Vespasian and Domitian had ordered the destruction of all who were of the race of David, St Simeon had escaped their search but when Trajan gave a similar injunction, he was denounced as being not only one of David’s descendants but also a Christian and he was brought before Atticus, the Roman governor. He was condemned to death and, after being tortured, was crucified. Although he was extremely old – tradition reports him to have attained the age of 120 – Simeon endured his sufferings with a degree of fortitude which roused the admiration of Atticus himself.