St. ANNA SIMONE
Coptic Date: Unknown
StorySaint Anna Simon was a Queen born in Rome, a single child to her Christian parents. She loved her faith dearly since her childhood and studied the bible, learned about the saints, the church and praises. She desired the monastic life from her childhood, to follow the footsteps of the Holy Fathers she learned about. Although she was the daughter of the royal family, she was determined to live a simple humble life. She detested the earthly wealth and was full with spiritual wealth that is found in a life of poverty which Christ lived. She lived not like a daughter of a king but a poor man. She dressed in tattered clothes, ate dry bread and slept on the floor instead of her silk-covered bed. Her parents loved each other deeply and both departed around the same time when she was in her early teens. Anna Simon, the only child, was to become Queen over the 7 provinces of the Kingdom. The people loved her and her father who ruled the Kingdom with compassion, love, wisdom, honesty, humility and peace. She refused to be Queen as she desired the monastic life, but the people pressured her to become the queen because they loved her. She ruled for a short time also with love, humility and compassion. Under her ruling, the Kingdom was joyful and peaceful.
One night after ruling for a year, she prayed and pondered on the demise and passing nature of the world and on the lives of the fathers the monks who preferred the wilderness, saying to herself “if you, my soul, desire the Kingdom of heaven, leave the Kingdom of the earth for no Kingdom in this world will stand forever”
In a moment, with a warm heart and filled with the spirit, she took off her royal apparel and stripped off her crown. She signed a letter appointing the patriarch of her father to rule the kingdom. She put on a veil to cover her face and left her Royal Palace. She kneeled before the Palace door praying “I have left the door of my palace open, my Lord and King. Do not reject me, for I am weak and poor and you are the helper of all who come to you”. She walked into the wilderness where she hungered, thirsted and suffered cold and heat. She ate from the weeds and lived there on prayer and the word of God. When she prayed, the beasts gathered around her and stood in perfect peace, as if listening to her prayer.
Upon reaching the monastery of Anba Ormeos, she wanted to hide her identity as she feared being treated with special respect because of her position as Queen of the Kingdom. So she pretended to be dumb, mute and acted mentally ill with whirling movements, shouting and behaving with antisocial manners. The nuns took her in as they feared she would be harmed by the beasts. Some feared she would harm them as she was mentally unwell, but the head of the convent explained she could not sin and set her off alone into the wilderness as she would not survive. She was given the difficult labour chores. She ate alone and slept on the floor. They assumed she was incapable of doing any skilful chores. When the nuns were not attending to her, Anna Simon secretly got hold of books about the lives of the saints from the library shelves and read them when she was alone. When she was caught she was told off for playing with holy books. She prayed in secret when no one was looking – no one knew she knew how to pray, read, write and study the holy books.
She was given the name “Habila” which means “dumb” or “simple minded”.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” Luke 8:17
Anba Daniel was in charge of the monastic life at this time. He always prayed that the ranks of the saints be revealed to him. One night after praying, he heard a voice from heaven saying “among all the saints and fathers, no one has reached the rank of Queen Anna Simon, who left her palace and Kingdom and now resides at the monastery of Anba Ormeos”
He traveled with one of his disciples to the monastery. When he sat with the nuns and saw Anna Simon, sitting far in the corner, dressed in ripped clothes, behaving and moving in a very odd, antisocial manner to pretend she was mentally ill. Anba Daniel told his disciple “look, my son, at this nun sitting in the corner with ripped clothes. She is a great saint pretending to be dumb in order to escape praise and false glorification”. When the Head Nun saw them talking about her she said to Anba Daniel “Father, excuse me, this girl is dumb. She came to us seeking help and I could not refuse her as I feared I would sin.
And when everyone had left, the disciple wanted to rest, so Anba Daniel told him not to sleep in order to see this “dump” girl. They went to where she sleeps, and they found her standing, praying and making metanoias, the light coming out of her hands, and the angels surrounding her, so the disciple hurried and called the head of the nuns who saw the scene, and she screamed and rushed to her asking her for forgiveness. When the nuns came to weep and apologize to her for what they were saying, she was completely silent. In the morning, Saint Anna Simon arose with sunrise and escaped the Monastery and left them a letter which she wrote: “My Mother and my sisters the Nuns, I have tolerated all humiliation from you with joy but I cannot tolerate glorification and praise. So blessed be the hour you named me “Habila”. You are all saints. You are all pure, without any blemish and among you there is not one mocker”. Anba Daniel read the letter and said “The secret of this saint had to be kept from you. This is a lesson for you, that you shall not judge”
After this, Saint Anna appeared every year in Alexandria church to receive communion. She appeared in the form of a father Monk (to disguise her identity as queen).
May her prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.