Thursday, January 27, 2011

Holy Women: Lydia of Thyatira/Phoebe of Cenchrae/Dorcas

Filled with your Holy Spirit, gracious God,
your earliest disciples served you with the gifts each had been given:
Lydia [left] in business and stewardship,
Dorcas [right] in a life of charity
and Phoebe [center] as a deacon who served many.
Inspire us today to build up your Church with our gifts
in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ;
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

These holy women are a reminder to us that, though the 1st century was a patriarchal time and women had virtually no voice, nevertheless it was the women who provided the resources, protection and support for the early Church. 

Lydia, "a dealer in purple cloth" and apparently a woman of means, though marginalized by her own Jewish community, "opened her heart to listen eagerly" to St. Paul's message, was baptized along with her household, and graciously gave lodging to Paul and his companions.

Phoebe, a proto-deacon, "a benefactor of many" in the community at Cenchrae, the port city of Corinth, and of St. Paul himself, gets a glowing recommendation by Paul to the church at Rome.

Dorcas, or Tabitha, was a woman of Joppa, on the seashore of Palestine WNW of Jerusalem. The writer of Acts describes her as  "devoted to good works and acts of charity". She fell gravely ill and died. They washed her and laid her out in an upstairs room, while some disciples ran to get St. Peter, who was staying at Lydda, a short distance away. They take Peter up to the room when he arrives, as all the widows stand beside him, "weeping and showing tunics and other clothing which Dorcas had made". Peter sends everyone outside, and kneels to pray. After a time, he stands and says "Tabitha, get up." Dorcas opens her eyes, sits up, and, with Peter's assistance, stands and is reunited with her widows' group.

We all know many holy women, young and old, in our own day who quietly go about ministering to people in many ways. In giving thanks for the lives and witness of our three Holy Women today, let's also give special thanks for the holy women in our acquaintance and lives, faithful servants of the Church and the community, women who have, like Lydia, opened their hearts to the compassionate and loving Christ.

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