Thursday, 30 December 2010

St. Thekla

Icon, St. Thekla, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

Here is an icon of a saint about whom most of you probably have never heard -- St. Thekla (sometimes spelled Thecla) and, yet, she was a friend and disciple of St. Paul!  I must admit that I am fascinated by the female saints of the early Church.  They each have such wonderful stories often filled with one miraculous event after another.  So, let me tell you about St. Thekla and all the miracles that are a part of her "history".

St. Thekla was born in the City of Iconium.  At age 18 she was betrothed to a man named Thamyris.  St. Paul had arrived in Iconium and was preaching next door to Thekla.  She sat at her bedroom window to hear his every word.  She sat for three days and nights and became interested in the new Faith.  Theokleia, her mother, and Thamyris complained to the governor about Paul and his preaching.  Paul was imprisoned.  Thekla went to his cell and knelt before him and remained listening to his message of Jesus Christ.  Theokleia and Thamyris learned of this and went to the governor who had Paul expelled from Iconium and admonished Thekla. 

When she said that she had vowed to remain a virgin for the sake of Christ, the governor ruled that she was to be burned at the stake.  When the fire came near her, a thunderstorm came and extinguished the flames.  Thekla was released and ordered to leave Iconium at once.  She rejoined Paul.  They departed from Iconium and travelled to Antioch in Syria.  A man named Alexander saw Thekla and tried to seduce her, but Thekla fought him off thus disgracing him.  The Governor of Antioch ruled that Thekla face the wild beasts in the arena.  In the arena, a lioness was set to attack her, but the lioness sat tamely at her feet instead.  A large lion was released, but the lioness came to Thekla's defense, killing the lion but losing her own life in the process.  Seeing that no harm could be done to Thekla, the authorities released her. 

She left Antioch and journeyed to Myra, rejoining Paul.  She informed him of all that had occurred and asked that she might be permitted to spend the remainder of her life as an ascetic.  Paul gave her his blessing and she departed again to Syria where she went up into the mountains to begin a solitary life of prayer and penance. 

Years later, a young pagan found her praying in an isolated canyon and resolved to spoil her virginity.  He blocked her only exit as she prayed to her bridegroom to protect her as He had previously.  The canyon wall miraculously split, allowing her to escape through a narrow crack in the rock. 

St. Thekla continued her life of asceticism and then peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 90.  A community of women went to live in her mountain cell, building a small chapel to enshrine her body.  The Convent of St. Thekla still exists today near the village of Ma'loula, Syria.  Because of her many sufferings for the Faith, the Church counts her as a Protomartyr (like St. Stephen) and she is also known as "Equal to the Apostles".

(Much of the "historical" information above came from an Orthodox web site although there are a few additions of my own.) 

Anyway, St. Thekla was one of those early followers of Christ who went out into the desert or barren lands in order to pray and do penance, first for their own sense of sinfulness and then for all the people in their world -- most of whom were "pagans".  These men and women who led an eremetic* life are believed by Catholic and Orthodox Christians to have played a major role in the formation of the early Church -- their prayers and penances were offered up daily to join the work of Christ in His redemption of souls. 
*living as a hermit, a recluse

Now for a couple of funny photos -- one of dogs and the other of a cat.

I really hope you take the time to zoom this photo so that you can see the expression (or lack thereof) on the faces of these beautiful dogs.  When you see the details of this photograph, you can't help but laugh.  It is really quite funny, especially the dogs who are playing the part of sheep!  I wish they had used a puppy of the same breed for the Baby Jesus, but it still comes across to me as quite funny.  I am sure God has even had a chuckle or two over it!

This photo is living proof that cats will try to sleep anywhere if it suits them.  It must have taken a lot of work and time to get himself positioned just so.  The poor man or woman to whom these pants belong -- I am sure they were mystified at first to discover all the folds of their pants covered with cat hair!  I can only shake my head in amazement over the antics of some cats.


Finally, I want to present you with the New Year's Baby.  I can only hope that 2011 will not be as boring as the youngster above appears to think it will.  This is such a funny, little guy that I felt it was appropriate to use along with my New Year's greetings to all you folks who read my blog -- regularly or occasionally.  I hope to hear from more of you in the New Year and maybe even gets some ideas and suggestions about how to make my blog better and/or more interesting.
So, as we come to the end of 2010, here are my wishes for you all:
that the peace of the Lord will be with you every day of the year;
and that each and every one will have a healthy and happy New Year, 2011.

1 comment:

Amra Porobic said...

Happy New Year Sallie!
We are back from skiing (all in one piece and energized by the fresh mountain air). Great story about St. Thekla, thank you for sharing.