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Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 06:09 am
St. Kassia is known for two things: being a smart ass, and writing amazing hymns.

When evaluating bridal candidates, Emperor Theophilus baited her with the words "from woman come evils". Her comeback? "but from woman come blessings" (presumably refering to Eve and Mary, respectively). He chose another (Theodora the Armenian, who turned out to be a particularly capable ruler), and Kassia went on to lead a convent, writing hymns so astounding that her name has stayed attached to them: the earliest works of any composer whose name we have.
You can hear some here.

In the words of Theodore of Studium:

"You have again favoured us, most honoured Madam, with writings so able and so learned as to fill us with admiration and with thankfulness to the Lord. Especially as all this wisdom is found in a quite youthful maiden! I cannot say that you have attained to the standard of the ancients, for we of the present time, both men and women, fall far short of our predecessors in knowledge and in skill. But among those of to-day, you shine pre-eminent. Your speech is beautiful beyond all temporal beauty, and what is yet more excellent, your life accords with your speech, and in neither is there any uncertainty of foot."

Icon by the hand of Elena Kisterovoy
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Thursday, January 14th, 2010 02:29 pm
St. Macrina the Elder was the matriarch of a great family of saints. Basil the Elder was her son, and Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Peter of Sebaste, and Macrina the Younger (the founder of scholarly monasticism) were her grandchildren. She is particularly concerned with widows and the poor, and we seek her help in particular for those recently widowed and impoverished by the earthquake yesterday in Haiti.

St. Nino was a foreign captive in Georgia. Her prayer life and spiritual manner of being greatly impressed those who knew her. In that place it was the custom of the women, when a child was sick, to carry her around from household to household seeking a cure. A certain woman brought her child to St. Nino, who explained that she had no medical knowledge, but that her God Christ could heal the child. She placed the child on her cloak and prayed, then handed the child, completely healed, back to her mother. This deed caught the attention of many, including the queen, who had herself carried St. Nino for healing from her grave illness. St. Nino laid the queen on her cloak, called on the name of Christ, then raised her up, completely healed. St. Nino then taught the queen about her God Christ. When the queen told her husband about the nature of her recovery, he ordered many presents to be sent to St. Nino. The queen informed him that St. Nino would reject them, due to her simple lifestyle, and that the only reward that would please her would be for them to worship her God Christ. But the king paid her no mind.

One day, while the king was hunting in the forest, the sky darkened, and soon was as black as night. His companions scattered, and alone and frightened, he thought of St. Nino and her God Christ. He prayed "If indeed that Christ whom the Captive had preached to his Wife was God, then let Him now deliver him from this darkness, that he too might forsake all other gods to worship Him." As soon as the vow was complete in his thoughts, before he could get the words out, daylight was restored to the world, and the king returned to the city unharmed. He told the queen what had happened and summoned St. Nino, that she could instruct him in her faith. She did so, and told them how to build a church. He commanded the church to be built, and she worked wonders in its construction, illuminating the populace. In this way the whole nation was converted.

She is also the patron saint of the St. Nina Quarterly, a publication dedicated to exploring the ministry of women in the Orthodox Church.
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Sunday, January 10th, 2010 07:48 am
St. Theosebia was ordained deaconess in Nyssa in 371, shortly after her husband, Gregory, was made bishop. When she died, Gregory Nazianzen wrote Gregory of Nyssa a condolence letter in which he praised her highly (see Ep. CXCVII):

Theosebia, the glory of the church, the adornment of Christ, the helper of our generation, the hope of woman; Theosebia, the most beautiful and glorious among all the beauty of the Brethren; Theosebia, truly sacred, truly consort of a priest, and of equal honour and worthy of the Great Sacraments, Theosebia, whom all future time shall receive, resting on immortal pillars, that is, on the souls of all who have known her now, and of all who shall be hereafter. And do not wonder that I often invoke her name. For I rejoice even in the remembrance of the blessed one. Let this, a great deal in few words, be her epitaph from me, and my word of condolence for you, though you yourself are quite able to console others in this way through your philosophy in all things.
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Friday, January 8th, 2010 09:54 am
St. Domnika of Alexandria, d. 474

Wealthy Roman Christians of significant social standing arranged a marriage for their daughter Domnika. She had other ideas, and fled to Alexandria. There she found four women philosophers, who were conducting an experiment in cooperative living. They welcomed her and her ideas, and they converted to Christianity based on observation of her example. The five women made a pilgrimage to Constantinople, where Patriarch Nektarios baptized Domnika's four housemates, giving them the Christian names Dorothea, Evanthia, Nonna, and Timothea. He then bestowed his authoritative blessing on Domnika's spiritual guidance of the group. They gained renown caring for the sick and the stranger. Domnika in particular was known for her skill in discernment and healing of bodily and spiritual ailments, especially the effects of curses. Even Emperor Theodosios sought her prophetic powers. But due to the burdens of so many seekers, the patriarch and the emperor agreed to her request to build her community a cloister in a more secluded location. The cloister's church was dedicated to the Prophet Zachariah, and Patriarch Nektarios there ordained Domnika "to the priestly rank of the diaconate in Christ" (το ιερατικον σχημα της εν Χριστω διακονιας). She continued to lead her community for many more years.

based on Tsamis, Μητερικον, vol. II, 200-227 as tr. Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald in Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church,1998. 34-35

compare St. Domnica of Constantinople
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Thursday, January 7th, 2010 07:38 am
St. Kentigerna, Hermitess of Loch Lomond

Does anyone out there find these as amusing as I do? I may one day write my own material about them, rather than just copying others', but right now I'm just gathering material. I think they're fascinating from a feminist perspective: as real women, whose lives got channeled through a patriarchal remembrance, and as characters, whose stories have had meaning to both men and women, over a wide variety of times and cultural contexts. (remembering Mary Daly)

Citing the writings of women (e.g. Proba) is an attempt to document the paucity of orthodox women theologians. I know of maybe a dozen, and half of those are living.

[livejournal.com profile] naamah, have you seen any women writing (or scribing) in syriac?
Does anyone know of resources from the "Nestorian" and "monophysite" churches regarding women saints and theologians?
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Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 07:30 am
with lines 386-412 of Proba's Cento virgilianus, written ~351

from http://home.infionline.net/~ddisse/proba.html

Cento virgilianus is made up of 694 lines of Virgil put together to form a biblical narrative: from the creation of the world to the ascension of Jesus into heaven after his resurrection from the dead. It is unoriginal in that, except for the opening, none of the words are Proba's own; it is original in the choices that she makes and the view of Christianity she shows. For many of her readers and hearers, the biblical story was unfamiliar; it was Virgil's words, especially those of the Aeneid, that were a basic part of the Roman educational system, memorized by children and recited by adults. Proba offers Christ as the new epic hero who can join (perhaps replace) those of classical literature.

tr. Jeremiah Reedy, edited by me, from A Lost Tradition : women writers of the early church ed. Patricia Wilson-Kastner, G. Ronald Kastner, Ann Millin, Rosemary Rader, and Jeremiah Reedy

Crowds of matrons marveled, ... )
Go forth and get used to being invoked with prayers."

also St. Lydia Alexandrova, along with her husband, mother and three daughters
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Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 08:07 am
St. Syncletica of Alexandria

Amma Syncletica said, "There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts."
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Monday, January 4th, 2010 08:04 am
St. Appolinaria died on 4 January 502. She was Roman, of noble birth (her father was Anthemios, magistrate of Rome, appointed by Byzantine Emperor Leo), and was raised in luxury. During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she eluded her retinue and took up residence in the desert as a eunuch by the name of Dorotheos. The power of his wonder-working prayers became so widely known that when Appolinaria's sister fell ill, her father sent her to visit the monk Dorotheos for healing. Dorotheos recognized her, and spent some time visiting with her, healing her completely. The sister returned to Rome. She was found shortly thereafter to be with child. Her father Anthemios immediately suspected Dorotheos and had him brought in for prosecution. Appolinaria then revealed herself to her mother. After the family's happy reunion (and hopefully, reconciliation between father and both "wayward" daughters), Appolinaria swore them to secrecy and returned to his cell as Dorotheos.

see Orthodox Saints January-March by George Poulos
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Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 08:43 am
Saints Posenna, Prompta, and Fracla, Jan. 3, hermits near Rheims, in the 5th or 6th century. They were members of a family of ten brothers and sisters, who left Ireland as pilgrims and settled on the banks of the Marne. St. Gibrianus, May 8, was one of the brothers.

from A Dictionary of Saintly Women by Agnes Baillie Cunninghame Dunbar
citing Acta sanctorum 3 Jan. I, Prætermissi

also, Venerable Genevieve of Paris
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Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 03:54 pm
a householder, not a monastic.
St. Juliana Lazarevskaya

Saint Juliana lived during the sixteenth century in the province of Murom in a town called Lazarevo in the Empire of Russia. She was only 6yrs. old when her parents died. Her grandmother raised her in pious and God-centered surroundings. She learned well home handi-crafts and busied herself with household management and prayer. There was not a church within a travellable distance and so she fed her hungry spirit with reading the scriptures and edifying books. She eventually married a rich nobleman. The words of the marriage service spoke strongly to her heart and she conducted the life of her family in a truly Christan manner. The couple had thirteen children, six of whom died from grievous illnesses very early in life. Her oldest son died in battle and another son was killed in a hunting accident. The venerable Juliana persevered through this tragedy by a life filled with prayer, fasting, and a strong bond with Her Savior, Christ. Her feats of asceticism paralleled the strict life of the desert dwellers, while maintaining her home and caring for her family. After Saint Juliana's repose her relics were found to be myrrh-streaming and through her intercessions the gracious lord has granted abundant healings.

from http://netministries.org/see/churches.exe/ch05016