Isidora, fool of Tabenna

Once, a desert monk, Saint Pitirim, had a vision. An angel of God appeared to him and said, “Go to the Tabenna monastery. There you will see a sister wearing a rag on her head. She serves them all with love, and endures their contempt without complaint. Her heart and her thoughts rest always with God. You, on the other hand, sit in solitude, but your thoughts flit about all over the world.”

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The Elder set out for the Tabenna monastery, but he did not see the one indicated to him in the vision among the sisters.

Then they led Isidora to him, considering her a demoniac, because she worked in the kitchen and fulfilled the dirtiest, covered her head with a plain rag, never became angry, never insulted anyone with a word, never grumbled against God or the sisters, and was given to silence.

Isidora fell down at the knees of the Elder, asking his blessing. Saint Pitirim bowed down to the ground to her and said, “Bless me first, venerable Mother!”

To the astonished questions of the sisters the Elder replied, “Before God, Isidora is higher than all of us!” Then the sisters began to repent, confessing their mistreatment of Isidora, and they asked her forgiveness. The saint, however, distressed over her fame, secretly hid herself away from the monastery, and her ultimate fate remained unknown.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • all who unassumingly take on tasks others consider menial.
  • all who have no desire to stand out.
  • all who tend toward silence.
  • all who make a habit of overlooking others.
  • all whose minds flit about uncontrollably.

Catherine of Sienna – 29th April

4E0C1EB8-F870-443E-9E96-2815DA0B8D22Catherine of Sienna is a celebrated mystic. She entered the Dominican order at 16 and died aged 33. She wrote extensively, including some words about the gift of tears.

Tears express an exquisite, profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and for tenderness.

Many Saints have had the gift of tears, renewing the emotion of Jesus himself who did not hold back or hide his tears at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and at the grief of Mary and Martha or at the sight of Jerusalem during his last days on this earth.

According to Catherine, the tears of saints are mingled with the blood of Christ, of which she spoke in vibrant tones and with symbolic images that were very effective.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • Young people who have vibrant faith in Jesus.
  • All whose prayers are expressed through tears.
  • All whose visions and writing draw us Godward.

Theodora of Alexandria – 9th April

Sister Vassa celebrates another of St Theodora’s feast days, which brings particularly rich associations. A thought-provoking story.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • all who live with shame for things they have done.
  • all who live lives of repentance.
  • all who are falsely accused.
  • all who care for the children of others.
  • all who are forced to take on new identities.

 

Saint Shenoute the Archimandrite – 8th April

This is the famous portrait of Saint Shenoute of Atripe, Archimandrite of the White Monastery Confederation, which has recently been revealed.

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“Tears to him were sweet as honey, so that his eyes were deeply sunken, like holes in walls, and because of the great flow of tears continually streaming from his eyes like water, they had become very black.” There was no question about Shenoute’s extraordinary charisma and power of personality.

He is one of the early desert fathers to have considered the lives of those living outside the monastery walls. He was keenly aware of the poverty of Egyptian peasants and is remembered as the founder of Coptic  culture.

Many miracles are also credited to him. We are told that when Shenoute was once in Constantinople, he “was walking into the king’s palace when he found a grain of wheat which had been thrown away. He picked it up and put it in the pouch in his goat-skin habit until he returned to his monastery.” Back in the monastery in Atripe, when “it was a summertime there, and as the brothers were grinding grain for bread, he took the grain of wheat he had brought with him on his return from the king’s palace, and threw it under the mill-stone; and the Lord sent so great an abundance from the mill-stone that they were quite unable to gather it all up.”

On another occasion, we read of an apparition in which Saint Paul appears to Shenoute, and told him: “Because you love charity and give alms to anyone that asks you and keep all the commandments in all ways because of the love of God, behold! The Lord has sent me to you to comfort you because of what you do for the poor and the destitute.” Paul then presented Shenoute with a loaf of bread and gave it to him; and Shenoute took it and tied it in his scrip. Paul told him to put the loaf in the bread-store from which the brothers distribute the bread. When Shenoute arose from the vision, he found the loaf tied in his scrip; and he took it and secretly put the loaf in the store-room and closed the door. The blessed loaf was the reason for miraculous heaps of bread pouring forth; and “the multitudes and the brothers were supplied for six months by the abundance of bread which came forth from the door of the bread-store, and to this very day that bread-store is called ‘the Store-Room of the Blessing.”

The stick Shenoute is carrying, is a palm branch with its leaves removed. Once, when a well being dug collapsed on the labourers, Shenoute arose and took his palm branch, and went down to the well: “He reached out with his palm-branch and drove it into the wall of the well. It immediately took root and sent up palm-branches and palm-leaves, and the men who were working ate its fruit. From that day to this, the well has never moved again.”

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • Coptic Christians
  • All those moved  to action by the plight of the poor around them.
  • All working to feed the hungry.
  • All whose prayers take the form of tears.

 

He is risen…

Easter_Mailer_frontDiagnoses can feel like little deaths. We face lives we will not live. But in them there are also freedoms. Freedom to know and accept ourselves. To ask God, who did you create me to be? What Community am I to call together?

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • all who struggle to accept who they are.
  • all who will receive new identities this year.
  • all who create communities through their vulnerabilities.
  • all who are beginning to recognise resurrection at work in their lives.

Holy Saturday

55595069-64DC-4F98-AD66-AC23835BB778Today is all about living with not knowing. Living with enforced stillness. Wondering how things can have gone so differently to the way we expected. A time of shock, even before grief sets in.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • All who are grieving.
  • All who struggle with stillness.
  • All who are perplexed by the paths their lives have taken.
  • All who wonder whether there is any hope left.

World Downs Syndrome Day 2018

INTERCEDING

 

On this day lift before God:

  • Every person gifted with an extra chromosome.
  • Every person whose life is enriched through contact with the Downs community.
  • All who work to improve the lives and opportunities of people with Downs Syndrome.
  • All who will find their lives changed by Downs Syndrome in this coming year.

St Columba – 20th March

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This reflection and icon come from  Mull Monastery.

For a few centuries during the first millennium, St Columba’s Monastery on Iona was not only the heart of the Christian Church in Scotland, but also a major centre of art and culture. Iona’s cultural influence extended far beyond the Celtic Isles through the beauty of the illuminated manuscripts written by the monks on Iona. The Book of Kells itself, one of the greatest treasures from that time which is still in existence today, was painted in St Columba’s Monastery.

The Saint himself copied texts and created many manuscripts throughout his entire life. In fact, the very reason for his presence on Iona had something to do with such a manuscript. In his youth, St Columba was involved in a dispute over the rights to keep a manuscript he had copied from an original that belonged to St Finnian. This dispute escalated into a real battle, which led to the death of several people. As punishment, St Columba was exiled from Ireland, which is why he sailed North, to the Scottish Isles. Tradition tells us that his remorse was so great that he purposely kept sailing until he reached an island from where, looking back, he could no longer see his home country. This island was Iona.

This is how we arrived to the idea behind this commission: St Columba working on an illuminated manuscript. However, the really interesting aspect to me was the personal one. As he grew older, as he sat in his cell on the tiny hill close to the monastery church, copying some text or another, was that remorse still with him? Did that terrible fall in his youth still cloud his soul?

These are the thoughts that we hoped to show in the gaze of this humble, old monk. Because these are questions that affect all of us, and we all must – sooner or later – face this anguish. How does one relate to past sins? How does one face old age still carrying the weight of a fallen nature? How does one look forward to the Resurrection while also looking back to one’s past sinfulness?

We started from the intellectual idea of an icon depicting St Columba working on a manuscript. Prayer took us to the end of this journey, where we discovered that what was given to us was, in fact, something much deeper: as icon of repentance. This holy old monk contemplating the sinfulness of his youth is endlessly more relevant to our life than the historical reality of the depicted scene. The spiritual struggle of one’s inner life remains relevant regardless of age. Through this commission, St Columba revealed himself as a teacher of repentance, one who can lead us into old age and help us bring our repentance before Christ in a way that leads to our salvation, not to despair or abandonment.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • all who are haunted by sins or faults from years ago.
  • all whose work is careful and painstaking.
  • all who find Iona a thin place.
  • all who are wary of resurrection this Passiontide.

St Benedict of Sept Fonts aka St Benedict Joseph Labre.

St Benedict appears a puzzle to the catholic community in which he is venerated. The orthodox would, I believe, recognise his charisma as a Fool for Christ.

Follow the link to a well written and thought provoking reflection on his life and ours.

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https://livingchurch.org/covenant/2015/03/11/no-thought-for-the-morrow-the-extravagance-of-christian-perfection/

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • All who are homeless.
  • All who do not know where their next meal will come from.
  • All pilgrims.
  • All whose health prevents them following their first calling.
  • All whom the world perceives as failures.
  • All who see themselves as failures.
  • All who are thought to waste their lives on God.