St Thaney became pregnant after being raped when she was very much still a child. She was so innocent in her youth that her abuser was able to make her believe that he was in fact a woman and that his act of violence was normal behaviour among women. When the pregnancy became visible, her family rejected the young mother and threw her from a cliff to die. By God’s care, Thaney survived the fall and she sailed in a coracle across the Firth of Forth to St Serf’s community in Culross, where she gave birth to a little boy, the future St Mungo (Kentigern).
In this icon, the saint is in her small coracle, her arms protecting the innocent new life she carries in her womb. Christ’s presence is not marked in any way, as a symbol of how abuse is actually experienced – when the world hits us with its hatred, we project its violence unto Christ, and that builds a wall between us and our only Source of Healing. The experience of abuse is like blinding darkness; there is no light in that death, no hope, no shimmer of life. Only later, looking back, we see that the God we hated was the very hand that kept us afloat and lead us back to life.
My grandmother used to say that God is like earth because, like earth, He has the ability to turn the most revolting things into beautiful flowers and nourishing fruit. Like earth, God receives our sinfulness and gives us in return His love and forgiveness. Like earth, God receives our deformed selves, butchered by the abuse of the world; like earth, he returns to us our true selves, healed and more beautiful than ever before. The same way in which we bury a rotten apple in the ground, and the earth gives us back a beautiful new apple tree.
The world buried in Him a young girl who had been raped and her child. Christ received them both and gave them back to that violent world as two wonderful saints, willing to sacrifice their lives for the salvation of the very world that had abused them. Today, St Thaney and St Mungo are among the most beloved Celtic Saints, and the holy protectors of the very places from where she was once rejected and pushed off a cliff to die.
There is so much out-of-this-world hope in the life of St Thaney. No other icon seems more appropriate for the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. May Christ grant us the strength and the love to bury in Him all that was dark, all that was evil this past year, and may we step forward in the new year with ease and light, without the burden of hatred, without the poison of holding on to any darkness.
Let us bury all that is evil in Christ, and let us trust Him to give us in return the fruits of His forgiveness and His love.