Thaney – 7th February

 

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A guest post from:               Mull Monastery of All Celtic Saints,   29 December 2017 ·

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.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • All living with histories of abuse.
  • All who work towards healing in the lives of those who have been abused.
  • All who have been abusers.
  • All who work to rehabilitate abusers.
  • All children born in difficult circumstances, yet loved.
  • All who have been rejected by their families.

Nicetas of the Kiev caves – 31st January

A story of delusion and clarity…

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Sometimes it seems that the desire to be good, the desire to be close to God, is the very thing that leads us into times of trial. Nicetas was tonsured in the Kiev-Caves Lavra. Very early in his monastic life he secluded himself in a cave. The abbot Nikon refused to bless such an undertaking, saying:

“My son, at your age such a life will not benefit you. You would do much better to remain with the brethren. In labouring together with them you will surely gain your reward. You yourself saw how our brother Isaac was seduced by the demons in his seclusion and would have perished had he not been saved by the grace of God through the prayers of our holy fathers Anthony and Theodosius .”

“Never, my father,” replied Nicetas, “will I be deceived. I am resolved firmly to withstand the demonic temptations, and I shall pray to the man-loving God that He grant me the gift of working miracles as He did to the recluse Isaac who, to this day, continues to perform many miracles through his prayers .”

“Your desire exceeds your powers. Take heed, my son, that you do not fall on account of your high-mindedness. I would enjoin you rather to serve the brethren, and God will crown you for your obedience.” The abbot’s wise counsel could not tame Nicetas’s ambitious desire to be a recluse. The monastery’s elders, however, did not forsake the headstrong novice in his foolishness; they continued to keep an eye on him and to pray for him.

It was not long before the recluse’s cave became filled with a sweet fragrance and he heard a voice joining his in prayer. He reasoned to himself: If this were not an angel, he would not be praying with me, nor would I sense the fragrance of the Holy Spirit. The undiscerning recluse began to pray still more fervently: “Lord,” he cried out, “appear to me that I might see Thee face to face!” The voice answered: “I shall send you an angel. Follow his will in everything you do.”

Presently a demon appeared in the guise of an angel. First he told the novice to stop praying, that he himself would pray and that the recluse was to occupy himself with reading the Old Testament, and the Old Testament alone. The unfortunate novice was obedient to the demon: he stopped praying, falsely reassured by the constant presence of the “angel” praying at his side. The Old Testament he learned by heart.

The demon began telling Nicetas all that was going on in the world, and on this basis the recluse began to prophesy. Laymen would come to his cave to listen to him. The monastery elders, however, noticed that the recluse never cited the New Testament, only the Old, and they understood that he had fallen into a state of spiritual deception. They broke into the cave, chased out the demon by their prayers, and dragged the recluse from his place of seclusion.

No sooner was Nicetas parted from the demon than he forgot all he had learned of the Old Testament; he was convinced that he had never read it. Indeed, it appeared that he had even forgotten how to read, and when he came round he had to be taught all over again, like a child.

Nicetas understood his error and wept bitterly in repentance. He began to struggle on the true path of humility and obedience. And the Lord, seeing his fervour, forgave him, in token of which He made Nicetas a shepherd of His flock. Elevated in 1096 to the episcopal throne of Great Novgorod, Nikita was granted grace to work miracles. The Lord thereby assured the faithful that their archpastor had been fully cleansed of his delusion and that his labours of repentance had found favour with God. Once, for example, during a severe drought, God answered his prayer for rain; another time, a fire in the city was extinguished by his prayers. For 13 years St. Nicetas skillfully guided his flock before leaving this world on January 30, 1108 to enter into eternal and blessed repose with the saints.

(Based on a translation from 1000 Years of Russian Sanctity compiled by Nun Taisia; Jordanville, 1983.)

INTERCEDING
On this day lift before God:
  • All blessed with the desire to seek God.
  • All tempted to run before they can walk.
  • All who try so hard they become deluded.
  • Those who hear voices and see visions that do not guide them to the good.
  • All who faithfully pray for and support deluded people.
  • Those gifted with breaking delusions in healthy ways.