Lesser Feasts and Fasts

RECOMMENDED FEAST DAY TO OBSERVEThursday, Jan. 27 is the Feast of the Lydia, Dorcas, & Phoebe, Witnesses to the Faith. The commemoration of these three devout is a reminder that though the first century was a patriarchal time from which we have very few women’s voices, the apostles and indeed the whole early church depended on women for sustenance, protection and support. Lydia was Paul’s first European convert, a Gentile woman in Philippi who, like many others, was attracted to Judaism. As what the Jewish community called a God-fearer she was undoubtedly accorded respect by the Jewish community, but still would have been marginalized. Paul encountered her on a riverbank where she and a group of women had gathered for Sabbath prayers; Lydia opened her heart and was baptized. As a prosperous cloth-merchant and person of means, she lodged Paul, Timothy, and other of his companions in her house, which Paul used as a local base of operations. Phoebe was the apparent patroness of the Christian community in Cenchreae near Corinth, and the first person mentioned in the long list of Paul’s beloved associates in Chapter 16 of Romans. Paul refers to her as a sister, as a deacon, and as a patroness of many, including her as part of his family in Christ, and infers that she has housed and provided legal cover for the local church. Dorcas (Tabitha in Aramaic), was a revered disciple in Joppa who devoted herself to good works and acts of charity. When she fell ill and died, the community sent for Peter who came and after prayer, revived her. Though we have no record of the words of these three women, the apostolic testimony to their faith and their importance to the mission of the early church speaks for itself.

Filled with your Holy Spirit, gracious God, your earliest disciples served you with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deacon who served many. Inspire us today to build up your Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 Holy Women, Holy Men)