The Three Holy Female Ascetics

September 10 is the Commemoration of the Three Holy Female Ascetics.
Three female ascetics
“Paul, the Bishop of Monemvasia, has given to posterity an instructive example of women ascetics. While he was still a layman and a collector of the royal tax, it happened that he stayed in a certain monastery. Seeing ravens landing on the fruit trees, breaking off branches with fruit and carrying them away, Paul wondered at this, and followed them with the monks to see where they were taking the fruit. Going thus, they came upon an impassable forest. The ravens landed at the bottom, deposited the broken fruit branches, and quickly returned. Paul and the monks investigated, and discovered a cave in which three women ascetics were living. The oldest one related their life story to them: She was of noble birth, from Constantinople. When her husband died, another nobleman wanted to take her as his wife by force. However, she decided that after the death of her first husband she would spend the remainder of her life in chastity. Therefore she distributed her wealth to the poor and fled to this deserted place with two of her maidservants. They lived there for eleven years in fasting and prayer, seeing no one and seen by no one but God. God the Provider arranged for the birds to bring them fruit for nourishment. Then they asked the abbot to bring them Holy Communion. Three days after they had received Holy Communion, all three of these holy women reposed, and the monks honorably buried them.”

See also

See further:
The Spiritually Beneficial Tales of Paul, Bishop of Monembasia
“The Spiritually Beneficial Tales of Paul, Bishop of Monembasia and of Other Authors”; introduction, translation, and commentary by John Wortley [Cistercian studies series 159, Cistercian Publications, 1996]
“The ‘spiritualy beneficial tales’ of Byzantine Christianity grew out of the desert Apophthegmata. Written at a time, and at a social level, not remarkable for its literary output, the spontaneous and often naive tales shamelessly despoil the common treasure-house of the tradition while creating a new genre of spiritual admonition. Here readers enter the spiritual world of Paul, tenth-century bishop of Monembasia, ‘a place of no particular importance’. Through his eyes we see the monastic and ecclesiastical world of ordinary tenth-century eastern Christians.”
Holy Women of Byzantium
Alice-Mary Talbot (ed) “Holy Women of Byzantium: Ten Saints’ Lives in English Translation”
[Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1996] – available on-line at:
“The ten holy women whose biographies are presented here represent a wide variety of Byzantine female saints: nuns who disguised themselves in male monastic garb; a repentant harlot who withdrew to the desert for forty-seven years of self-imposed isolation; a nun who escaped from Arab captivity to spend thirty-five years as a hermit on the abandoned island of Paros; a wonder-working abbess who slew a dragon; widows who found refuge in the ascetic life of the convent; married laywomen and a queen abused by their husbands. The careers of these holy women demonstrate some of the divergent paths to sanctification in Byzantium, through mortification of the body, unquestioning obedience to a monastic superior, repentance, acts of charity, prophecy, and miracle-working. At the same time the texts of their Lives reveal the Byzantine ambivalence towards women, reflecting the paradox of a civilization that simultaneously denigrated women as daughters of Eve and elevated Mary as the Mother of God and the instrument of man’s salvation. These vitae, ranging from the fifth to thirteenth centuries, also supplement traditional narrative histories by providing information on such aspects of Byzantine civilization as the impact of Arab and Bulgarian raids, iconoclasm, the monastic routine in convents, everyday family life and household management, and a smallpox epidemic in Thessalonike.”
A. Nuns Disguised as Monks
1. Life of St. Mary/Marinos
2. Life of St. Matrona of Perge
B. Female Solitaries
3. Life of St. Mary of Egypt
4. Life of St. Theoktiste of Lesbos
C. Cenobitic Nuns
5. Life of St. Elisabeth the Wonderworker
6. Life of St. Athanasia of Aegina
7. Life of St. Theodora of Thessalonike
D. Pious Housewives
8. Life of St. Mary the Younger
9. Life of St. Thomais of Lesbos
E. A Saintly Empress
10. Life of St. Theodora of Arta

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