Monday, December 13, 2010

And she wouldn't take no for an answer

Time for some gentle joshing...

St Lydia (centre) with St Silas (left), who baptized her, and (at right) the unidentified deaconess who assisted him – as tradition hath it

I recall Bp Jarrett telling of how, at Mass during Eastertide, a forthright lady read from the Acts of the Apostles about St Paul's first convert in Europe, one Lydia, who, after she had been baptized together with her household, required that he and his companions (evidently St Timothy, St Luke and Silas, as  may be gathered from Acts xvi) stay at her home in Philippi in Macedonia, "And she wouldn't take no for an answer!"
[11] And sailing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the day following to Neapolis; [12] And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were in this city some days conferring together. [13] And upon the sabbath day, we went forth without the gate by a river side, where it seemed that there was prayer; and sitting down, we spoke to the women that were assembled. [14] And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, did hear: whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul. [15] And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.  — Acts xvi, 11-15
The traditional Roman Martyrology marks the memory of St Lydia on the 3rd of August:
Philippis in Macedonia, sanctæ Lydiæ purpurariæ, quæ, prædicante ibidem sancto Paulo Apostolo, ut beatus Lucas in Actibus Apostolicis refert, omnium prima credidit Evangelio.
(At Philippi in Macedonia, of St Lydia a dealer in purple, who, by the preaching of the same St Paul the Apostle, as blessed Luke in the Apostolic Acts refers, was the first of all [in Europe] to believe the Gospel.)
Similarly, he modern Roman Martyrology recalls her on the 20th of May in these words:
Commemoratio sanctæ Lydiæ Thyatirensis purpurariæ, quæ, Philippis in Macedonia, prædicante sancto Paulo Apostolo, omnium prima credidit Evangelio.
(The Commemoration of St Lydia the Thyatirene, a dealer in purple, who, at Philippi in Macedonia, by the preaching of St Paul the Apostle, was the first of all [in Europe] to believe the Gospel.)
What a mighty claim, to be the first-fruits of Europe for Christ!  What a model and example!

St Lydia the Purpuraria (no husband is spoken of; I suspect she was a widow who took up and continued her late husband's business, however, rather than the only daughter of a merchant) must have been a woman of substance, a Greek woman from Thyatira in Asia Minor who nonetheless dwelt in the Roman colony of Philippi in Macedonia, and dealt in fine purples – for it was Senators who bordered their togas in purple, and only the Emperor who could dress entirely in purple, since it was a rare dye and highly prized, restricted by sumpuary laws to the richest and most powerful.  

We are told moreover that she was a devout woman, a worshipper of God and therefore a hearer of the Jewish religion ere she heard of its fulfilment in Christ, accustomed to gathering in prayer on the Sabbath, and blessed by God with the grace first to hearken to the preaching of the Apostle, the first baptized, together with all her house, and moved to repay this immeasurable debt by accommodating the heralds of the Gospel, conjuring them to stay with her if they did reckon her faith to be trusty and true.

After St Paul and Silas had been arrested and then miraculously freed, "they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia; and having seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed" (Acts xvi, 40) – by which it is confirmed that her house became the first church, the first called-and-chosen assembly of Christian brethren, in Europe.

I wish her namesake every blessing upon her just-announced engagement to my friend Justin – with whom I am about to dine to-night, he being in Launceston on business...

St Lydia, pray for us.

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