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Theodora…


I’ve been writing a lot lately on my other blog about being the river, being the mountain, being the forest. As Mrs Metaphor I guess it comes naturally to me to see myself not as being outside of nature but as being fully engaged in it, being a part of everything that breathes and so it seems right that I stumbled upon a story today about Theodora of Vasta. It is said that her dying words were, “Let my body become a church, my hair a forest of trees, and my blood a spring to water them.”  There was a power in this, such sweetness, such grace and an utter absence of fear. What’s more striking though is the actual chapel of Theodora of Vasta (pictured above.) It’s as though she got her wish…her body becoming the church, her hair the forest of trees…the picture stuck to my brain, glue-like.

I arrived at Theodora because I’d been searching for stories of the Desert Mothers or Ammas. As I continue to meander along this Orthodox road I am discovering how little control I have over this whole “find a sponsor” gig. I met with a priest recently from another community to discuss this and a few other issues. (It’s cool, though, Father G knows I’m seeing other priests.)

Father P was adamant that I need to simply come to Liturgy and a suitable sponsor will appear and I guess I know he’s right. Still, the “getting to Liturgy” part has been slippery, obviously. I’ve been reluctant to choose a community, reluctant to make time, reluctant to reach out. It’s having an impact on this whole process and I find myself drawn inward again, trying to gain some control over the things that feel the safest, the easiest.

I was reminded of the name I chose for myself a few months ago, the saint I wanted to follow, Sophia. I tried to find any writings about her, any writings by her but the information was lacking. There’s just not a lot out there about Sophia, save for the fact that her three daughters were martyrs as well. Happy families, yikes.

So I turned my attention to the Desert Mothers…Ammas…and there was Theodora of Vasta.

When I was in grade school I wrote a short story about a young girl called Theodora. It was about her chaotic homelife, her absent father, her parents arguing and about her relationship with God. They story was more autobiographical than I realized at the time. Or perhaps I realized it, perhaps I was oddly intentional about the telling of that story.  It was titled “Goodnight, Theodora” because the story opened with listening to her parents argue as she went to sleep. In the story she discovers that she has been given some spiritual gift but she is afraid and so when God asks her to accept it she declines because she is afraid. She wants so much to be special, to be chosen and yet when she is faced with it she is afraid to step into it.

It’s possible that some of this story was built from years of reading those “Lives of the Saints” books we kept on our bookshelves in the livingroom. The imitation brown leather volumes never seemed to collect dust. I don’t know if anyone else in the house read them but they were a favorite of mine for a long long time. Perhaps even the name I used in that short story came from the books. Maybe I knew some of her story already and it remained tucked in my cloudy subconscious all these years, it’s possible.

Theodora means, “God’s gift” and somehow when I read this it led me into a short break down- some quiet sobs and deep breathing… and then I was back in my short story and in the early history of my own life. I wanted to much to be special, to be gifted. I remember that so well. Perhaps it hasn’t changed now that I’m an adult. I still want to be special, pursued, gifted, part of the bigger picture of faith. As I consider my chrismation into the Eastern Orthodox faith I am wondering now if it’s not Wisdom I’m about after all but the gift I might have turned away, the gift of my self.  I wonder too, if all things might have been working toward this part of my journey all this time.

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©2021 by Angela Doll Carlson