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Monday, September 23, 2013

Battleground St Thecla in Ma'loula

Today is the feast of St Thecla, the first woman martyr 
called "apostle and protomartyr among women". 
Just a few hundred miles away from some of us,
her holy tomb has become a war-zone 
over the past three weeks. 
While it is difficult to ascertain exactly who is fighting who, 
who is conspiring against who, 
and who wants what, 
what is clear is that one of the most
 ancient Christian holy places is being menaced.
 It seems now to have been taken back from the rebel forces
and peace seems to have returned. 
The sacred place was guarded during these past weeks
 by a very tenacious group of Orthodox nuns,
 and their Abbess Pelagia,
 obviously a "mulier fortis" even in the face of Al-Quaeda!
The nuns refused to leave the monastery. 

The following images and film clips, often of not very good quality,
 recommend at least to your prayers
 our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria, 
by giving you a flavour of what has been life for those
 living in Ma'loula in the shadow of
 St Thecla's tomb, during September. 
Various nationalistic and political opinions or prejudices are expressed 
which are not the intention or part of this post, 
and simply form part of the background to these events.

Remember them at your Masses today!

 Tourists before the tomb of St Thecla in more peaceful days.

 The Holy Martyr St Thecla, a young noble maiden of Konya,
 heard St Paul's discourse on virginity and became his disciple,
 Her mother and fiancé Thamyris, feared St Paul's injunction
 that "one must fear only one God and live in chastity"
 and their fear ended in an attempt to burn the saint at the stake
 from which she was miraculously saved by the onset of a storm. 
She travelled with St Paul to Antioch of Pisidia. 
There a nobleman named Alexander desired Thecla
 and attempted to take her by force.
 She fought him off, assaulting him in the process, 
and was put on trial for assaulting a nobleman. 
She was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts, 
but was again saved by a series of miracles when the lions protected her.
St Thecla's Monastery, Ma'loula.

In Ma'loula, where her relics repose, tradition says that while being pursued by soldiers of her father who wished to capture her because of her Christian faith, the saint came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split open and let her escape through. - the name of the village comes from the Aramaic word meaning 'entrance'. It is known as one of three places where Western Aramaic is still spoken.

The village is also the site of the Greek Catholic Monastery of St Sarkis, one of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. It was built on the site of a pagan temple, and has elements which go back to the fifth to sixth century Byzantine period.

Now for an insight into September, 2013.

The BBC reports the general situation during the occupation of Ma'loula.

Proclaiming the occupation, the insurgents in the convent confronted by the nuns.
All Arabic but the atmosphere gives a sense of the crisis.

Russia Today correspondent reports.
Footage of Syrian Catholic Prioress Mother Agnes-Mariam.

Greek Catholic refugees arriving in Damascus.

Greek Catholic funeral of victims in Ma'loula.
Catholic Patriarch Gregorios Laham officiates.

Govenment forces retake the monastery, Abbess Pelagia speaking - unfortunately no subtitles.


Anonymous said...

'The Saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises...God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more: for the former things are passed away.'

Holy Mary, Help of Christians, intercede for the suffering in Syria, in Kenya, in Pakistan, and where ever anti-Christ wages war on the Bride of Christ.

umblepie said...

Thank you for this good post - may God bless and Our Lady protect all those suffering in these terrible wars.

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