March 1, 2016

Saint Domnina the New of Syria

St. Domnina the New (Feast Day - March 1)


You bore a load of virtues Domnina,
Approaching God as a truly happy merchant.

By Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus, Syria

Emulating the life of the inspired Maron, whom we recalled above, the wonderful Domnina* set up a small hut in the garden of her mother's house; her hut is made of millet stalks. Passing the whole day there, she wets with incessant tears not only her cheeks but also her garments of hair, for such is the clothing with which she covers her body. Going at cockcrow to the divine shrine nearby, she offers hymnody to the Master of the universe, together with the rest, both men and women. This she does not only at the beginning of the day but also at its end, thinking the place consecrated to God to be more venerable than every other spot and teaching others so. Judging it, for this reason, worthy of every attention, she has persuaded her mother and brothers to spend their fortune on it.

As food she has lentils soaked in water; and she endures all this labor with a body reduced to a skeleton and half-dead - for her skin is very thin, and covers her thin bones as if with a film, while her fat and flesh have been worn away by labors. Though exposed to all who wish to see her, both men and women, she neither sees a face nor shows her face to another, but is literally covered up by her cloak and bent down onto her knees, while she speaks extremely softly and indistinctly, always making her remarks with tears. She has often taken my hand, and after placing it on her eyes, released it so soaked that my very hand dripped tears. What discourse could give due praise to a woman who with such wealth of philosophy weeps and wails and sighs like those living in extreme poverty? For it is fervent love for God that begets these tears, firing the mind to divine contemplation, stinging it with pricks and urging it on to migrate from here.

Though spending in this way both the day and the night, nor does she neglect the other forms of virtue, but ministers, as far as she can, to the heroic contestants, both those we have mentioned and those we have omitted. She also ministers to those who come to see her, bidding them stay with the shepherd of the village and sending them all they need herself, for the property of her mother and brothers is available for her to spend, since it reaps a blessing through her. To myself too when I arrived at this place - it is to the south of our region - she sent rolls, fruit, and soaked lentils.


* Domnina was a female ascetic in the southern part of the region of Cyrus (Cyrrhus). She lived in a cell in a garden owned by her relatives, who fed her and funded her alms. She had especially close links with the local church: she attended morning and evening prayer each day. and the parish priest put up her many visitors. In all, she belonged to the tradition of pious virgins, livmg at home, who first feature in Syrian writing in the early third-century Pseudo-Clementine Epistles on Virginity. Her fierce austerities betray, however, the influence of the eremiticism of the fourth and fifth centuries.