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May 1, 2018

Venerable Isidora the Fool for Christ of Tabennisi (+ 365)

St. Isidora the Fool for Christ (Feast Day - May 1)


From the earth you flew off to the heavenly beehouse,
Isidora the bee of good works.

By Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis

(Lausiac History, Ch. 34: Concerning the Nun Who Feigned Madness)

In this monastery [of the Thebaid] there was another virgin who feigned madness and possession by a demon. And they detested her so much that they would not even eat with her, she preferring this. She would wander about in the kitchen and do every kind of menial work, and she was, as they say, "the monastery sponge," fulfilling in fact the words of Scripture: "If anyone seem to be wise among you in this world, let him become foolish that he may be wise." She fastened some rags on her head - all the rest had the tonsure and wore cowls - and served in this guise. None of the four hundred sisters ever saw her chewing during the years of her life. She never sat at table, nor partook of a piece of bread, but wiping up the crumbs from the tables and washing the kitchen pots she was content with what she got in this way. Never did she insult anyone nor grumble nor talk either little or much, although she was cuffed and insulted and cursed and execrated.

Now an angel appeared to the holy Pitirim, an anchorite of high reputation who dwelt in Porphyrites, and said to him: "Why are you proud of yourself for being more excellent in ascetic practice and dwelling in a place like this? Do you want to see a woman who is more excellent than you? Go to the monastery of the women in Tabennisi and there you will find a woman wearing a crown on her head. She is better than you. For though she spars with so great a crowd, she has never let her heart go away from God. But you sit here and wander in imagination through the different cities." And he who had never gone out went off to that monastery and besought the masters to let him go to the monastery of the women. They were emboldened to let him in, since he was famous and advanced in years. And having gone in he demanded to see them all. But she did not appear.

At last he said to them: "Bring me all, for there is one lacking." They said to him: "We have one within in the kitchen, a fool." For thus they style the mentally afflicted. He said to them: "Bring her also to me. Let me see her." They went off to call her. She did not answer, perhaps perceiving what was the matter, or even having had a revelation. They dragged her forcibly and said to her: "The holy Pitirim wants to see you" (for he was famous). When she came, he perceived the rag on her forehead and fell at her feet and said to her: "Bless me." She also fell at his feet in like manner, saying: "Do you bless me, Master." They were all amazed and said to him: "Father, do not let her insult you, she is a fool." Said Pitirim to them all: "You are fools. For she is mother both of me and you" - for thus they call the spiritual women - "and I pray to be found worthy of her in the day of judgment."

Having heard these words they fell at his feet, all confessing in different ways: one that she had poured the rinsings of the plate over her; another that she had beaten her with her fist; another that she had applied a mustard-plaster to her nose. And, in a word, all confessed outrages of one kind or another. So after praying for them he went away. And after a few days, unable to bear her glory and the honor bestowed by the sisters, and burdened by their apologies, she left the monastery. And where she went, or where she disappeared to, or how she died, no one knows.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth
In thee, O mother, that which was created according to the image of God was manifestly saved; for, taking up thy cross, thou didst follow after Christ; and, praying, thou didst learn to disdain the flesh, for it passeth away, hut to care for thy soul as a thing immortal. Where­fore, with the angels thy spirit doth rejoice, O venerable Isidora.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Having acquired the mind of Christ, O di­vinely wise one, thou didst reject the wisdom of this world, showing the appearance of drunken­ness to men, but worshiping God with under­standing, meditating on His wisdom every hour, filled with the Holy Spirit. Wherefore, we all cry out: Rejoice, O Isidora, thou boast of Tabennisi.