Venerable Amma Syncletica of Alexandria
Amma (Mother) Syncletica is probably the most well-know Desert Mother of all. Her sayings and spiritual counsels have made it into many books, especially the Sayings of the Desert Fathers which is a compilation of spiritual quotes primarily by men. Amma Syncletica showed the world that under Christ, there is no male nor female, proving to be even more glorious than many spiritual fathers, equal in honour to the great Desert Fathers such as Anthony the Great and Macarius of Egypt. Saint Syncletica was born in Alexandria to wealthy and devout Greek Macedonian parents during the 4th century AD. As a child, she distinguished herself from others not only by her physical beauty and extreme intelligence, but also by her abundance of virtues. Many sought Syncletica’s hand in marriage, however she refused them all, wishing to be spiritually betrothed to her Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. While still young, she subjected her body to intense fasting and vigil, imploring God every night in tears. When her parents reposed, Syncletica distributed all her wealth and possessions to the poor and fled far from the city. She was tonsured a nun and consecrated her virginity to God. Although many holy women had devoted their lives to God through asceticism before, Amma Syncletica is considered the foundress of desert monastic communities for women, just as Saint Anthony the Great is for men. Throughout her ascetic struggle, Amma Syncletica did her best to hide her high spiritual state from others, however the Lord revealed her sanctity to those around her. She gathered a small community of nuns around her and exhorted them to fulfil Christ’s divine Law through perfect love of God and neighbour. She explained that this was done through charity, of which “we shall be blessed… and will win heaven”. Towards the end of her live, Amma Syncletica was assailed with a vicious cancer which physically ate away at her internal organs and then eventually her external flesh. The pain was so strong and the stench so intense that her nuns had to fill the room with perfume before entering. The Holy Mother never uttered a single word of complaint, mimicking Job of the Old Testament. Having been informed of her earthly repose, she fell asleep in the Lord after a three-month martyrdom receiving the crown of her contests.
Ἦχος δ’. Ταχὺ προκατάλαβε.
Σοφίᾳ καὶ χάριτι, κεκοσμημένη σεμνή, ἀκλόνητος ἔμεινας, ὡς ὁ Ἰὼβ ὁ κλεινός, ἐχθροῦ ἐπίθεσιν· ὅθεν Συγκλητική σε, ἡ οὐράνιος δόξα, δέδεκται μετὰ τέλος, ὡς παρθένον φρονίμην· ἐν ᾗ τῶν μεμνημένων σου ἀεὶ μνημόνευε.
Ἦχος γ’. Ἡ Παρθένος σήμερον.
Ἀρετῶν ἐκλάμψασα, ταῖς οὐρανίαις ἀκτῖσιν, ὡς λαμπὰς ἀείφωτος, Συγκλιτικὴ θεοφόρε, ἤμβλυνας, τοῦ παλαμναίου ἐχθροῦ τὰ κέντρα, ἴθυνας πρὸς τὸν νυμφῶνα τῆς ἄνω δόξης, δῆμον ἅγιον παρθένων, μεθ’ ὧν δυσώπει, ἐλεηθῆναι ἡμᾶς.
Χαίροις τῶν παρθένων ἡ καλλονή, καὶ Ἰὼβ τοῦ θείου, ἐκμαγεῖον ἐν πειρασμοῖς· χαίροις οὐρανίου, συγκλήτου κληρονόμε, Συγκλητικὴ θεόφρον, Πνεύματος ὄργανον.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Syncletike, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
O divine Syncletike, our righteous God-bearing Mother, thou didst shine forth as a lamp bright with unquenchable virtues, laying bare the dark devices of the deceiver; and thy light guided a multitude of wise virgins to the heav’nly bridal chambers; together with them, pray that we all may be saved.