• September 10, 2021

The Early Church Mothers or Desert Mothers

 The Early Church Mothers or Desert Mothers


It has been shown that there were thousands of women who lived in the desert and played leadership roles among the Christians.  Some of the most important who have come down to us are Amma Sarah, Amma Syncletica and Amma Theodora.  The term “Amma”, in much the same way as “Abba”, designates the spiritual mother and father who were the counsels and wise teachers who were sought out for their words of wisdom.  In fact, the desert mothers and fathers can be considered the so-called “pioneers of the spiritual mother/father tradition.”

Selected quotes from the Desert Mothers:

Blessed Syncletica:

“If any fall, you say with humility: ‘Forgive me,’
then it will be forgiven you.”

Blessed Syncletica:

“May your mind always be in the Kingdom of Heaven,
and soon you will inherit it.”

Blessed Theodora:

“Psalmody and reading, fasting and night prayer in silence,
my child, all transform the soul to God.”

Blessed Theodora:

“If you think upon that which is good, you will be disposed to it.
Human thought is never hidden from God.   For this reason,
your thoughts must always be clean of all evil.”

Blessed Theodora:

“Staying awake to meditate cleanses the mind,
fasting humbles the body,
Prayer unites us to God.”

The above quotes are quoted from Matericon: Instructions of Abba Isaiah to the Honorable Nun Theodora.  Quoted in “A Glimpse into the Wisdom of the Desert Mothers: Bibliography and Prayer for Modern-Day Practitioners,” by V.K. McCarty.  PDF downloaded from Academia.edu, page 5.

Read more:
– The Desert Mothers -Who Are They

– Saying Of The Desert Mothers

– The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness, Mary C. Earle, New York City: Morehouse Publishing, 2007.

– Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century together with Selections from “The Protreptikos of Clement of Alexandria and The Spiritual Father in the Desert Tradition, Thomas Merton, London
ew York: Burns & Oates, 1997.  (Merton’s study incorporates sayings from the ammas as well.)

– Harlots of the Desert: A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources, Benedicta Ward  Cistercian Publications, 1987.

Dorianne Buttigieg

Dr Dorianne Buttigieg has a Phd in Theology where she specialised in the dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians. She coordinates the Theology course at the Pastoral Formation Institute. She is also a teacher of English in a Catholic School.

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