Saint Thelka, 11th century fresco in Saviour Cathedral of Chernihiv, Russia, 2007. Wikipedia photo.
Saint Thelka, 11th century fresco in Saviour Cathedral of Chernihiv, Russia, 2007. Wikipedia photo.

A young pagan woman born into wealthy
Iconium society, Thekla stepped lightly
Amongst curtained marbled halls, bathing
Pools, wine and gold. With slaves at her
Beckoning, her slender form knew not
Physical toil, preferring silken touch of
Handmaidens, imported scented oils.

Betrothed to Thamyris, Thekla, endured
Engagement pre-arranged by family decree,
Enhancing wealth and status in Lyconian
Aristocracy. At age eighteen, Thelka feared
Her linen robe falling to her feet, submitting
To sexual servitude, producing male heirs
For expanding family fortunes.

When Paul and Barnabas visited Iconium
To teach of Christian love, Thekla’s mother,
Theokleia, forbade her daughter to join
Eager, thirsting crowds. Curious Thekla
Realized she could hear words of saints
From her bedroom window. Three days and
Nights she listened, absorbing their blessed
Teachings, virtues of Christian chastity.

Enraged that Thekla accepted Christian faith
Theokleia and Thamyris approached the
Governor to imprison Paul for trial. Using
Gold bracelets, Thekla bribed a guard to seek
Out Paul. So stirred was her heart, Thekla
Kissed chains that bound the saint’s hands
And feet, compassionate spirit of Jesus Christ.

For having chosen Christian celibacy, the
Governor admonished Thekla to renounce
Her newfound faith. When she refused,
He sentenced her to burning at the stake.
Upon advancing flames, she received vision
Of Christ to face killing flames, quenched
Suddenly by saving torrential pouring rains.

Trials of Thekla continued when visiting
Atioch. A young nobleman, Alexander, taken
By Thekla’s beauty, attempted to seduce her.
Rebuffing his advances, she embarrassed the
Young suitor in front of his friends. For this
Insult,  Thekla was sentenced to death. Until
Execution, she kept devout Christian chastity.

On day of execution, Thekla was taken to arena
Sands, a lioness to attack her. Instead the beast
Sat at Thekla’s feet, defending her until death
From other animal attacks. Because no harm
Could come to Thelka, she was released to
Christian service, living to old age in quiet
Mountain seclusion, prayerful ascetic life.

This historical poem was inspired by the life-sacrifices of Saint Thelka and was derived from the detailed narrative found at this website: http://www.antiochian.org/life_of_thekla

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