Monday, September 17, 2012

ST. THAIS, Courtesan

The image is from the Self-Ruled Antiochian  Orthodox Christian Diocese of North America.
Thais was a beautiful courtesan over whom men lost their fortune and killed other men because of jealousy.  One day, a monk named Paphnutius heard of her, disguised himself as a layman and set out to convert her.  During their meeting, Thais led her from room to room, each one more hidden than the others.  Finding that no room satisfied the monk, she told him:

 "There is a room where no one ever goes:  but if it is God you fear, there is no place hidden from his eyes."

Paphnutius replied:  "Then you know there is a God?

After Thais answered yes, the monk continued:

"Then if you know all this, why have you led so many souls astray.  You will have to account not only for your own soul, but for all those others you have corrupted as well, and you will be damned."

Hearing these words, Thais fell on her knees and begged forgiveness.  She collected her things, brought them to the city square, set fire on them and publicly asked for forgiveness for her sins.  Then she lived a solitary life in a little cell where she spent her life in prayer and penance.

After three years, the monk took pity on her and went to his Abbot to ask if God had forgiven her.  To answer this, the entire community was told to spend the night in prayer in the hope that God would answer the question.  One monk, Father Paul, had a vision of a bed in heaven:

"it was decked with costly coverlets and guarded by three virgins with shining faces.  These three virgins were Fear of Future Punishment, for it was this that had rescued Thais from evil; Shame for Past Sin, which had won her a pardon;  and Love of Righteousness, which is what had converted her to the things of heaven."

Father Paul thought that the bed was reserved for the Abbot until a voice from Heaven told him that the bed was reserved for Thais.  Paphnatius reported the blessed news to Thais.  A few days after that, Thais died.  Her feast was October 8.  (Source:  The Golden Legend, Jacobus de Voragine)

I understand that this story was the inspiration for the Opera, Thais, by Jules Massenet.  From this work came the hauntingly beautiful Meditation from Thais -

However, the while the opera remained faithful  to the character of Thais, it altered the character of the monk.

Thank you for coming by and reading.  :-)

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