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I am Saint Apphia

On October 27, 2010

You are probably among the masses of people who have never heard my name. It is mentioned in only one sentence in Holy Writ. There were only a very few of us—at least of those whose story was remembered by any except family and close friends. For those few who have read Paul’s letter to Philemon, I was understood as the wife of Philemon. Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus were understood to be husband, wife, and son respectively, according to the tradition. However, if one examines the text carefully one sees the address to Philemon the beloved, to Apphia the sister, and to Archippus the fellow soldier. The three of us are addressed on the same plane, rather than in any hierarchical fashion.

My name, like that of many of my sisters in the faith, might have been entirely forgotten. My story was not one that would have made headlines in the world of which I was a part. But a strange thing happened—to those unfamiliar with the workings of God, at least. Someone came upon my story in a musty tome which had seldom seen the light of day. When that person read my story, she discovered that I had given my life for my faith in Jesus as Lord just as bravely as any of the male martyrs whose stories were carefully passed down. She determined to bring my story to the attention of leaders in the church who were in the position to see that my story did not die.

I do not know the details of how any of this happened, but I do know that the hand of God was in it all. My story became known to enough of the leaders in the Eastern Church that they decided my memory must not be forgotten. I owe a great debt to those nameless church leaders whom I was never to know. They decided that my memory would be renewed every year. They gave me my own day of remembrance—an honor which even most of the male martyrs were not accorded.

So the next time that November 22 rolls around, pause and remember me. If God’s Spirit should so move you, offer up a prayer of gratitude that I was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for me. Then go forth in the same spirit, my sisters, to share the boundless love of Christ. Do not be deterred by those who say you cannot preach or be leaders in the church. God says you can. There may be many obstacles in your path. You may at times feel terribly alone to the point that you are about ready to give up. Just remember that one person plus God constitutes a majority! The same Spirit will carry you through the dark times that enabled me to stand firm in faith to the end. I am Saint Apphia.

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