Register now for "Tell Her Story: Women in Scripture and History!" Spots are still available! Click here to learn more!

Published Date: March 7, 2012

Published Date: March 7, 2012

Featured Articles

Like What You’re Reading?

Click to help create more!

Get CBE’s blog in your inbox!

CBE Abuse Resource

Cover of "Created to Thrive".

Featured Articles

A Desert Mother: Amma Syncletica

Amma Syncletica worked as a spiritual leader during the monastic movement in the fourth century. Many women contributed greatly to the establishment of the movement; they lived as hermits or in communities in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine. Great women emerged from this tradition and became spiritual leaders at a time when the church was undergoing great change because of the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire. These women were known as Amma, which means “wise mother.” They were leaders in the monastic community, known for their wisdom and teaching. One of the most prominent desert mothers was Amma Syncletica.

Amma Syncletica was born in 380 CE to a wealthy Christian family in Alexandria. She was encouraged to marry, but refused so that she could be fully dedicated to God. She had all the comforts that money could afford, but rejected them. After her parents died, she gave her inheritance to the poor and moved to an empty crypt with her younger sister so that they could focus on prayer. For many years she lived in silent faithfulness, until those who were searching for someone to advise them stumbled upon her in the desert.

Soon, many women came to her seeking instruction in spiritual discipline. Her wish was to stay in silent meditation, but the Lord called her to teach all she had learned. She had a discerning spirit and realized that even though many of the women sincerely sought God, they were not ready for the rigors of a life of poverty. She turned them away, but not before instructing them in what to seek in a spiritual teacher. Those women who were prepared to practice the spiritual discipline of poverty stayed with her to learn how to give up all temptations so they could focus on the love of Christ. She taught “We, who have nothing that we desire, wish to acquire everything through the fear of God.” She sought to nurture the virtues of Christ by encouraging “self-awareness, to understand our passions and desires, and to purify them.” Her life was marked by great pain, and she suffered from tumors. Despite this, she lived into her eighties and used her own pain to better understand the suffering of Christ.

Amma Syncletica’s teachings were highly valued in her day for their wisdom and understanding of an individual’s spiritual struggle. Her sayings were recorded in the Apohthegmata Patrum (known in English as “Sayings of the Desert Fathers”) alongside her male counterparts. Her teachings are also included in Palladius’ Lausiac History, an ancient text telling the history of the monastic movement. She was dedicated to a life of poverty in accordance to Christ’s teachings. She answered the Lord’s call to teach others to lead a life unattached to the things of this world so they may focus on the Lord. Amma Syncletica continues to instruct us through her sayings, and calls us to lead lives fully dedicated to the Lord.

*Quotations taken from Laura Swan’s The Forgotten Desert Mothers.