Lydia vs. Moses the Black

We trust everyone survived their weekend-long bout with LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal). We realize it's tough to make it through an entire two days devoid of saintly voting. Yet congratulations are in order as you have all made it through this agonizing "wilderness" experience. The good news is that another full week of intense Lent Madness action begins right now!

Be sure to check out Maple Anglican's latest video as Archbishops John and Thomas preview the week ahead and answer some viewer mail. And if that's not enough to get your Lent Madness jets going, we invite you to watch and re-watch the FOX News story about Lent Madness that aired all over the country this weekend.

Today we encounter a Biblical saint baptized by Paul and a fourth-century Ethiopian who embodies the whole idea of "once was lost and now am found." Lydia was a strong woman in faith and determination; Moses the Black was a strong man both spiritually and physically.

Lydia (st lydia's)Lydia

Lydia is considered the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe. Yet for someone who had such a large impact on Christian history, what we know of Lydia’s story is slight. She appears only in Acts 14, praying by the river near Philippi, as Paul and Silas come by on their mission to Macedonia of preaching the gospel. Lydia listens attentively, volunteers for baptism along with her household, and insists that Paul and Silas stay at her house while they are in the neighborhood. We know Lydia was a God-fearer, a Gentile who worshipped the Jewish God but hadn’t officially converted. She lived in a town that didn’t have enough Jewish faithful to sustain a synagogue of its own, so they met outside by a river. Lydia was determined.

We know she was head of her household: Scholars differ on this, but the author of Luke and Acts never mentions a husband, and it is likely that if she had a husband, she would not have been running the business and making hospitality decisions as she did. Lydia was in charge.

We know she was prosperous. The purple dyes that she made were highly prized, [perhaps because one day it would become the official color of Lent Madness]. Used to color the textiles of royalty, the purple dye came from carnivorous sea snail mucous, and as one might imagine, the retrieval process was arduous and slow-going. (And I imagine it really irritated the snails.) So the resulting dye was incredibly expensive. The colloquialism for children of royalty was “born into purple.” Plus, given the root of her name, it is likely that she and her household moved at some point from Thyatira (located in modern Turkey) to Macedonia (in Greece), where she encountered Paul. That took money.

We know Lydia was hospitable: she welcomed Paul and Silas into her home after she heard them preach, and she provided for them out of her resources. It was out of this small beginning that the church of Philippi was born—and we later get the Letter to the Philippians. From her conversion, hospitality, providence, and generosity, on an entire continent sprung into the gospel.

Today, there is a church dedicated to Saint Lydia on the site where she was baptized, as well as several in Macedonia. She is a canonized saint in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, with the Orthodox even titling her as “Equal to the Apostles.”

Lydia’s life of determined faithfulness resonates still through the ages, and bears fruit, even to today.

Collect for Lydia (and Dorcas and Phoebe)
Filled with your Holy Spirit, gracious God, your earliest disciples served you with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deacon who served many. Inspire us today to build up your Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan

Moses the Black (3)Moses the Black

Also known as Moses of Ethiopia, Moses the Black was born around 330. As a young man, he left Ethiopia for adventures in Egypt. He found himself a servant to a wealthy Egyptian landowner. Moses would surreptitiously steal from his boss, lining his pockets with the profits. When the man discovered Moses’ perfidy, he expelled him from his house.

Moses, a large and formidable man, gathered around him other bandits. Together they robbed and harassed people living in the Egyptian countryside. As he was fleeing the authorities, he took refuge among monks in Sketes, a desert community outside of Alexandria. In time, inspired by their contented piety, Moses converted to Christianity and renounced his former ways of violence and carousing. Legend has it that four robbers once assaulted his monastery. Moses stood his ground, and with his bare hands, he unarmed and tied up the would-be thieves. He brought them to the other monks and asked their advice. Moses suggested that it would not be very Christian to repay violence with violence. The bandits were so moved by the compassion of the monks that they too joined the monastery.

On another occasion, Moses was summoned to a council to pass judgment on a brother who had committed a fault. Moses refused. Urged by the priests to join the council, Moses grabbed a leaking jug of water (some say it was sand) and carried it into the meeting. Perplexed by this, the brothers asked him what he was doing. He replied that like the trail of water, his sins follow behind him but he did not see them, and yet he was being asked to judge another man. The brothers were moved by this gesture and forgave the man straightaway.

Moses ultimately became abbot of a community in the desert and was later ordained a priest. In 405, he was warned of marauding Berbers from North Africa who intended to attack his monastery. Moses sent away all but six or seven of the monks and insisted to those who stayed that they not respond to any attack with violence. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” he reminded his brothers. He and the monks welcomed the bandits. All of the monks, including Moses, were killed.

Early church historian Samilinius Sozomen wrote of Moses the Black that “no one else ever made such a change from evil to excellence.” Moses is a shining example of the transformative power of the gospel. He is the patron saint of nonviolence.

Collect for Moses the Black
God of transforming power and transfiguring mercy: Listen to the prayers of all who, like Abba Moses, cry to you: “O God whom we do not know, let us know you!” Draw them and all of us from unbelief to faith and from violence into your peace, through the cross of Jesus our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- David Creech


Lydia vs. Moses the Black

  • Lydia (60%, 3,454 Votes)
  • Moses the Black (40%, 2,320 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,774

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196 comments on “Lydia vs. Moses the Black”

  1. Love both of these! I had to vote for Lydia though. My New Testament professor was once crushed to discover how few of us had actually heard of Lydia - a woman who played a crucial role in the church.

  2. Very tough decision! I treasure the leaking jug story, and am an ardent pacifist. But Lydia's main qualification, in my opinion, is not her hospitality, but her risk-taking for Christ. She was a woman of significant prominence and apparently a shrewd businesswoman. What did people in her 'circle' think when she precipitously adopted an unknown faith (Christianity) from an alien culture (Judaism)? How many prominent business people (let alone a business woman) today would risk being labeled gullible or ridiculous for doing something so counter-cultural? Lydia gets my vote.

  3. I taught a 4 year old class, mainly boys. Then came the rather uninspiring lesson introducing Lydia, the hospitable business woman, plus Purple. The little girls came alive, eyes sparkled. Who would have thunk it! I will never forget their dancing with purple paper chains around their necks. Lydia: I owe you!

  4. Okay, it's official, I hate the SEC. Just kidding. But honestly -- what a pair of saints! How am I ever going to decide? I know agony is appropriate to Lent but ow.

  5. Very tough choice! As my former Associate Rector once said, when we were discussing Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe: "Women bankrolled Christianity." Certainly her participation in the early church is undervalued today. Yet, I can't help but vote for Moses, given his transformation from violence to non-violence, even under severe duress.

    Besides, by his affiliation with the Skete monks he has that whole dog-lover vibe going for him 🙂

  6. So little is known about Lydia where we have these great stories about Moses. This was a tough choice to be sure, but I went with Moses because he is such an example of the power of repentance. LM is doing a great job of teaching us about the saints--I had not heard of him before.

  7. My vote went to Lydia. She, Dorcas, and Phoebe are some of the unsung heroes of the Bible. I had suggested Dorcas as a bracket possibility so am happy to hear the three ladies mentioned.

  8. Easy choice. Moses had a transformative experience, acquired a rare spiritual gift, and spent his life helping others to it. Lydia had a great first century business beautifying the powerful but used her wealth generously. Those voting for themselves in dozens of disguises will vote for Lydia. Those voting for a challenge will vote for Moses. Moses.

  9. I voted for Lydia because I remember reading about her and her purple cloth when I was a little girl. But I did not know that Moses the Black was the patron saint of nonviolence. Very cool.

  10. Wow - this was a tough one, primarily because I didn't know much about either of these saints. Lydia, a woman who defied the conventions of her time and seemed to live outside of many of society's standards, who helped to found one of the earliest Christian communities, and one that truly seemed to "get it." Or Moses, who changed his own life around, convicted by the Gospel, and then preached and practiced a non-violent way of confronting the powers and principalities. It's a toss up! But, in my parish right now we are studying MLK's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and so given that I'm reading so much about non-violence right now, I think Moses is getting my vote!

  11. Excellent match up today. I loved getting to know Moses better, but my vote felt more at home with Lydia. I agree with the Orthodox assessment about her, and I would like to see her honored with a win (and perhaps a few new friends). As for forgiveness being harder than hospitality, I'm not so sure. I have seen many a church fail miserably at heartfelt hospitality to those different or threatening to them. I think both can prove quite difficult, and I believe both candidates are worthy of a win today and our remembrance throughout the year.

  12. I'm with Paula about the Moses' title. More than a little dated. And as p0werful as his story is, I had to go with Lydia. The mothers are underrated.

  13. My vote is for Lydia. I was actually blessed in the waters by the church dedicated to her in Greece 18 months ago. it was such an incredible experience. Everyone of us on that trip felt that we had shared a very special moment. We even sang a chant inside the church; the acoustics of the place brought tears to your eyes.

  14. For next year, I hope the Supreme Executive Committee will consider adding a "like" button to comments--so many great ones! I went with Lydia. Although Moses' story is also inspiring, I agree that she is an unsung hero. I imagine that converting to a faith your neighbors didn't have and setting the example for the community was not an easy thing to do.

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed the impressive saintly bios of both candidates but I particularly loved the determination, enterprise, kindness and spunk of the lady with the purple fingernails. Lydia gets my vote!

  16. Another contest between two excellent candidates. I will honor our church secretary Lydia by voting for her namesake but loved the leaking jug metaphor!

  17. The VOTE spot isn't always clickable, nor are there the two choices to vote on. Frustrating!

  18. It's hard not to vote for the patron saint of non-violence but I have to vote for Lydia thanks to the comments supporting her and the 2 Lydias I know who are very special people.

  19. Today I got into the website in time to vote for one of my favorite Biblical women--Lydia!

  20. I'm not biased at all... but... Moses is my favorite saint that I wrote on. I think he has so much to bring to contemporary conversations on race, let alone his principled nonviolence. Lydia is great, but she has been canonized. Let's hear Moses' story! (Amazing things to share in Round 2. Promise!)

  21. Another tough choice, but my vote goes to Moses. Maybe we need more Moses' in the inner city and they could take all the gang members to a monastery.

  22. For my two Ethiopian sons, I must vote for Moses of Ethiopia! I'd probably vote for him anyway. After all, he's the patron saint of nonviolence.

  23. This was a really tough decision today, but I had to go with Lydia. Without her support, hospitality, and nurture, the churches is Europe would not have been as successful. A strong resourceful woman, like Lydia, has always been needed to make a church successful!

  24. Tough choice, however I'm not convinced that Moses' last action was the wisest thing to do. Welcoming in the bandits and allowing the marauders to slay the monks would seem to encourage further inroads -- the attackers presumably thought "hey, easy pickings here!" and benefited from whatever goods and foodstuffs remained in the monastery, plus gave the invaders a base from which to launch further raids. Why stay and be killed? Either fight or evacuate everyone and take (or torch) whatever the raiders might be able to use, so they don't benefit from the spoils of the monastery.

    With that thought, my vote is for Lydia, who used her resources to further the fledgling movement in her city.

    1. Tessa, you write like an historian! Thank you! And, how might MtB have influenced a change of heart had MtB not been martyred ? We can not say. Perhaps there was no other way for MtB to go at that moment in history. Then, on the third hand, as a master teacher said, "Am I going to die on this hill? Or live to fight another day?" She referred to policy, not fistacuffs.

  25. Voting today for hospitality - the hospitality that Moses offered as his only defense against violence. But it was hard to not vote for Lydia - her story has always been a favorite of mine, and I've been so inspired this past year by a church named for her - St. Lydia's Dinner Church in Brooklyn ( ) - even working locally to begin something similar.