Ananias vs. Photini

In a week full of lopsided battles, yesterday's matchup took the A to Z prize as Zenaida routed Apollonia 81% to 19%. She'll advance to the Saintly Sixteen where she'll take on the winner of Nicholas of Myra vs. Rudolph of Gubbio.

Today, we round out the second full week of Lent Madness with another Biblical bracket buster as Ananias faces Photini.

In other news, the Supreme Executive Committee was shocked to learn this week that there is another bracket-style tournament making the rounds. But instead of saints, this one features college basketball teams. What is this...madness?! Fear not, friends. The Lent Madness Legal Team is looking into all of our available options. Stay tuned.

Next week, we'll finish up the Round of 32 and kick off the Saintly Sixteen on Thursday. But first, enjoy some sabbath time as we collectively rest from our voting labors through the weekend. Don't worry, though, we'll be back first thing Monday morning as Damien of Molokai faces Pandita Ramabai.


As a general rule, if we find that our lives of prayer and discipleship only lead to places of personal comfort and safety, then it’s quite likely we aren’t listening to God as closely as we should. In heeding the call of Jesus, Ananias of Damascus abandoned his own safety to receive, heal, and instruct the man who can be called Christianity’s most significant convert: Saul of Tarsus–Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

The Acts of the Apostles records the call of Ananias. Jesus appears to him in a vision, calling Ananias to leave the safety of his home in Damascus and “look for a man of Tarsus named Saul.” Ananias knows of Saul’s vigorous persecution of the church in Jerusalem and argues with God: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But Jesus tells Ananias to go anyway, “for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:11-15).

Ananias does as he is told. He finds Saul of Tarsus, blinded from his own encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, at the home of a man named Judas in Damascus, just as Jesus has told him. Ananias recounts his own call to seek out Saul so that Saul may regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul’s sight is restored—“something like scales” fall from his eyes—and almost immediately thereafter Saul is baptized. Within days, Saul preaches with great eloquence to the power of Jesus in the Damascus synagogue, raising more than a few eyebrows among those who knew of his former life.

The story of Paul’s ministry occupies the majority of the Acts of the Apostles; Paul’s letters to the church communities constitute the bulk of the New Testament. Today’s church would not exist in its current form without Paul. But Paul’s journey as an apostle begins with the courage and faithfulness of Ananias, a disciple and follower of Jesus who heeds a call to go and pray with a man he only knows as a danger and a threat. Ananias’s extraordinary witness and courage commends him as an example for us to follow nearly two millennia later.

Collect for Ananias
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Ananias of Damascus to be a light in the world; Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-David Sibley


Photini“So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’” (John 4:5-7).

These words begin the longest conversation Jesus has with another person in the gospels. The woman at the well isn’t named in the Gospel of John; we are given her gender (woman), her ethnicity (Samaritan), and her personal information (not what we’d call an upstanding citizen).

All the labels are warnings: This is not a person with whom Jesus should be talking. Yet Jesus does speak with her, and in response, she becomes a disciple and evangelist. We read in the Gospel of John that many Samaritans from that city believe in Jesus because of her testimony.

We don’t encounter her again in the gospels, but the early church continues her story. Baptized on Pentecost with her sisters and given the name Photini (luminous or enlightened one), she travels to Samaria and eventually Carthage, where her witness founds a vibrant Christian community.

Photini encounters Jesus in a vision, and subsequently travels from Carthage to Rome to bolster the courage of the persecuted community of Christians and share the gospel with Nero, the emperor. Instead of being converted, Nero orders Photini and the Christians beaten on the hands with iron rods. During the torture, Photini sings psalms. Seeing their hands unharmed, Nero throws the men into jail and invites Photini and her sisters to a grand banquet, hoping the display will entice Photini to rebuke her Christian faith. Photini shares the gospel with Nero’s daughter and converts her. Enraged even more, Nero further tortures Photini, then throws her into a well, where she praises God until she dies.

Sermons in the early church refer to her as an apostle and evangelist, standing equal to the twelve who go forth after the resurrection. Her faith is commemorated in many ancient hymns, including this verse from one associated with Ephrem:

Blessed are you, O Woman, drawer of ordinary water, who turned out to be a drawer of living water. You found the treasure, the Source from whom a flood of mercies flow.

Collect for Photini
O Almighty God, whose most blessed Son revealed to the Samaritan woman that He is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World; grant us to drink of the well that springs up to everlasting life that we may worship you in spirit and in truth through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Laurie Brock

Ananias vs. Photini

  • Photini (64%, 4,975 Votes)
  • Ananias (36%, 2,831 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,806

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Ananias: Public Domain, Pietro da Cortona, Ananias Restoring the Sight of Saint Paul, 1631.
Photini: By Ted (St. Photini) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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175 comments on “Ananias vs. Photini”

  1. We end the week with a tribute to our battling saints sung to the up-beat "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" from the irrepressible musical "Annie":

    Hey, Tarsus man,
    Saw Jesus, and…
    He said look for Saul –
    This man harming Christians has been blessed
    To lead us all.

    Saul’s solution be
    By Christ, he’s appalled,
    But Jesus said Saul’s fate has been blessed
    To lead us all.

    Christ said Saul’d be waiting
    Blind with scales upon his eyes.
    I told my tale. The scales fell off,
    And Saul became baptized.
    (That matters!)

    Never the same.
    Saul changed his name
    Becoming St. Paul.
    Ananias helped this man to be blessed.
    That sinner from Tarsus
    Whose fate was heaven blessed.
    To lead us all.

    My story’s famed,
    But I’m unnamed.
    My name rings no bell.
    John writes I’m the one that Christ addressed
    While at the well.

    He knows I am
    Yet with me he dwells.
    I drew for him and my life he blessed
    There at the well.

    I preached was arrested.
    The soldiers beat on my palms,
    But, by my faith, I wasn’t harmed.
    I knelt there singing psalms.
    (That mattered!)

    To Nero, I’m
    No hero and
    He rang my death knell.
    Due to me, his daughter Christ professed.
    Ironically, at best…
    He threw me fully dressed
    Into a well.

    1. I don’t know which is better—“persecutiony” or “fully dressed into the well”! What a hoot!

      Thank you, Michael, for putting the madness back in Lent Madness comments!

      1. Insight into the madness of Michael...

        Originally, I planned to use "That's Amore" because (a) I have been calling Photini "Pasta Girl" since All Bracket's Day and (2) lyrics like "When you go meet a guy and scales fall from his eye, that's Ananias" just write themselves. But, it's not from a musical, so I kept looking.

        I try to keep some of the character of the lyrics of the original song . Sometimes, I succeed. Other times, not so much. In the song from "Annie," the lyric reads "You're clothes may be Beau Brummelly" and that was too delicious to pass up. Thus, persecutiony! I was also so glad that I was able to slip "fully dressed" in there as an homage to the original lyric.

        Thank you everyone for your kind comments! I hope you have had as much fun as I have!

        1. A martini, says Susan C, pasta, says you, and, says my husband, a photo lab--all the possibilitiesthe name "Photini" evokes! So far...

          I love your "that's amore" idea--too bad it wasn't a musical!

        2. Waiting to buy my ticket to the full review, "Forbidden Lent." Thanks for the backstage glimpse, not to mention "...that's Ananias."

          1. A Photini would only include well liquor - and probably be garnished with a date.

            "Forbidden Lent" made me spit out my coffee! HAHAHAHA!

          2. Michael, I like your Photini recipe; I might add that it should properly leave you thirsty for more…

            For now, I'd like to propose it as the leading candidate for the "Lent Madness Seasonal Craft Cocktail" challenge. Additional submissions are welcome, and I am willing help judge (unless the Supreme Executive Committee puts in a claim).

            Congrats also on this morning's flying fingers, sir! I'll spend the weekend practicing my touch-typing…

          3. The Apollonia is pure grain alcohol served ablaze - so strong that it knocks your teeth out.

            The Gobnait contains Irish whisky sweetened with raw honey and garnished with a honeycomb.

            More to come...

        3. Next step: Record all these songs! I have pulled several friends into Lent Madness because of your incredible writing. Can't wait for the next one!

      2. No matter how much I love the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, I have to go with Ananias. There is no better example of the courage it takes to love one's enemy than to reach out to someone who who is known to killing people who believe as you do. When God sends you on this type of errand, and you calmly say "Okay,", that's real discipleship.

    2. Did you all miss me, my husband and I moved March 18th from our house of 51 years sold in 3 days Feb. 1,2019, my husband proposed to me Feb. 14, 1962 , we were married June 29,1963, we have 4 children pall,with letters after their names, 9 grandchildren and 1 great grandson Adam! Now it is our time to live in our new HOME until God takes us to our forever HOME, BUT , IN THE MEANTIME we MUST share the Gospel to,all,that will,LISTEN,
      Before we moved in the 0ne month we had to,purge, we kept meeting groups of 3's --people,-- teenagers young adults, parents, some even knew my name, maybe I introduce myself, but, not that I remember, but they knew me and some even knew where I lived, a little creepy,BUT THEN" I remembered somewhere I was told -- Angels come in groups of 3 And not to fear them! So I began to feel,comforted that we or I was on the right path in this our next life! But, my husband isn't convinced but, at least goes with the flow! So, back to today's challenge, of course I voted for Phitini, she was strong I. Her FAITH, no matter what! Glad to,be back and taking part I this Lentin madness, if you ink this is MADNESS--welcome to my world of late!

      1. Absolutely the best one yet! Thank you so much for your wit and writing skills (even if limericks are considered a low form of poetry - I disagree!).

      2. Life seems to be endless change and you and your husband seem to be rolling with it nicely. Just what the Man Up There would have us do, I think. Wishing you all the best in your new digs.

  2. Jesus sent Ananias to Straight St.
    Where in Judas’ home he would Saul mt.
    When he got there, surprise:
    The scales fell from Saul’s eyes!
    Helping Saul become Paul is a nt. ft.

    1. Since our name is Strait and when I asked God if I should marry my husband he open my bible to Acts 9:11 and we just celebrated our 61st anniversary yesterday, So I had to vote for ANANIAS

  3. Ananias is one of my favorite New Testament characters. God told him to go minister to the very man who had come to Damascus with authority to arrest Ananias, and his fellow believers on the Way, and haul him/them to Jerusalem in chains. No wonder he was somewhat hesitant about this assignment. “Um, God, you know who this person is, right?” But when God confirmed his marching orders - -

    Ananias was obedient (see by contrast Jonah, who also did not like the job God had given him)

    And the first words out of Ananias’ mouth when he encountered his fearsome enemy were: “Brother Saul.”

    Wow. I wish I could be as whole-heartedly obedient to God’s leadings in my life. Ananias for the Golden Halo!

  4. Hard choice. Both took risks but went with Ananias because he had the most to lose by taking Paul into the community. He listened to God even though it went against his safety or reason.

  5. Never knew her name was Photini, nor that she has an impressive history, but have had a life long admiration for Ananias’s faith and courage so he gets my vote today.

  6. I am surprised by your parenthetical comment in today’s (March 22) matchup: “and her personal information (not what we’d call an upstanding citizen).”

    It strikes me as very judgmental and exactly the reason why the disciples tell Jesus not to engage with the woman. And yet Jesus does. In doing so, this woman is remembered throughout history and the early church continued her story and flipped the judgment of her, your judgment of her, on his head.

    1. Thank you for saying this! I had the same thought, and I came down to the comments in hope that someone else had felt this too. I hope that the author of Photini's bio will modify that parenthetical comment to one that does not judge her in this way.

      1. But-ut-ut she WAS a 'storied' woman--just as Ananias is the last person anyone would pick as Saul's transformation, so the woman at the well is the last person anyone would start a conversation with. (preposition OK at end of sentence: see Winston Churchill)

    2. Disagree... it’s not being judgmental, it’s in the scripture that she didn’t have a great reputation. What we can agree on is that Jesus did speak with her and she went on to spread his message of God’s expansive love, grace, and mercy.

    3. Jesus didn't judge her, either! Christians have been reading that judgment into the text for 2 millennia. Jesus simply showed that he knew her...and then SHE engaged HIM in theological discussion, and he seems to have enjoyed that. It's that story that had me voting for her today. She truly received his radical acceptance of her as such good news she ran back to town to tell everyone about it!

      We tend to make a huge deal of our own sinfulness, when what Jesus wants is for us to follow him. To follow Jesus, you simply turn to him and follow. Focusing on our sin, however penitential we intend that to be, can have the result of keeping us away from Jesus. Following him will heal all that. Presiding Bishop Curry has described it as a flower turning toward the sun. We simply need to turn toward Jesus - like Photini did, and like Saul/Paul did, with Ananias' help.

      1. Beautiful and inspiring comment! Thank you, Elaine. I still voted for Ananais though - cannot turn away from one who accepted God's request without question and fulfilled it joyfully.

      2. Sunflowers that are turned with their faces to Jesus are depicted in the painting of the crucifixion that hangs behind the altar in our church of St James' here in Durban, South Africa. Jesus, Sun of my soul!

      1. And it entirely misses the political connotation that her country had been occupied by 5 different foreign empires. Jesus apparently knew local history too.

        1. Omigosh, I've never heard that connection! Thanks, Catherine! Putting that in the margin of Jn 4!

        2. Catherine, you beat me to it but that was the point I wanted to make with the additional note that Rome was the sixth -- i.e. the current nominal husband. I would also add that a woman of poor reputation would be unlikely to easily draw a crowd to meet Jesus.

    4. Photini "had had five husbands," Jesus says. That indicates to me that she'd been widowed five times - after all, it's not likely she'd been able to get five divorces. After all those dead husbands, it's no wonder nobody else would marry her, and her next partner was not her husband. I would judge her to be, not an example of bad behavior, but a very unfortunate woman who was now seen as bringing bad luck and was therefore kept at a distance by "normal" people who'd had better luck.

    5. I have not found anywhere in the Bible that truth was watered down to make someone sound better. Her behavior in life was the reason Jesus confronted her. I can't find where it says her five hsubands were dead??? A great story of redemption!

    6. Awww, how mean of the gospel writers to call attention to her past...but an essential element of the story. So Photini overcame her reputation and shared Christianity with the world. Maybe there is hope for the rest of us?

  7. I imagine Photini to be one of those women gathered at the grave on Easter morning, standing with Jesus where other apostles had denied him. And because this is lent when we ponder these things, I'm glad Photini is one of those that Lent-madness asks us to read about. So I hope she takes the vote today so that we continue to ponder her story in another round of Lent-madness. Ananias is one to ponder during the Pentecost season.

  8. I wanted to go with Photini, because of her gender, her representation of how the shunned, scorned and outcast are valued by Jesus, and how these people can be forces for inspiration and change. There was also the fact that her name reminds me of an easily spillable alcoholic beverage. However, I went with Ananias because of his bravery in seeking out the one who was to have such a pivotal effect on Christianity, who wrote so many words of wisdom love and conciliation so well documented.

  9. This one’s easy for me; I think one’s vote may reflect what one thinks of Paul, and Paul is not my favorite. Not because of misogyny—because Paul was respectful of a lot of women in leadership roles in the infant church, head coverings in Corinth aside.

    No, the bone I have to pick with Paul is theological. In my view, he changed the “love God and your neighbor” message of Jesus—I’m talking about the overarching theme—to “get yourself right with God.” I don’t think it’s necessarily true that we wouldn’t have a worldwide church without Paul. He founded churches, yes, but often there was already a church in existence when he arrived—in Rome and Corinth, for example. I often wonder what Christianity would be like today if it had developed from James’ original group instead of what Paul bullied them into.

    All that said, I vote for Photini, whose faith walk went from one well to another.

    1. Thank you for that, Susan. I have long been troubled by the inconsistency between Jesus and Paul and the impact Paul had on the Church, and thought the Church would have been better off without him. There are obviously some wonderful passages in the Epistles, but all in all he comes across to me as a very unpleasant man who never fully understood the message of Jesus.

      1. I saw Photini & also thought of that delicious Vietnamese soup! No Fauxtini with rail liquor, no! Perhaps Crystal Vodka with a dash of fish sauce, anyone? Garnished with lime & basil, of course!

      2. A very unpleasant man indeed...especially if you are female! I often wondered if he had a nagging wife.
        It would certainly give me a case of the heebee jeebees to have to go to Paul if I was Jewish and knew his reputation.
        But Ananias trusted God so off he went and entered history.

        1. More like mommy issues, I'm guessing. I don't think Paul was married.

          As a feminist, I have issues with Paul. He may have had respect for individual women of his acquaintance, but he regarded women, as a class, with contempt, and that has been a longlasting and damaging influence in the Church as a whole.

    2. I too feel the same way. It seems to me that Paul "hijacked" Jesus' message from his apostles and changed it into something that lost the true meaning of his teachings.

      1. I'm glad I read the comments today. I've not talked to people before who share my opinions about Paul.

        1. I agree with these thoughts. "On these 2 commandments lay all the laws and all the prophets." Just like Jesus to make it easy for us to understand.

    3. Paul is most definitely not my favorite of the early church fathers. Judgmental, arrogant, domineering, and thinks far too highly of himself.

      Which is why I think Ananias deserves to advance for putting up with Paul. Photini is an intriguing character, and heaven knows she had to put up with a lot also, but Ananias had to educate and tolerate the former Saul.

  10. "In Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, a celebration of the Samaritan woman takes place on the fourth Friday of Lent. The custom of the day involves churches, schools, and businesses giving away fruit drinks to passers-by." (Wikipedia)

  11. More than twenty years ago, I was part of a bilingual women's Bible story and we read John 4. We didn't know the early church had named the Samaritan woman; we gave her our own name: Evangelina, the first to evangelize a community.

    Photini/Evangelina gets my vote for this and many other reasons why I resonate with her story.

    1. What a moving experience. You are a true pilgrim. I'm thinking about that untreated well water, though, after our second-century physician yesterday. Giardia, e-coli come to mind; that would be a "moving" experience indeed. But perhaps well water is purer than I know.

        1. Maybe it gets tested; it certainly tasted clean, cold, and refreshing, and none of our group got sick. One thing that helps protect it is that now, like so many important Holy Land sites that were originally outdoors, the well is protected inside a church. So it is hard to envision the setting that is evoked in the Bible - same with other places, like Calgary/Golgotha, now inside a cathedral.

    2. This is why I also voted for Photini. I don't really care about her history as written by the early church, though it is good to find out more, but her gospel evangelizing always inspires me.

  12. The daily bios of madness contestants are extraordinarily well written, with grace, and the hand of the Holy Spirit. A lot of punch and vigor in a short space. As a licensed lay preacher in the Diocese of Texas, I appreciate them on many levels. Today's bios grab me especially. Thanks!!

    1. Photini represents Modern Greek pronunciation of a long eta, Photina the Ancient Greek pronunciation of the same letter, which was carried over into Latin borrowingsfrom Greek. So you’re right: what we see in the case of Photini/Photina is a Catholic/Orthodox division. There’s two Irene’s (pronounced with three syllables) in my family tree, while my Romanian friend Irina has the same name!

  13. Today there’s Ananias, whom we all know
    Without him, where would the early church go?
    But Photini, finally given name
    Took on fiery Nero in early game.
    I discern: Saints obeying Gods hard call make the Church grow.

  14. I found this one particularly difficult. Both of these saints give us important lessons to follow: trust in God and get out of your comfort zone. Trust in God and discover the fullness of life and the courage to stand up to bullying authority.

  15. Much as I admire Ananias for his bravery and willingness to have his mind changed by God, the story of Photini has always been one of my favorites. I find her courage and intelligence inspiring, and the immediate impact of her faith as a female evangelist wins my vote.

  16. Oh my Lord. Could Lent Madness be any more predictable and easy? Let’s see we have an artist rendering of a white man vs. a woman. Who will win in the ongoing progressivenes that lives joyfully in the game? Even without reading the bios - I voted for she who will win. Too easy.

  17. Ananias. I'll keep his example in mind when it comes time to pray, during the Prayers of the People, for those for whom I did not vote.

  18. Had to go with Photini, whose conversation with Jesus is one of the most beautiful and, yes, enlightening passages in the NT.

  19. I had some Photini last night with a tangy marinara sauce - exquisite.
    Moreover, this: "Today’s church would not exist in its current form without Paul." 'Nuff said. Vote goes to Photini.

  20. "Jesus gave her water, he gave that woman water, gave her livin', lovin,, lastin' water. and it was not in the well."

  21. I am glad that Photini is in the lead because she deserves more recognition than she has. However, I voted for Ananias because that story spoke to me today about how it's easy to write off people whose views and behaviour are reprehensible to us, but that, led by the prompting of the Spirit, it can still be fruitful to engage with them.

  22. This matchup reminds me of how Jesus was constantly challenging the walls separating us from each other and from God, and then commanding his followers to do the same. It's easy to be judgmental about other people being judgmental, but how many of us would call a bully, "Brother," and treat him with compassion? Or take the time to really get to know someone whose reputation precedes them? Yes, I know there are some of you out there, and God bless you for that; but most of us still have boundaries between ourselves and some group of "them." Our Lord Jesus did not. Thanks be to God.

  23. I am missing the young man who used to be the first to vote each morning. Sadly, I cannot remember his name. I hope all is well and it's just that he has to catch the school bus early this year.

    Maybe Photini took the options for survival that were available to women of her day. She certainly did her best for Christ.

    1. Are you thinking of Oliver? He posted a couple days at the beginning, but then--radio silence. Too bad...

  24. I liked Photini's courage in converting Nero's daughter. That had to take some time, and after seeing Nero's lifestyle she must have felt very compelled to save the young girl's life (soul). Photini had turned her life around after meeting Jesus and spreading his word, so she kept passing it on. Courage in our belief, Photini is a reminder.

  25. This one is very tough.
    Ananias is an example of doing God's call with whatever fear you have can make a huge difference in the full picture of belief. I also have not been a fan of Paul's but Ananias is who we are asked to look at. Wish we had more about this incident effected his life and what he did with it.
    Photini is practicing the "golden rule" and just offering a drink when her whole life changes and she goes on to tell the story of Christ in many places impacting many people, she is graced to receive a miracle in the hand beating so she can reach Nero's daughter before she is thrown down a well where she does not lose her faith.
    So both played their roles God gave them but I must vote for Photini not because she is woman but she changed her life and dedicated it to faith and His work.