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Saint Anastasia the Patrician

Saint Anastasia was a lady-in-waiting at the Byzantine court under Emperor Justinian the Great and Empress Theodora. When the empress began to become jealous of her influence at court and natural beauty, Saint Anastasia fled to Alexandria. She arrived a smaller town near Alexandria named Pempton and founded a monastery. To support herself and the monastery financially, she wove fine cloth.

After the death of Empress Theodora in 548, Emperor Justinian and the court tried to have her return to Constantinople. Not wanting to abandon her religious life to return to the court, she instead went to the monastery at Scetis for safety (one of the three early Christian monastic centers in the Nitrian Desert of Egypt. In modern Egyptian the area is now known as Wadi El Natrun). She sought out the help of Abba Daniel and he allowed her to move into a monastery cell 18 miles away and to dress as a male monk as a hermit. This was a major departure at the time as only male hermits had been permitted. For the next 28 years she lived alone in the desert, visited only by Abba Daniel or another monk once a week for water.

As she neared death, Saint Anastasia left several letters written onto pieces of broken pottery and left them at the entrance to her cave. When the monk visited with water, he read one of them that simply stated:

Bring the spades and come here

The monk hurried back and Abba Daniel understood the message to mean that her death was approaching. He and another monk returned at once to give her communion and hear her final confession. As they chatted, Saint Anastasia died. Her feast day is celebrated in the Catholic, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern churches on March 10th and 26 Tobi in the Coptic Christian church.

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