St. Pelagia the Penitent


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Commemorated on October 8

St. Pelagia the Penitent was converted to Christianity by St. Nonnus, Bishop of Edessa. Before her acceptance of Christianity through Baptism, Pelagia was head of a dance troupe in Antioch, living a life of frivolity and prostitution.

One day while Pelagia was elegantly dressed, she made her way past a church where St. Nonnus was preaching. Believers turned their faces away from her, but the Bishop glanced after Pelagia. Struck by her beauty, St. Nonnus prayed in his cell at length to the Lord for the sinner. He told his fellow bishops that the prostitute put them all to shame, explaining that she took great care to adorn her body in order to appear beautiful in the eyes of men. “We... take no thought for the adornment of our wretched souls,” he said.

On the following day, while St. Nonnus was teaching in the church about the dread Last Judgment and its consequences, Pelagia appeared again. His teaching made a tremendous impression upon her. With the fear of God and weeping tears of repentance, she asked St. Nonnus to baptize her. Seeing her sincere and full repentance, Bishop Nonnus did so. After her conversion, the devil began to appear to Pelagia, urging her to return to her former life. But she prayed, made the Sign of the Cross, and the devil vanished.

Three days after her baptism, Pelagia gathered up her valuables and took them to Bishop Nonnus. The bishop ordered that they be distributed among the poor saying, “Let this be wisely dispersed, so that these riches gained by sin may become a wealth of righteousness.” After this, St. Pelagia journeyed to Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. She lived there in a cell, disguised as the monk Pelagius, living in ascetic seclusion, and attaining great spiritual gifts. When she died, she was buried in her cell.

Troparion (Tone 8) –

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother,

for you took up the Cross and followed Christ.

By so doing you taught us to disregard the flesh for it passes away.

but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.

Therefore your spirit, venerable Pelagía, rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion (Tone 2) –

You wore out your body through fasting, vigils, and prayer

beseeching the Creator to completely forgive your deeds.

You achieved this, holy Mother Pelagía,

thereby showing us the way to repentance.

By permission of Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)