On this day: St. Lydia

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Lydia, who is mentioned in verses 14, 15, and 40 of Chapter 16 of the Acts of the Apostles.

Paul and Timothy were in Macedonia's chief city, Philippi: "And upon the sabbath day, we went forth without the gate by a river side, where it seemed that there was prayer; and sitting down, we spoke to the women that were assembled. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, did hear: whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."

Was Lydia the first European Christian?

When she opened her house to Paul and Timothy, what did she feed them?

"The meal served would have been tailored to reflect the honor of the guest, while bringing praise and honor to the host. It would certainly have included leafy vegetables and bread, along with garum (the ubiquitous highly salted fish sauce of the Roman diet), and perhaps fish or meat if Paul was considered a particularly honored guest. The food would have been accompanied by wine, diluted appropriately with water. The cook might have been cautioned against preparing stuffed dormice--a frequent delicacy--since the most common stuffing involved pork. The final course would have involved dried and fresh fruits and perhaps some pastries."

--Lydia: Paul's Cosmopolitan Hostess, by Richard S. Ascough, Liturgical Press, 2009, pages 49-50.

Ascough describes in detail the world in which Lydia Purpuraria lived and the economy in which she worked. "Purple had a number of uses in Roman antiquity, but was primarily used by the elite of society. It was sometimes applied to a woman's cheeks or lips as a cosmetic, but by far the most important use of purple was in the clothes of the upper ranks. The toga, which only Roman citizens were allowed to wear, was given a purple border as a mark of distinction." Page 77.

Click here for the Wikipedia article on Tyrian purple, with an illustration of the shade.

To see a picture of a St. Lydia Purpuraria doll, click here. It sold on http://www.etsy.com/listing/69564339/lydia-purpuraria-patron-saint-of-dyers>etsy in April.

To see a demonstration of how to prepare Scungilli Fra Diavlo, a dish made of the mollusk from which Tyrian purple dye is obtained, click here.

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