September 23: [Thecla of Iconium, Proto-Martyr Among Women, c. 70]

The Collect of the Day

Thecla of Iconium

God of liberating power, who called Thecla to proclaim the gospel and did not permit any obstacle or peril to inhibit her: Empower courageous evangelists among us, that men and women everywhere may know the freedom that you offer us in Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thecla of Iconium

God of liberating power, who didst call Thecla to proclaim the gospel and didst not permit any obstacle or peril to inhibit her: Empower courageous evangelists among us, that men and women everywhere may know the freedom that thou dost offer us in Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thecla, who according to tradition was a disciple of the apostle Paul, was one of the most popular female saints in the early church. Her story is told in the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla. According to this narrative, upon hearing Paul preach the gospel, Thecla abandoned her plans for marriage and followed Paul. Condemned to burn at the stake,her life was saved by a miraculous thunderstorm. As her adventures continued, she was thrown to the beasts in the local arena. There she was protected by a fierce lioness. Finally, thinking this was her last chance to be baptized, she threw herself into a pool of ravenous seals and baptized herself in the water, while the seals were struck dead by lightening. The governor then released her, and she went on to travel and preach the gospel.

Although the Acts of Paul and Thecla unabashedly incorporates many of the tropes and styles of ancient fiction, which makes it difficult to disentangle history from myth, Christians in late antiquity largely believed that there was indeed a historical Thecla behind all of the legends, and devotion to her was very widespread, especially among women. According to Tertullian (writing around the year 200), early Christian women appealed to Thecla’s example to defend women’s freedom to teach and to baptize.

A shrine to Thecla in Seleucia (Asia Minor) became a popular pilgrimage site in the fourth and fifth centuries. Devotion to Thecla from Gaul to Palestine is also evident in literature, art, and in the practice of naming children after her. Her image appeared on wall paintings, clay flasks, oil lamps, stone reliefs, textile curtains, and other materials.

In the Orthodox Church she is given the title “Proto-Martyr Among Women” because, just as Stephen is believed to have been the first male martyr, so Thecla is believed to have been the first female martyr.

Lessons and Psalm

First Lesson



33Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, *and I shall keep it to the end.

34Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *I shall keep it with all my heart.

35Make me go in the path of your commandments, *for that is my desire.

36Incline my heart to your decrees *and not to unjust gain.

37Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *give me life in your ways.

38Fulfill your promise to your servant, *which you make to those who fear you.

39Turn away the reproach which I dread, *because your judgments are good.

40Behold, I long for your commandments; *in your righteousness preserve my life.



Judges 4:16–24

16 while Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-ha-goiim. All the army of Sisera fell by the sword; no one was left. 17 Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19 Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. 20 He said to her, “Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’” 21 But Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground—he was lying fast asleep from weariness—and he died. 22 Then, as Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went into her tent; and there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent peg in his temple. 23 So on that day God subdued King Jabin of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 Then the hand of the Israelites bore harder and harder on King Jabin of Canaan, until they destroyed King Jabin of Canaan.

Luke 24:1–11

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.