The Maronite monastic tradition involved women as well as men.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus wrote a book on the Monks of Syria and included in it is the biography of Saint Maroun. He also writes about these two women and speaks highly of them and the monastic life they lived.
“After recording the way of life of the heroic men, I think it useful to treat also of women who have contended no less if not more; for they are worthy of still greater praise.”
Marana and Cyra were from Beroea, (modern day Aleppo in Syria). They were both from noble rich families families. They decided to renounce their riches and acquire an area of land which they closed themsleves in from the rest of the town. They lived within that enclosure in the open air. There maidservants were also inspired to join them in their monastic life and they built for their maidservants a small dwelling outside their own enclosure. They encouraged the other women to prayer and communicated with them to guide through a small window they had built in the wall of the enclosure. In effect they started a small monastic community. Through the small window they were able to receive the food that they needed and to speak to women who came to see them.
The two women embraced the quiet life, and only Marana would speak to visitors. Theodoret visited them and recalls that Marana and Cyra both wore cloaks covering their entire body including their face, neck, chest and hands, and also wore heavy iron. The iron was so heavy that Cyra would bend down to the ground and was unable to stand upright.
This Lent let us be inspired by these women, who secluded themselves from society in order to strengthen their spirituality and prayer life. They endured suffering to bring themselves closer to Christ’s suffering. The two women were known to fast for forty days. During this Lent let us review our own lives and detach ourselves from all that is causing us to sin. Let us discern what is not nourishing our body or soul and strive to fast from it. After lent is over let us not return to overindulging but rather continue to only nourish our body and soul with what it needs.
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