This icon of Saint Olympias (feast day December 17th) which Penny, a former parish assistant at St Chrysostom’s, gave to church is on the north side of the aisle, opposite the icon of our patron, St John Chrysostom. (What does the scroll she is holding say? Find out here.)
Olympias was born about 361 into a wealthy family in Constantinople. She married a rich prefect but was widowed at an early age. She never re-married, choosing instead to live in community with other women. The community lived close to John Chrysostom’s Patriachal church in Constantinople. Under Olympias’ leadership the women dedicated themselves to hospitality, generosity to the poor, and care for the sick. She went on to extend her care for those on the margins by establishing an orphanage and a hospital.
Olympias was a firm supporter of John Chrysostom. When Chrysostom was sent into exile Olympias continued to stand up for him, and was herself sent into exile in 404 (for a note on that date relating to web pages see comments below!). In this exile she suffered depression and other illnesses, but was comforted by her correspondence with John Chrysostom. She died in exile, less than a year after the death of Chrysostom. (Feast day December 17th).
Faith and works should never be far apart. Olympias is a great inspiration for us all, and especially for us at St Chrysostom’s. She reminds us of the importance of hospitality and generosity, care for the marginalised and courage in the face of adversity.
St Olympias of Constantinople, as you were a friend to St John Chrysostom, so surround us
at St Chrysostom’s Church with your love and prayers.
(St Olympias is one of the 140 saints commemorated by statues on the colonnade of St Peter’s Basilica, Rome)