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Dorcas

Section of Healing of the Cripple and Raising of Tabitha by Masolino da Panicale, 1425.

Dorcas (Greek: Δορκάδα/Δορκάς, Dorkáda/Dorkás; Aramaic: טביתאṬabītā) was a disciple who lived in Joppa, referenced in the Acts of the Apostles ( 9:36–42) in the New Testament.[1]

Acts recounts that when she died, she was mourned by "all the widows ... crying and showing (Peter) the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them" (Acts 9:39).[1] The Greek construct used in this passage indicates that the widows were the recipients of Dorcas' charity,[2] but she may also have been a widow herself.[3] It is likely that she was a woman of some means, given her ability to help the poor.[4] The disciples present called upon Saint Peter, who came from nearby Lydda to the place where her body was being laid out for burial, and raised her from the dead.[4]

This narrative concerning Tabitha/Dorcas indicates her prominence in the community at Joppa.[4][5] This might also be indicated by the fact that Peter took the trouble to come to her from a neighbouring city, when requested by the community members.

The name Dorcas is a Greek translation of the Aramaic name Tabitha, meaning "gazelle".[5] One species of gazelle is now known as the dorcas gazelle.[6]

In Christian tradition

Dorcas, along with Lydia of Thyatira and Phoebe, is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America on January 27.[7] The Evangelical Lutheran Church also places their joint commemoration on January 27, immediately after the male missionaries remembered after the feast of St. Paul's Conversion, but the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church commemorates these three faithful women on October 25.[7][8] The Catholic Church commemorates Dorcas (under the Aramaic version of her name, St Tabitha) on October 25,[9] the same date as the Eastern Church.[7] Dorcas societies, which provide clothing to the poor, are named after her.[5]

In Art

Dorcas Window St. Michael's Parish Church, Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire

Depictions of Dorcas in art can be found as early as the fourth century, and her raising is often included in Medieval and Renaissance illustrations of the life of Saint Peter.[11][12]

Dorcas' acts of charity are a common subject of stained glass church windows. Dorcas is represented in a window in the apse of Christ Church, Bath; in a window on the south side of St Peter's Church, Caversham; in a window in St. Andrew's Church, Cheddar; in the sacristy of Calvary Episcopal Church (Pittsburgh); in Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff; in St Leonard's Church, Bridgnorth; in a window in Castleton Parish Church, Derbyshire; in a window on the north side of St. Nicholas' church, Castle Hedingham, Essex; a window in the Ladychapel of St Michael's Church in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire; and in an oriel window at the Head Office of the Retail Trust in north London.

The Ladychapel of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin has a window of Dorcas with the legend: "Dorcas this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds". Christ Church, St. Joseph, Missouri, depicts her holding a blue cloth in a prominent nave window (1885) on the south side. Grace & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia has a Dorcas window made in Germany around 1890.[13]

Dorcas and Cornelius are represented on the stained glass windows above the altar in the Emmanuel Anglican Church in Lawson, New South Wales. In the church of St. Lawrence, Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire, she is depicted with St. Paul in a pair of stained glass windows dedicated to the memory of Edward Burdett Hawkshaw, the Rector from 1854-1912, and his wife Catherine (a photograph nearby in the church shows that his likeness is the face given to St. Paul, while Dorcas has the face of Mrs. Hawkshaw).

References

  1. ^ a b Syswerda, Jean E. (2002). Women of the Bible : 52 Bible studies for individuals and groups. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. p. 214.  
  2. ^ Bock, Darrell L. (2007). Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Books. p. 378.  
  3. ^ Gangel, Kenneth O. (1998). Holman New Testament Commentary - Acts. B&H Publishing Group. p. 146.  
  4. ^ a b c Witherington, Ben (1998). The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 331–332.  
  5. ^ a b c Lockyer, Herbert (1967). All the women of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. pp. 46–48.  
  6. ^ Hildyard, Anne [ed.] (2001). Endangered wildlife and plants of the world. New York [u.a.]: Marshall Cavendish. p. 606.  
  7. ^ a b c Pfatteicher, Philip H. (2008). The new book of festivals and commemorations : a proposed common calendar of saints. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p. 683.  
  8. ^ Kinnaman, Scot A. (2010). Lutheranism 101. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. p. 278.  
  9. ^ Sheehan, Thomas W. (2001). Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. p. 268.  
  10. ^ Basil, Saint (1999). Ascetical Works. CUA Press. p. 191.  
  11. ^ Ross, Leslie (1996). Medieval Art: A Topical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 239.  
  12. ^ Earls, Irene (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary. ABC-CLIO. p. 226.  
  13. ^ "Grace & Holy Trinity Church: The Dorcas Window". Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
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