Amma Syncletica by all accounts was a knock out as a young lady. She was also rich. And popular in the cosmopolitan town of Alexandria where she was from. She could have been a well- known socialite with dark eyes and long raven hair, sort of like Kim Kardashian. But after her parents died and she became the manager of their estate, she took her younger sister under her wing and did the unthinkable–she gave all that money away to the poor and quit the city for the country where she retreated into a hole in the ground. And she retreated quietly without letting anyone know her whereabouts and her crypt was a secret.
But the grace of God reveals itself where it will and with time she developed a following. Young women with the fervor of love for God gathered around her to listen to her wisdom and soon she established a small community of disciples around her.
Her words are recorded along with those of the Desert Fathers in the 3rd and 4th century which influenced so much of Orthodox tradition both in the East and West.
Here is a random treasury of her sayings:
“In the beginning there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it is smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.
“Those who put out to sea at first sailed with a favourable wind; then the sails spread, but later the wind becomes adverse. Then the ship is tossed by the waves and is no longer controlled by the rudder. But when in a little while there is calm, and the tempest dies down, then the ship sails on again. So it is with us, when we are driven by the spirits who are against us; we hold to the cross as our sail and so we can set a safe course.
” There is an asceticism which is determined by the enemy and his disciples practise it. So how are we to distinguish between the divine and royal asceticism and the demonic tyranny? Clearly through its quality of balance.”
#35 “[To] those who live without possessions [the Enemy] lacks the means to do harm, since the majority of our griefs and trials originate in the removal of possessions. Can he burn their estates… lay hands on their dear ones? To these too they long ago said good-bye.”
#36 “[Vices] bring about their own destruction out of their very nature. For in bringing evil that is insatiable… their wound is incurable. The one who has nothing desires little, and on acquiring this little reaches for more. One has a hundred gold coins and longs for a thousand, and after acquiring these raises his sights, ad infinitum… Unable to establish their limit, they constantly lament their poverty.”
#37 “It would be a great advantage if, in our search for genuine wealth, we could endure as many tribulations as those hopelessly damaging ones that ‘hunters’ of empty worldliness encounter… But if ever we… do experience some little gain, we puff ourselves up, pointing it out to the people… In addition, we fail to include in our account what really happened. Those people… keep going after more; they count as nothing what they already have… Even though we possess nothing of what was being sought, we call ourselves rich.”
#39 “If praise removes the vigor of the soul, then assuredly, censure and insult lead the soul to heights of virtue.”
#41 “We should not think that anyone in life is free from care… Every sprig of virtue grows straight as a result of pains… [in secular life] When they are not honored, they are sad; when they yearn for what belongs to another, they pine away; when they are poor, they feel distressed; when they are rich, they become obsessed; unable to sleep for watching over their possessions.”
#42 “Let us [hermit] women not be misled… Perhaps in comparison [those in the world] struggle more than we do. For towards women generally there is great hostility in the world… Let us not be deluded… that their life is easy and carefree.”
She went to her rest at the age of 80 in 350 AD.