Dorcas

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For other uses, see Dorcas (disambiguation).
Section of Healing of the Cripple and Raising of Tabitha by Masolino da Panicale, 1425.

Dorcas (Greek, Tabitha in Aramaic) was a disciple who lived in Joppa, referenced in the Book of Acts (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[edit]

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] These three faithful women are commemorated in the Lutheran church on October 25.[7][8] Dorcas (under the name St Tabitha) is commemorated by the Catholic Church on October 25,[9] and by the Eastern Church on the same date.[7] Dorcas societies, which provide clothing to the poor, are named after her.[5]

Basil of Caesarea refers to Dorcas as an example in his Morals (rule 74): "That a widow who enjoys sufficiently robust health should spend her life in works of zeal and solicitude, keeping in mind the words of the Apostle and the example of Dorcas."[10] Dorcas is also commemorated in poems by Robert Herrick ("The Widows' Tears: Or, Dirge of Dorcas") and George MacDonald ("Dorcas").

In Art[edit]

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[edit]

  1. ^ a b Syswerda, Jean E. (2002). Women of the Bible : 52 Bible studies for individuals and groups. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. p. 214. ISBN 0310244927. 
  2. ^ Bock, Darrell L. (2007). Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Books. p. 378. ISBN 1441200266. 
  3. ^ Gangel, Kenneth O. (1998). Holman New Testament Commentary - Acts. B&H Publishing Group. p. 146. ISBN 0805402055. 
  4. ^ a b c Witherington, Ben (1998). The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 331–332. ISBN 0802845010. 
  5. ^ a b c Lockyer, Herbert (1967). All the women of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. pp. 46–48. ISBN 0310281512. 
  6. ^ Hildyard, Anne [ed.] (2001). Endangered wildlife and plants of the world. New York [u.a.]: Marshall Cavendish. p. 606. ISBN 0761471944. 
  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. ISBN 9780800621285. 
  8. ^ Kinnaman, Scot A. (2010). Lutheranism 101. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. p. 278. ISBN 9780758625052. 
  9. ^ Sheehan, Thomas W. (2001). Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. p. 268. ISBN 0879735392. 
  10. ^ Basil, Saint (1999). Ascetical Works. CUA Press. p. 191. ISBN 0813211093. 
  11. ^ Ross, Leslie (1996). Medieval Art: A Topical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 239. ISBN 0313293295. 
  12. ^ Earls, Irene (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary. ABC-CLIO. p. 226. ISBN 0313293295. 
  13. ^ "Grace & Holy Trinity Church: The Dorcas Window". Retrieved 2013-10-27.