The Many Sins of Women
The next woman is a Saint. She is recognized by numerous religions for her contributions. She is Kassia/ Kassiani. Kassiani’s hymn is sung every Holy Week (the last week of lent,) specifically on Holy Wednesday.
Kassiani was born between 805-810 in Constantinople (Current day Istanbul.) Kassiani was from a noble family and was well-educated, receiving praise for her level of knowledge from Theodore the Studite(one of the most important theologians of the time). At this time in history, Kassiani was among only two women who could read and write their names. Not only was Kassiani one of the two educated women of the time, but she was also considered beautiful and was selected for a bride show for Emperor Theophilos. Once selected by Emperor Theophilos to be his bride, she rejected Theophilos.
After rejecting Theophilos, Kassiani became a nun, a poet, and a composer. Her hymn and poetry are the only ones written by a woman in official church service books for worship. She founded a convent and became an abbess (head of nuns in the convent.)
In the 9th century, Constantinople was entrenched in the debate over religious imagery. Kassiani was a staunch defender of religious imagery being used in church services. She worked to free disciples who were imprisoned by authorities for defending imagery worship.
Later in her life, Emperor Theophilos wished to see her one last time before his death. Kassiani had dedicated her life to God. She hid once Theophilos arrived, wishing not to see him. Theophilos discovered the hymn being written and wrote “those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise and hid herself for fear.” Once Theophilos left, Kassiani completed the hymn with Theophilos’s line included, producing “The Hymn of the Sinful Woman.”
Kassiani was an early woman who broke through the mold of what women had to be. Her level of education, her rejection of an emperor, and her dedication to God. If there was one thing to remember and take from Saint Kassiani is her verse “I hate silence when it is time to speak.”