Home > Worship Resources > Festivals & Commemorations > Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe; Helpers of the Apostles (January 27)

About the Commemoration

On the day following the commemoration of Timothy, Titus, and Silas, the Lutheran Book of Worship introduced a commemoration of three women who were helpers of the apostles.

Lydia was Paul’s first convert in Europe. He met her, a woman from Thyatira in Asia Minor (it was a Lydian city; her name may originally have been an adjective), at Philippi. She is described in Acts 16:11-40. St. Paul does not refer to her in his writings. She sold purple-dyed goods, an occupation that required considerable capital; she was therefore probably well-to-do. (Both Philippi and Thyatira were famous for their dyeing.) After her baptism she invited Paul and his companions to stay in her house, which relieved Paul of the necessity of earning his support, as was his custom elsewhere. St. Paul had a special love for the church at Philippi as shown in his letter to that church: Lydia’s help was doubtless a cause of this special relationship.

Dorcas or Tabitha (the name means “gazelle” and was a favorite name among both Greeks and Jews) was a Christian woman from Joppa, a friend and helper of the poor. When she died, Peter restored her to life (Acts 9:36-43), the first such miracle by an apostle. The miracle won many believers for the church. Dorcas is called a “disciple” in a feminine form of the word that in the New Testament is applied only to her. The Dorcas Societies of churchwomen devoted to good works are named for her.

Phoebe (her name means “bright” or “radiant”) was a deacon at the church in Cenchreae, the east seaport of Corinth. …Phoebe, by her work and her service, became the inspiration for the more regular order of [female deacons] that was to emerge in the Church in the third and fourth centuries. In Romans 16:1-2 Paul commends her to the Roman Church upon her move there, and this fact that she was free to travel suggests that she was perhaps a widow. Her specific service that earned her the title of “helper” or “deacon” was perhaps her willingness to stand by foreigners in their uncertainties.

The Eastern Church commemorates Blessed Tabitha on October 25, and the Lutheran Service Book (2006) remembers these three women on that date.

Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.

See also: Lydia of Thyatira; Dorcas; Phoebe


From Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill

There are two sides to every vocation: unconditional giving of self to the call of God—“Here I am, send me!”—and the gift of power which rewards the total gift of self to God. In Christ’s life we see these two movements in perfect balance. How humbly he submitted to the Will of the Father, totally absorbed in His business, and to the tests, pressure, suffering that came through circumstances; and yet how, though never in His own interest and never apart from His love and pity for man, there is always the Power to intervene, save, mould, defeat opposition, transform even the humble accidents of life. In all men and women of prayer deeply united to God that double state exists too. That handing of self over and the mysterious power that somehow acts through self in consequence—the right word said, the right prayer prayed. But only in proportion to the self-effacement. The power of course is God’s, not ours. One hears people say, “He (or she) is simply wonderful!” Not at all! He or she is the self-emptied channel of the only Wonderful—the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. When we give ourselves to Him without reserve we become points of insertion for the rescuing spirit of Love. We are woven into the Redeeming Body so that we may provide more and more channels for God.

Evelyn Underhill, The Light of Christ (London: Longmans, 1945), 74-75, 91-92, 64, 27-28, 28-29, 82-83. Reprinted by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.


Almighty God, you inspired your servants Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe to support and sustain your church by their deeds of generous love: Open our hearts to hear you, conform our will to love you, and strengthen our hands to serve you; for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

PHP, after James E. Kiefer

Readings: Ecclesiasticus 2:7-11; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 25:1-13

Hymn of the Day:Lord, speak to us that we may speak” (LBW 403, ELW 676)

Prayers: For the poor; For foreigners in a strange land; For female deacons; For all who assist in the proclamation of the word of God.

Preface: All Saints

Color: White