This chapter explores the 6th-century story of Maria of Amida from the Syriac writer John of Ephesus. Maria's lifestyle was ruled by two very different models of social action: her mother, Euphemia, a flamboyant social activist in providing charity and food to street beggars and homeless monks; and her aunt, a wandering ascetic who sought to remain anonymous even as she survived by begging. Raised protectively by her mother, Maria grew up in an era of acute social tension in the church and eventually faced the need to choose which model she would follow. By tracing Maria's story, this chapter explores various options for Christian social action or “sharing the world,” their precedent in early Christian history, their relevance for today, and the tension of making such choices, particularly during periods of social crisis.
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