If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t always have a great relationship with St. Paul. I found—and sometimes still find— reading him a struggle. This is particularly as a woman. Not only are a lot of his texts are taken out of context and weaponized, but even the ones that haven’t been can still be difficult.
So many other people have written profoundly and at length about Mother Maria Skobtsova that I hesitate a little to write briefly about her here. But, as it's her feast day, I wanted to bring up an aspect of her life that might speak to you the way it did to me.
I haven't had a clear career arc. I grew up intending to be a writer, then through undergrad and beyond became a classicist, then a Modern Greek scholar, then a folklorist; taught in higher ed for a few short years, developed a freelance editing practice, spent a decade in corporate communications at massive financial services company--and now I'm one of the people behind Axia Women. Talk about zigzagging!
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ is Risen!
May 16 was the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women in most of our Eastern churches. The Myrrhbearing Women weren’t a thing in the Reform tradition I grew up in. I first met them in an icon in a monastery in northern Greece. In the icon, they looked like they knew what they were doing, a group of women carrying jars towards a sepulchre set in some rocks. It wasn’t until much later that I began to realize how impossible their task must have been and how terrifying it must have been to attempt it.
In her vivid description of the COVID pandemic’s brutal effects on the world’s people and societies, especially in India, her home, Arundhati Roy writes in "The pandemic is a portal": "Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next."
From Holy Week 2020.
When I wrote my thesis for my MDiv degree at St. Vladimir’s I chose Holy Friday Vespers: the development of a new service and icon in the 11th-12th – 13th centuries. At this time of distancing during the Corona virus pandemic, I don’t know whether our churches will be open again, and whether we will be able to attend that most beautiful of Passion Liturgies. So, I decided to revisit my thesis and write a condensed blog about it.
“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” John. (Luke 23: 46)
“Having said that he breathed his last.” A psalm again--Psalm 31:5--a cry reaching out to God from extreme pain and loss, ceding all will and power to God, “deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
The Psalm continues:
“My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; / my strength fails because of my affliction, / and my bones grow weak.
Who but God will bring release, comfort, salvation, relief? And these words come from deep within Jesus’s soul, from deep in his history, from ancient Scripture.