We walk in the company of the women who have gone before, mothers of the faith both named and unnamed, testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.
They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, poets, lovers, and saints who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.
We walk in the company of Deborah,who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.
Have you heard of St. Kassia the Hymnographer?* I first became acquainted with her as a young child during Holy Week, when I heard the Hymn of Kassia (“The woman who had fallen into many sins, O Lord…”). Later, I saw her icon hanging behind the kliros next to that of St. Romanos the Melodist, but it was years before I knew more about her life. In the amazing book Seven Holy Women, I read of a remarkable woman who showed true boldness and brilliance. I will relay one of the stories in that book for you here:
On Sunday August 21, Axia gathered a panel of four amazing Orthodox women academicians to talk through “How to be a Church Scholar.” Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey (Brown University), Dr. Nadieszda Kizenko (State University of New York at Albany), Dr. Mary K. Farag (Princeton Theological Seminary), and Dr. Ashley Purpura (Purdue University) came together to discuss questions that engaged them as scholars, Orthodox women, and teachers.
Axia Women is delighted to announce that Mary K. Farag has agreed to join our Advisory Board. Dr. Farag is a historian of Christianity in late antiquity. She serves as Assistant Professor of Early Christian Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she teaches courses on practices of mercy in the early church, the making of churches in late antiquity, the first 1400 years of church history, and others. Her book, What Makes a Church Sacred? Legal and Ritual Perspectives from Late Antiquity, was published last year by the University of California Press. In general, her research focuses on Christian liturgical practices in late antiquity and their role in the wider Greco-Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic worlds.
I came to know Matushka Anne Hopko during a brief but developmentally important span of time when I was a student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, now exactly two decades ago. She was arguably OCA royalty by virtue of being Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s daughter and Fr. Tom Hopko’s wife, and I think everyone shared an unspoken awareness and esteem for her presence on campus—a reality that she bore gracefully, but without any capitulation to vanity or sentimentality.
Just in time for the new academic year, top scholars--Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey (Brown University), Dr. Nadia Kizenko (State University of New York at Albany), Dr. Ashley Purpura (Purdue University), Dr. Mary Farag (Princeton Theological Seminary), and Rachel Contos (Fordham University)-- will gather to talk about Orthodox scholarship in the academy and how they practice it. This is a rare chance to see women scholars of this caliber in conversation with one another--don't miss it!
Did you know that the woman at the well, also known as the Samaritan woman, has a name? I was surprised to learn that in Eastern Orthodox hagiography, she was baptized by the apostles with the name Photini, Greek for “luminous one” or “she who is filled with light.” This name is often translated as Svetlana (Slavic), Fatima (Arabic), Fiona (Celtic), or Claire (European). It was a thrill for me to discover that Photini was such an influential figure in the early church. In fact, she is so highly revered that she is said to be “equal to the apostles” in her liturgical rank, a venerable title given to saints whose public witness is comparable to the ministry of Christ’s original disciples.