When I was an art student back in the early 1980s, in my naivete I was surprised to suddenly find myself disillusioned with the rising tide of post-modernism. Many of the ideas and aesthetics floating around my college campus seemed fragmented, soulless, empty, and left me feeling bewildered. Surely school was meant be a laboratory of sorts where experimentation is welcomed and new forms and expressions can flourish. But I felt an inner crisis of calling, where my sensibilities and yearning to be an artist were at odds with the prevailing trends.
She looked up at me with bewildered, lost blue eyes. All I could do was stare back at her, dumbfounded. It was 7 AM in NYC’s Penn Station and I was watching an older woman drag herself on her knees around a trash can, barefoot, with sores climbing up her feet.
When I moved to NYC, what struck my heart the most was seeing the rich and the poor share the same seats on the subway. I could not--and still struggle to reconcile--walking past people on the street in need every day.
I have always seen icons of Mary, the Mother of God, holding the baby Jesus when I enter a church. But becoming a mother myself and bringing my children to various churches has changed the way I experience the icon. It made me wonder how the Theotokos and Jesus be received in those churches. (Sure, baby Jesus and Mary would have gone to a temple, but is your place of worship warm and welcoming to a mother like her with children?) Would she have a place to lay Jesus' head down? Would she have a place to change his diaper? Would there be a place to nurse baby Jesus? Would you glare at the Theotokos if baby Jesus cries or makes noise? Is your church clean enough that baby Jesus could crawl on the floor?
Editor’s note: Today’s blog entry is from a friend who is baring her heartfelt struggles with prayer. We’re presenting her piece because we know that almost everyone has gone through rocky periods in their relationship with God. Or if you haven’t yet, you might some day.
We are instructed to pray daily, preferably morning and evening--and all the time, if possible. I was born into an Orthodox family and was baptized as an infant. I am a lifelong churchgoer and graduated with a master’s degree from a seminary. And yet I have always had a hard time with this practice. I find taking even 5 to 15 minutes of formal prayer terribly difficult. Almost insurmountable.
With the appearance of Axia Women on the US Orthodox scene, it’s a good moment to consider the distinctive ways our Lord interacted with the women he encountered in his ministry. He treated them in ways that often surprised and confused his contemporaries, He scandalized society by associating with women of loose morals and defending an adulterous woman. He recognized and redirected the strength of their passions towards love for God (think of the woman he praises for having “loved much”). Instead of bowing to cultural expectations, he declined invitations by the men around him to judge those women--and redirected the men’s judgment onto themselves.
This is not the only place on this site you will see an icon of the Myrrhbearers. Here’s why.
They came because they knew they had to.
They came even though they were afraid.
They came as a group.
They came giving each other courage, and hope, and fortitude.
They came because they knew somebody had to do something.
They came because they loved Christ.
They came even though he had been disgraced in the eyes of the Romans, the Jews, the whole world.
They came even though they had no idea what they’d do when they got there.
They came even though they didn’t know how they would push aside the heavy stone blocking the tomb.
The name Axia evolved through years of conversations that we’ve been having around the kitchen table of Patricia Bouteneff, our president. Patricia and I get together frequently for what I call “baking extravaganza weekends”. While mixing and sifting and letting things rise, we talk about life, work, and church–especially church.
In late 2018, we were tossing around flour AND names for the group, when the idea for an Orthodox women’s network was far advance. I realized that Orthodox Women’s Network wouldn’t work: it has the same acronym as Oprah’s television network (OWN) (and we didn’t want to take on Oprah!). The acronyms for Network of Orthodox Women (NOW) nor Women’s Orthodox Network (WON) were also taken.