Being a practicing Christian all my life and dedicated to the practice of painting (writing) icons. One cannot help but make some startling observations and deductions. I would like to share some of the conclusions I have made while reading Biblical text, participating in liturgy, and praying with as well as painting icons.
Let me begin with a the misunderstood Adam and Eve story: it is interpreted too often with Eve as being created second to Adam and responsible for original sin, which
of course became all women’s greatest sin, causing men to think women are responsible somehow for the why of men’s temptation. How do you go from eating fruit to sexual sin? How is it that for generations women hold the fault, not the men for acting on the “sin”. In 1 Corinthians 14:34 : “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…”, the new testament continues with verses that ultimately prohibit them from serving in positions of authority, the like of which has effected every women’s place in society. In actuality, beginning as early as the fourth century the dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to thwart the ascendant positions for women within the religious hierarchy and in christian societies in general.
Miller Art and Icon
The underlying teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, – all call for the proper and equitable treatment of God’s children. I have always known in my heart and soul, women are not inferior to men; without a doubt, God loves humanity equally. Tragically, as an iconographer of 25 years, self taught and inspired, I have not had to look far to see that in this great tradition that I so love, the place of women in the iconographers community or in the images depicted, have been noticeably absent until recently; those Women in Christian Sacred Images.
Now ironically, women may be holding the means to this great sacred art forms survival. Those who are graced with the desire to paint sacred text, have an obligation as prayer practitioners to re-examine how or why Women are not mentioned in the great feast days like Pentecost, The Last Supper, or The Baptism of Christ, etc. It is not God’s commandment that they are not heard of in text or seen in sacred image. When you stand before an icon for any amount of time you cannot help but see first the beauty they have as a work of art. A well done icon is a powerful tool and often provokes insights and visions. This interior conflict for women because of our absence within the fullness of societies and the church is a worthy discussion we all need to engage in. Unfortunately we live in an age of great bigotry, self righteousness and personalized isolation. Including more women in Icons stimulates new perspectives on a theological issue which are still in their infancy. When the feminine voice and new icon images are ushered into today’s church community, the addition will benefit us all.
Some might ask, why care about this. If you are an iconographer you are supposed to transcribe the Bible word for word and uphold the theological doctrines which the church maintains. The problem for me is my thinking mind. The Virgin Mother Mary being portrayed as the perfected obedient servant and silent mother has been a hindrance to the development of women, their activities and their voice in the Christian church institution.
I am asking for a simple review to re evaluate what we all are beginning to see as misguided behavior of the past. The attitudes of those in authority must change if we are to going to have a thriving church in the future. Inquisitive women like myself have always been around Christ listening to His message, they were there cooking and cleaning at the Last Supper, at the wedding at Canon and when He fed the five thousand. When Christ invited the children, you can be sure the mothers were there, too. These women were imbued with unrecognized human qualities: those who speak and those who contemplate, those who teach and those who administer and, finally, those who are mystics with their wisdom, living and walking among us. If we believe that God’s boundless presence is reflected through sacred text and in iconographic image, then the New Eve can and should live in communion with the New Adam to offset the gender imbalance in science, art, government, religion and all other facets of life.
World leaders have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.” It is time for the church “fathers” to draft a similar statement.
While I am painting new images of women in iconography, I am also challenging all denominations within the Christian church to re-frame parts of Holy Scriptures which have justified the superiority of men over women. We are told we are One body in God, called to be One mind in Christ. Let us live into that reality where Christian women will served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, mystics, healers, teachers and prophets, etc. through image and word. ” More of my images San Miguel Icons
I welcome any and all comments. Creating Sacred Images is a strong and powerful practice, image builds our relationship with God and gives us new tools to explore liturgy. May we all keep this in prayer form and practice alive for God to guide to Iconographers, women and men, to create the Holy images for our time and culture today; look for new Women in Christian Sacred Images
May God bless you and keep you, and may His wisdom fill all that you think, say and do.