There has been a lot going on in the past couple of weeks.
About being "pro-woman". About being "pro-choice". About being "pro-life".
Last night, the Orthodox world lost a very wise and loving woman who had a lot to say to women. She lectured tenderly, yet boldly, about motherhood and the participation all women have in creation...
"Carriers of life" she'd say.
"An upward ascent towards the Kingdom of God."
With your families and friends.
While finding joy, gratitude, and freedom in your vocation as Women of God.
Juliana Schmemann, wife of the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann (the prominent Orthodox theologian and past dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary), passed away peacefully last night at the age of 93.
I find it unspeakably touching that she died in her sleep the evening before her wedding anniversary.
Matushka Juliana was a working mother of three, grandmother of nine, great grandmother of 22, great-great grandmother of four, a lifelong educator in New York girls’ schools, and former headmistress of the Spence School.
Mat. Juliana and her husband had been dear friends of my parents. In the 1990's, I had the honor of hearing the ever-energetic Matushka speak to their parish women.
At the time, I was homeschooling our three children and experiencing the daily challenges that come not only with motherhood and the responsibility of educating my own children, but also with fatigue from various health issues.
Her words of encouragement gave me much hope, as I resolved to not "just cope", but to be with God, having gratitude and finding joy in my everyday living, throughout all the seasons of life.
If you never had the chance to hear Mat. Juliana give a lecture, I have some good things linked below - an interview and lecture, as well as two books authored by her.
My mother and my daughter were able to visit dear Mat. Juliana this past December. She was as always, joyful and attentive. They spent the morning remembering her husband, as well as my dad and my mother-in-law: those gone before.
I know she encouraged my mom and my daughter to keep marching. Towards the Kingdom! May her memory be eternal.
Matushka Juliana was interviewed in 1998 by her daughter for The St. Nina Quarterly. The article, "Joy, Gratitude, and Freedom" is still pertinent for what only seems today to be an even more challenging time for Christian women...
M.T.: Since the death of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, you have traveled extensively, addressing the concerns of Orthodox Christian women in this troubled secular world. What concerns have you encountered most often, and how did you attempt to address these concerns?
J.S.: Most of the time women wanted to know what should be their role in the Church. That question troubled me, since I think that playing a role is not a Christian way of looking at one's life. Did Mary think of her "role," her "rights," her "privileges"? Women are often quite confused about the way the Church views them. In fact, in the Church's tradition, beginning with the Virgin Mary, women have a unique and most beautiful place. There are the Myrrhbearers with their total dedication, love, and faithfulness; Martha and Mary who knew the one thing needed and chose it; the Samaritan woman who experienced the joy of faith at her encounter with Jesus. The Church is us - now. The ethos of the world changes, evolves, so do ways of dressing, appearances, but the total gift of self by women, as well as by men, is where it starts. Dedicating one's talents and faithful service to the Lord are the responsibility of all.
Whatever the needs of the Church are, or the demands of the job, or of the family, or of the parish, that is where the woman (as well as the man!) serves, in whatever capacity that she is called to serve. Since ordination [to the priesthood] is not an option, there are so many other ways to use one's talents, not by playing a role, but by being a role model, by giving oneself. What should be nurtured is the unique gift of womanhood, of a woman who follows Mary's living example. [source]
by Mat. Juliana Schmemann
My Journey with Father Alexander
The Joy to Serve
Below I've linked a wonderful talk, "On Motherhood" that Mat. Juliana gave in May 2014. She thoughtfully notes that motherhood is "not only a biological fact of life. It's a talent. In the Gospel sense of the word...to be given back to the creator." Motherhood is life giving - to an infant, godchild, friend...we are called to "exude life...an upward ascent to the Kingdom. The only goal...it's a continuous mission. A vocation of women."