The Prayer of a 12 Year Old Girl defines Womanhood

If any angel appeared to 12 year old me to say: “You’re going to have a child”, I wouldn’t only freak out, I’ll probably faint!

That’s why humanity should thank God for his meticulous plan of salvation that He prepared for us ever since the Fall and maybe even before the foundation of the world. He carefully chose Anna and Joachim, He carefully selected St. Mary and successfully allowed us to be united with himself again after our separation. St. Nicholas Cabasilas says:

“The incarnation was not only the work of the Father, by His power and by His spirit, but it was also the work of the will and faith of the virgin. Without the consent of the Immaculate, without the agreement of her faith, the plan was as unrealizable as it would have been without the intervention of the three divine persons themselves. It was only after having instructed her and persuaded her that God took her for His Mother and borrowed from her the flesh that she so greatly wished to lend Him. Just as He became incarnate voluntarily, so He wished that His Mother should bear Him freely and with her full consent”

Although she is higher than the Cherubim, Seraphim and all the saints, most of her life is a mystery and there is no way for us to try and understand how this 12 year old girl felt. I can’t imagine how it was “raising” Jesus as a child. How did she feel breastfeeding the Son of God? What did she see and witness as His mother? Did she care for Him or did He care for her? I can think of million questions! You know the spin-the-bottle game where someone always asks: “If you could spend a day with anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be?” I would definitely love to spend a day with St. Mary just listening to her stories. I know that by just looking at her I would learn so much.

We get to know her a little though in the Bible. We see the power of her intercession during the wedding of Cana of Galilee. We see see how much God cared for her as Jesus, hardly breathing on the cross, makes sure that St. John takes her in. We can assume that she was around during the Lord’s ministry as people told him “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” (Matthew 12: 47). I actually always wondered how did she feel when he replied with “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?…Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12: 48-50). Did Jesus have to explain himself to her later or did she get her Son just by looking in His beautiful eyes? 

The one instance where we get a clearer glimpse of St. Mary’s life is when Archangel Gabriel brings her news about her pregnancy. Although her response is a few lines long in our Bibles, we can see the depth of her understanding and the hight of her trust in God. Her most famous words were uttered first : “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word...”. Then her prayer followed: 

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.He has put down the mighty from their thrones,And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:38, 46-55) 

 

First of all, she responds with great joy, fully understanding her lowly status and how God made her spirit rejoice. She explains that everyone is going to call her blessed which may be read as a prayer of arrogance but she clarifies in the next line. She will be blessed because of God’s great work for her, not because how worthy

she was to bear the Son of God. A 12 year old girl understood God’s sovereignty, exclaiming with joy that “He has shown strength with His arm” from generation to generation. This pre-teen understood the vanity of worldly thrones and riches and God’s mercy for the lowly and the hungry. This little yet very powerful prayer shows us how she understood the law and the doctrine in general. She knew of God’s mercy towards Israel and her father Abraham and his seed forever. We observe that she didn’t just dwell in the temple serving God but the temple dwelt in her. In her the one without beginning chose to begin.

Lastly, and most importantly, St. Mary is the Archetype of the feminine. Nowadays, the world treats men and women as equals abolishing all their differences and when Coptic (or Orthodox) girls go to church, we are only treated as women. It causes so much confusion! How can I be a godly women dwelling in the temple of the Lord and at the same time excel in the world of man? Reconciliation of my church-self and my world-self  seems impossible as each of these is traveling to opposite poles. Easier said than done but  Being a Godly woman can be summarized in a couple of sentences from Woman and the Salvation of the World written by Paul Evdokimov:

“The fact that a woman gave birth to God shows the power of every woman, when she is indeed a “new creation”, to bring forth God in devastated souls. Patristic thought returns to this constantly… For St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Christian life is the development of the child Jesus in the soul. For St. Maximus the Confessor, the mystic is one in whom the birth of the Lord is seen most clearly. “According to the flesh, there is one mother of Christ; but according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all of us,” St. Ambrose writes. Above all, woman posses this natural charism to bring forth Christ in the souls of human beings…. Salvation will come only from holiness; but, in the conditions of actual life, sanctity is more at home to woman. The Virgin “treasured up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51); every woman hold an innate intimacy, almost a complicity, with the tradition, with the continuity of life. In God, existence coincides with essence. In holiness, a woman is more apt to come close to this relationship of essence and existence through the power of humility, since “humility is the art of finding oneself exactly at one’s place”

So an advice from a coptic girl to all beautiful Orthodox ladies out there: tell God “Let your will be done” and bring Him forth into the world… or at least, fake it till you make it!

Pray for me,

Coptic Girl

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Is God Sexist?

V0014980 God creating Eve out of Adam. Line engraving.

How can the source of all love and mercy be sexist?!

Yet most girls in the Coptic Church are confused about their role in church, in society and on earth in general. From a very young age, I noticed that all services can go on in church without any woman present. I realized how useless we are in the services and I became very frustrated. Moving forward a couple of years, a question was asked in my Servants’ Prep. class about the role of women in the coptic church. I got excited and leaned in to listen to the answer that I have been waiting so long for. “They give birth, they give us congregation!”, the speaker said it with such ease almost adding a “duh” at the end and I was heart broken… This means that a woman who can’t give birth or chooses not to is not fulfilling the role given to her by God and is a waste of space. Also it seemed really unfair to me that our role depends on man. A woman can’t beget children alone, it takes two. A couple of years later, I attended a coptic wedding as an adult for the first time. I was excited because the role of both husband and wife should be perfectly laid out during the ceremony so I will finally have some answers to my question. As I listened in and followed on the screen, I became even more frustrated. The husband is advised to love his wife (which is amazing, what else do you really want in a marriage), but the wife is called to submit. I knew there was submission but I was hoping for more. They gave me nothing! It was never even mentioned to her that she should love her husband.

I then decided to take matters into my own hands. I started ordering books online and reading all the commentaries I could find on Genesis, the creation and the fall. I wanted to give orthodoxy another chance to explain itself. Some books made me despair and others gave me a little hope. This dilemma was very serious to me, I constantly cry about it in prayer and ask God to show me his purpose. Why did he create me a woman? What is so special about being a woman, if any at all? Why am I not a man? Why can’t I have the blessing on serving in the alter? Why am I a “helper” in the story, I want to be a main character!

I did indeed neglect my studies during that time, but I had to have answers. I didn’t want to go to my priest yet, because when these questions are raised, I am usually accused of pride. All I want though is to know, I don’t want to be a deacon, I just want to understand why I can’t be one. I don’t want my future husband to be my slave, I want him to be the priest of my home and lead me to heaven, I just want to understand why I am the one called to submit in the relationship.

First of all, “And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18). I realized that from the first few pages of the bible I am getting answers. Yes I am created to be a helper but I am also comparable to man. Knowing that I am equal or was created equal in the eyes of God have me great comfort. It was like taking a deep breathe after holding it for awhile. God can’t create inequalities since he is justice. Also “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). I am not only equal but I am just as much of His image as Adam. In this verse, there is a mathematical equality between the image of God and both male + female. Not only am I comparable to Adam, but most importantly, I am in the same image of God as he is. The irony here is that I went far and wide for answers and the first 2 chapters of the bible gave me more comfort than most of the books I read.

It was good for the first two chapters then the fall came. When Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she sinned and both herself and Adam lost their connection with God and got this corruptible and mortal nature of ours. God turned to Eve and said “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16). And… we’re back at square one. I then started asking is there indeed an inequality, not because God created it, just as He didn’t create sin or death, but as a consequence of the fall? 

Short story: NO! Male and Female are still equal in the eyes of God, but they are given different responsibilities. I struggled a lot with this concept, I didn’t know how one should be in charge of the other when the two are equal. Long story: I will write a different post(s?) about this shortly.

I am still trying to understand womanhood in Jesus and my role. I know that there must be perks to both sides which complement each other. We don’t have a lot of woman writing for women in our church but maybe, we should start because I am sure all the generations to come are going to have these questions in mind and we must be ready to answer them not silence them.

Pray for me,

Coptic Girl

 

 

I really should be Studying right now…

             Back in grade 12, when I had to decide where to go for university, I was facing the hardest decision I had to take in my life yet (I know might seem silly)!Stay home and commute for 2 hours one way to the closest university or move out and be on my own for the first time in my life. A lot of young people face the same dilemma but it’s a completely different story when you’re coptic. Moving out meant that I have to figure out a way to get to church every Sunday by myself. I have to remind myself to fast and stick to it, in a dinning hall where the only edible thing is a pepperoni Pizza. I’ll have to maintain my prayer and bible reading habits in an environment where barley anyone else does.

I prayed long and hard about it and finally  I decided to move out. First year: I was in an all girls dorm and I managed to make some friends. However no matter how a coptic person attempts to blend in an environment, we usually stick out. soon enough my friends started asking me about why I don’t do this or that. They also were confused about why I never come out of my room on Saturday nights (I usually would sing Tasbeha in my room) or why I am only vegan at certain times in the year. I am not saying that my friends were all about party and drinking, matter of fact, they were all practicing christians but everyone wanted a little of the “college experience”.  I wish the story just ended here and Jesus decided to take me to him as a tasbeha-loving-bible-preaching-girl, but it didn’t.  It’s a struggle!  I am a girl with ambition, I work hard and I want to be someone in this world and want to go to heaven at the end of the day. I am working for earthy success for the glory of God, so people can point at me and notice how well he has taken care of me because alone I am totally incapable. I am working for spiritual success to be with Him forever. It’s a great balancing act indeed!

This blog is going to be about my struggles in my worldly and spiritual life. it’s going to be about the many defeats and victories that a lot of coptic youth, who are outside of their homes, face everyday. I am mostly going to tackle the dilemma of being a young women who is chasing after her dreams, career wise, and chasing after God’s heart at the same time.

Pray for me,

Coptic Girl