God's Superheroes - Women of Faith
This past week, we held another wonderful Vacation Church Camp which focused on Superheroes. Of course, we mentioned the kids’ favorite superheroes, like Captain American, Wonder Woman, Iron Man and others, but this was just a segue into focusing on God’s superheroes, the saints. At VCC we talked about how God’s superheroes all have five central characteristics – they have HEART, COURAGE, WISDOM, HOPE, and POWER. We shared, with the 53 campers and teen helpers who attended this past week, different Bible stories which reflected these characteristics, as well as introduced each day, a more modern saint who also lived out these virtues. It was a beautiful way to highlight not only who God’s superheroes are, but how each one of us is called to follow this same path of sainthood. What a great week of fun, fellowship, and learning!
This idea of God’s superheroes, the saints, are what I want to focus on today. I’m going to use, however, the beautiful new 10-foot icon we just hung on the wall of our Church. This icon, which you can also see in your weekly bulletins, is entitled “Women of Faith.” It beautifully shows 12 incredible women from very different backgrounds – some princesses, some queens, some prostitutes, and many sinners - from the first to the 20th century, who truly were superheroes of God. Each left incredible legacies with their lives.
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear our Lord say “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The light of Christ is to shine from our lives, but not so that people may praise us! No! Christ wants His light to radiate from us so that people may see Jesus in us and so that they may give glory to our Father in heaven!
This is exactly what these saints did. They let the light of Christ shine for others to see, but they never took credit for the light. When people praised them, they simply directed all praise back to the source of light, God Himself. We read this Gospel lesson today as we remember the Holy Fathers of the 4th Ecumenical Council, but it is just as appropriate as we take a look at the “Women of Faith” icon. Let me give a brief summary of the lives of these very diverse, yet holy women.
ST. KATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA was considered one of the most beautiful, as well as the wisest and smartest, people in the great Egyptian city of Alexandria. The governor of the city, who persecuted Christians, brought 50 of his wisest pagan philosophers to debate Katherine and show her the errors of her faith. Instead, she left them all the pagan philosophers confounded as she articulated her belief in the one true God. The ruler was so enraged that he tortured and killed Katherine for her faith in 313.
We read about ST. FOTINI, THE SAMARITAN WOMAN in the Gospel of John, when she meets Jesus at Jacob’s well. She was considered an immoral woman ostracized from society because she had been married five times and was living with another man. Yet after her encounter with Christ, she discovers a new life, and becomes a “new creation.” She ends up traveling around the Mediterranean world sharing her newfound faith about Christ and His Good News, ending up in Rome and dying there as a martyr.
THE THEOTOKOS, the Birthgiver and Mother of God is the first among all saints, the one woman in all history to be chosen to give birth to God. She responds to the Archangel Gabriel by saying, “Let it be to be according to your will,” setting an example for all future generations who want to follow Jesus Christ.
ST. PARESKEVE was martyred in Rome in the second century for not denying Christ. She is known to help people suffering from eye ailments.
ST. THEODORA THE EMPRESS was the leader of the Roman/Byzantine Empire who helped stop the century old war against icons in the 8th century. She supported the Patriarch, St. Methodios who led the 7th Ecumenical Council to restore icons.
ST. MARY MAGDELENE was another broken woman possessed by seven demons according to Holy Scripture. That is, until she met Jesus and was healed. She then became one of His closest followers and disciples, standing at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and being among the myrrh-bearing women who went to Christ’s tomb to anoint His body. Instead, she became the first one to meet the Risen Christ, and told the Apostles about the Resurrection.
ST. MARY OF EGYPT was a woman who could be described as a “sex addict.” She describes herself as living an immoral life of depravity for 17 years until one day, when she traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of the Holy Cross. There she encountered God in a miraculous way, and came to realize her sinful life. She then lived the final 47 years of her life in the desert around the Jordan River repenting and seeking after God.
ST. KASSIANI was a hymnographer who wrote beautiful poetry and hymnology for the glory of God. She wrote the famous hymn we sing every Holy Tuesday evening describing the sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus.
ST. MARIA SKOBTSOVA OF PARIS was a part of the Russian émigré whose family fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. Although she was married and divorced twice, she later in life became a nun who cared for the poor and needy in the streets of Paris. During WW2, she helped save hundreds of Jewish children until she was finally arrested by the Nazis and killed in the Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1945.
ST. IRENE was the daughter of a pagan Persian king in the fourth century. She became Christian, much to the dismay of her father, and led many non-Christians to believe in Jesus Christ until she was eventually martyred for her faith.
ST. ELIZABETH THE GRAND DUCHESS OF RUSSIA was a German princess who married a Russian Duke and converted to Orthodoxy. After her husband was killed by an assassin, she entered the monastery of Sts Mary and Martha, where the nuns cared for the poor and needy. She was killed for her faith by the communists in 1918.
ST. ELIZABETH, the Mother of St. John the Baptist prayed and miraculously gave birth to the Forerunner John, who became the greatest prophet who prepared Israel for the coming of Jesus Christ.
These women of faith are truly God’s superheroes, but they are superheroes who never drew attention to themselves. Instead, they would “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” May we find inspiration in these women of faith, and not only honor them, but more importantly strive to imitate them in their witness of glorying God.
Myron the Martyr of Cyzicus; Straton, Philip, Eutychian, & Cyprian the Martyrs of Nicomedea; Afterfeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; Demetrios the New, Righteous-Martyr of Samaria; Eutychios, Eutychianos and Kassiani the siblings; Paul, Juliana, and those martyred with them (the executioners)