I have been a practicing Christian all my life and half of that time dedicated to the discipline of painting (writing) icons. Biblical text, liturgy, and prayer are my source of strength and comfort, just like millions of people around the world. My observations about Women in Sacred Christian Images have arisen from multiple reflections on familiar Bible verses over the years.
The Bible begins with Adam and Eve: this biblical story is often interpreted as the source that defined Eve as being created second to Adam as his “Helper”. She has been held responsible for original sin, which became all women’s greatest sin, the temptation of sexual sin. 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 woman’s place in society. Sadly, as early as the fourth century the dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted the Holy Scriptures to thwart the ascendant positions for women within the religious hierarchy and in Christian societies in general.
Mary Jane Miller’s Artwork highlights Women in Sacred Christian Images
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, sacred Christian images have maintained two kinds of women. One is the saintly, silent, obedient Virgin Mother and the other is a harlot with long hair and often on her knees. We have to re-frame the images of women in art, society, and culture.
Ironically, women may be holding the means to change sacred art into a tool for our elevation. Those who desire to be authors of Women in Sacred Christian Images 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, and the Baptism of Christ. These principal events in the organized church all lack the presence of women. It is not God’s commandment that they are not heard of in text or seen in sacred images.
The Feminine Voices Benefit Us All.
For three decades I have dedicated my work to creating beautiful icons with a new twist. We live in an age of bigotry, bias, self-righteousness, and personalized isolation. Including more women in Icons will stimulate new perspectives on theological issues that are still in their infancy.
Some might ask, why would I care about this topic? If you are an iconographer, you are supposed to transcribe the Biblical word and uphold the theological doctrines that the church maintains. The problem for me is my thinking mind asks difficult questions. Mother Mary is portrayed as the only perfected obedient servant and silent mother whose attributes and holiness are not attainable for anyone. We have to ask, how or when are women to be recognized as divine beings? We have been present and active for two millennia as prophets, teachers, mystics, healers, and contemplatives in the Christian church institutions.
Teaching the Women by Mary Jane Miller
I am asking us to re-think and rectify a religious culture’s misguided behavior. If we desire a thriving church in the future, the feminine voice and new icon images will benefit us all.
Inquisitive women like myself have always been around Christ listening to His message. Women had to have been present 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 unacknowledged human qualities: they contemplated, taught, and administered with their wisdom. If we believe that God’s boundless presence is reflected through sacred text and in iconographic images, then the New Eve can and should live in communion with the New Adam. Bringing them together will offset the gender imbalance in science, art, government, religion, and all other facets of life.
Mary and the Holy Spirit Icon
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, bishops, and priests to draft a similar statement that honors all Women in Sacred Christian postures.
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 the Holy Scriptures that have justified and interpreted the idea that men have superiority over women. We are One body in God, called to be One mind in Christ. Let us live in a new dimension where Christian women will serve as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, disciples, mystics, healers, teachers, and prophets through image and word. San Miguel Icons
May God bless you and keep you, and
may His wisdom fill all that you say, think, and do.
BIO Mary Jane Miller is a Byzantine-style iconographer with over three decades of experience, born in New York and living full-time in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. Her collections of sacred art are contemporary, with a proficient command of egg tempera. The work is extraordinarily rich in style and exhibited in museums and churches in the United States and Mexico. Bishops and clergy have collected her work along with commissions for their sanctuaries. As an author, Miller blends historical content and personal insights to arrive at contemporary conclusions about faith. Her 12 self-published books include Iconography and Meditation, The Mary Collection, https://www.lulu.com/search?page=1&q=Mary+Jane+miller&pageSize=10&adult_audience_rating=00In Light of Women, Rosary and Prayer for Creation, Women in Iconography, and Life in Christ. She teaches four courses of 5-day immersion workshops every year throughout the US and Mexico. Website: http://sacrediconretreat.com/ Website:https://www.millericons.com contact firstname.lastname@example.org