What does it mean to live as a faithful Ukrainian Greek Catholic woman in the world today? This is a question as a woman I ask myself on a regular basis, especially as I observe the tremendous pressure my daughters and all young women face in todays world. Our feminine beauty is trampled, and distorted with air brushed Victoria Secret models. We are under pressure to be everything — educated, financially successful, thin, fit, with great relationships, and perfect families– basically to have perfect lives. Yet, when we are honest with ourselves, which is a difficult thing, we know that life is messy and our lives fall very short of some media generated or even self imposed standard. If we allow ourselves even a glimpse into our feelings of imperfection and perceived unworthiness it can lead to depression, anxiety and unhappiness that we will often do everything in our power to deny and suppress. We do this with good reason as we know these feelings can overwhelm and crush us. So what do we do?
It has been said that our choices come to this–we can choose to be a stoic, an addict or a mystic. We can put all our energy into suppressing our feelings, our lack of self worth, our unfulfilled desires for love and acceptance–to be seen as the unique, beautiful, unrepeatable gift that we are, despite our limitations. The result is stoicism–another word for suppression or ‘stuffing’ our real feelings and hiding behind a mask. Of course we know that we can only hide for so long before our pain can drive us to the other end of the spectrum–addiction. We can become compulsive eaters, worriers, shoppers, drug or alcohol users. We can become sex or relationship addicts who use men to try and affirm ourselves as persons. This is always disastrous and we usually end up as wrecks who will try to pull ourselves together only to fall again for the empty promises of our addictions. Don’t be fooled these addictive behaviours can be a combination of any of the above or can take the form of things that might even be perceived as ‘good’ as we become obsessed with work family or home or even being outwardly’perfect’ or ‘religious’ to mask the failures we imagine ourselves to be. This is painful stuff. If we are honest with ourselves even for a brief moment many of us go back and forth between stoic or addict for a most of our lives.
Thank God our faith offers a third option. It is the way of beauty, courage, honesty, freedom and of hope. All of us are being called to give up our stoicism and addictions to live life to the fullest as mystics. Wait! Are you saying that living as a faithful Byzantine Christian and Catholic is a way of peace, sanity and perhaps even joy? YES! YES! and YES! For many this is comes as a great surprise and is quite unbelievable. Church for many of us growing up was a combination of going through a series of boring religious motions or meaningless cultural activity that had little relevance in our lives in the 20th or 21st Century. Even if we did find meaning in the prayer life of the church as children, or felt a strong connection to theUkrainian culture which was build around that faith, if we did not receive adequate formation for our faith to blossom into a lived reality of relationship with Christ our childhood prayers and/or exterior culture may not be enough to sustain us as we face the pressures of life. Sometimes despite good faith formation we just get sucked into making choices that are contrary to the faith and morals we grew up with and this ends up with us hardening our hearts to God and the Church. If any of these describe you, please know dear sister that you are not alone. That is your past. The question is what will your future be? God is still calling you. He desires you and wants to win your love. That is why you are reading this article.
Not only is God’s love and mercy more vast that the Atlantic and Pacific put together, His love for us, His vision of us as a beautiful gift (even with our shortcomings, limitations and sinfulness) will ‘rock’ our world if we open up to Him. Ahh… there is the rub… it is not God’s love or mercy that is lacking it is often me who is not open or willing to receive it. He ‘stands at the door and knocks’ it is up to us to open the door. (Rev. 3:20) He is too much of a gentleman to open it against our will.
So, in the days and weeks to come this page will be devoted to women who long to receive all that God desires to give them and to live out the reality of honest and real Christ-centred femininity in their lives. Some of posts that will be archived here will first appear on my REFLECTIONS page others will just be posted here (for women specifically). Some of them will be mine. Some will be the thoughts, reflections and experiences of other women, in other walks of life….young, older, single, married,mothers, childless, widowed, and divorced. Hopefully it will be a blessing to you. God bless you as you choose to open up your heart to God, appropriate your heritage of faith and live as woman of faith: a mystic in action.