A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
In an alcove at St Teresa of Avila Church stood a statue of Mary. She wore blue robes over her white tunic, hands outstretched and smiling serenely. Her head was crowned with a circle of stars and she stood upon a globe, one sandaled foot crushing a serpent. When I was young, I sat near her some days and I would stare at that statue, transfixed by the globe, the sandaled feet, the crushed serpent and the serene look on her face. Mary always felt unapproachable to me, crushing that serpent under her dainty foot, standing on top of the world, Queen of the Universe and I, small and fragile, silent in her presence.
After confession I’d kneel near to her, where she watched over the rows of candles lit in an effort of prayer or repentance or both. I’d say my penance, my Hail Marys, with the mother of God watching over my shoulder and it was comforting and it was nerve-wracking too.
I think of her differently now. Perhaps it’s because I’m now a grown woman or that I’m also a mother. Perhaps it’s because I’m Orthodox rather than Catholic. I don’t know what it is exactly, only that she no longer appears larger than life, harsh and warrior like, stomping serpents and wearing a crown of stars. There is some tenderness I see now, some commonality we share, the Theotokos and myself and I cling to that tenderness in rough moments of parenting or womanhood. I cling to that knowledge that we’re alike in some way, that her strength might also be my strength, her fragility also my fragility, her serenity also my serenity.