As a college graduate, Frederica Mathewes-Green's interest in Hinduism led her to include a Hindu prayer at her wedding. She later joined the Episcopal church. Now 56, Mathewes-Green is firmly rooted in Orthodoxy. Her husband, Father Gregory Mathewes-Green, heads an Orthodox parish in Maryland, where her title is "Khouria," or "Mother."
Mathewes-Green, an author, spoke Tuesday at Eckerd College and will talk tonight at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Pinellas Park. During a phone interview, she spoke about her life and work.
You've had an unusual spiritual journey, going from the uncertainty of agnosticism to the absoluteness of the Orthodox church. Were you on a spiritual quest?
I was 21 then, I had just graduated from college, and I would have said that I was not seeking. At that point, I would call myself a Hindu. Not that I engaged Hinduism at the depth it deserves; I think it was a fashion statement, really. …I had just gotten married, and my husband and I were hitchhiking around the British Isles. … We went into a church (in Dublin), and at the back of the church was a statue of Jesus. As I was looking at it, I heard an interior voice, the voice of Jesus, speaking to me. There's more to the story; I'll tell it (tonight). When we came back to the U.S., my husband, who was Episcopalian, wanted to go to seminary; I joined the Episcopal church, too, and also attended seminary. Then, we were very satisfied with our Episcopal church and the western Christian heritage, but gradually, we felt that we wanted more depth, and we started exploring the early church.
Why the Orthodox Church?
Where to start? We looked at different options. We considered the branches of the Episcopal church that were splitting off. ... We were looking for a place where our children would be confirmed in the faith. We wanted to make sure that we could send them out in life with a church that would uphold their faith instead of undermining it. We never would have thought of Orthodoxy except that a Lutheran pastor, a friend of ours, invited my husband to hear Father Peter Gillquist. He was a leader of 2,000 evangelical Protestants who became Orthodox en masse in 1987. ... So we debated it, argued about it, thought about all our different options. In 1993, we were chrismated and brought into the Orthodox church.
What revelations should readers expect in your book, The Lost Gospel of Mary?
I present three ancient texts about the Virgin Mary, the earliest a story that covers her life from conception till the birth of Christ. It's a folk story, told in a charming, straightforward way; it tells us about her childhood, her adolescence, even her first birthday party. How much of it is historic we don't know; one clue is that, although the early church knew about this book and enjoyed it, they still didn't put it in the Bible. The biggest revelation in this story, the most surprising thing, is that it says that when the Virgin Mary was 3, she went to live in a temple, and remained there until she was 12.
In one of your essays against abortion, you noted, "I myself have championed both positions. Back in my college days I was your basic bad-tempered, male-bashing, hairy-legged women's libber, actively pro-abortion.'' Have your views changed on other big issues?
In general, no. I'm still anti-war. I'm still anti-death penalty, still strongly resistant to the globalized consumer culture. I recycle … all of that virtuous stuff.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727)892-2283.