Holiness is not a virtue that perished along with monarchy in the last century. Piety is not a characteristic of certain male oddballs and grandmothers. Holy women do exist in this day and age - one need only look to find them. In my experience however, I have learnt that such women cannot be found in all the denominations of Protestantism I had come across. The conservative evangelical sort, all too often caught up in their love of divine election and tribalism, were self-righteous and sometimes, supercilious. The happy-clappy, charismatic type were often excessively and sentimentally religious. It appeared as if their emotions sustained their faith - and remember, there is absolutely no correspondence between one's feelings and one's spiritual state. Call me prejudiced - but note that I do not state fact, only how it all looked to me.
Holy women exist, as I wrote earlier, and they exist in every age and ethnicities. Here a few who have inspired me to live a better life:
I met her some three years ago when I begun attending Orthodox services. Though somewhat aloof, she impressed me with her incredible devotion and piety. During every one of our long services, she never yawned or was distracted. Her piety seemed to have rubbed off on her son as well - he was one of the most well-behaved and quiet young boys I had ever met.
She is perhaps the nicest person I've known. Those of us who know her see her as the very incarnation of kindness and friendliness. Not a single angry word I have heard coming from her - she is always patient and her words wise & pleasant. She is, by far, one of the most spiritually mature person I have ever met - she does not feel enmity toward any of the other Churches (she's Coptic, but doesn't seem to mind us Chalcedonians). She has reached an understanding of Christianity that even the most learned of us young converts is unable to comprehend.
Yet another devout and pious Orthodox lady; her case is rather unique, given that she was quite a different person some years back. She tells me she wasn't always religious - but I find that hard to swallow; looking at her now, you'd think she was always religious. She admonishes me at times, like a caring elder sister would. She is blunt, but knowing how she truly feels about my actions has been rather helpful. She's helped me tide across many difficult times, especially in the wake of my godmother's migration and the postponement of my baptism.
I often wonder how hard it is to be living a Christian life in a place like Tehran. She plans to be baptised at some point, but for now, she is doing a marvellous job of living the good life. She reads the Scripture and prays often; I am confident that her faith is greater than mine.
Sonia & Elizaveta
They'd rather attend the Divine Liturgy than be at Sunday school. 'Nuff said.
Now which mention of holy women in my life would be complete without a reference to my dear godmother? I've known her for about 3 years now - she was caring as a friend and devoted as a mother. A woman of uncompromising morals, she was my guiding light in Orthodoxy during my tenure as catechumen and will continue to be for years to come.