Before there was Saint Javelot, there were Eastern Orthodox icons of many saints, including, of course, the Virgin Mary. She is most often depicted with the Child Jesus. This often gave people the impression that Mary was gentle, submissive, and quiet. But that’s not entirely accurate. What do we know about Mary in the Bible? Most of what we know comes from the Gospel of Luke.
We do not know his exact age at the birth of Jesus. The youngest I’ve heard speculated about her age is thirteen – the same age Margaret Beaufort was when she gave birth to Henry Tudor (later Henry VII). Henry was definitely no Jesus, but Margaret Beaufort was definitely a badass. But I digress.
The Bible story goes (and please suspend disbelief if necessary, just long enough to enjoy the flavor) that an angel appeared to him and told him that Jehovah (westernized spelling in my attempt to avoid the cultural appropriation) had chosen her to be the mother of his son. His first response was, “Yeah, that’s right. How is this going to happen to someone who has never had sex? The angel gave her a mystical explanation involving the Holy Spirit and the Power of the Most High, and added that her childless and now post-menopausal cousin Elizabeth had conceived and was now in her 6th month of pregnancy. At that point, Mary said, “Okay, I agree.” You may not consider this consent fully informed, but she had clearly received at least some sex education and probably had a pretty good idea of what she was getting into socially. And, like it or not, children were expected to grow up faster up to and including the Industrial Revolution.
But she did not fail to check the facts. The first thing she did was go visit Elizabeth to see if this unlikely story was true. It was – and Elizabeth had also somehow been told about Mary – because the first thing she said was “You? The mother of God? To visit me ? I’m satisfied !”
And it was then that Marie composed on the spot the poem that the church calls the “Magnificat”. A poem that has been around for so long that its edge has been dulled. It was actually quite revolutionary.
In drastic paraphrase, but you can compare it to any translation and see why you think, “Now I get it. This is a BDF. For the rest of time, everyone in the world will know me and know my name. What an honor. Our god is amazing and strong. He’s going to show the privileged elites that they’re crap. He will drive out the powerful and give us power, nothing to us. He will feed the poor and starve the rich. And, of course, that’s what Jesus told us to do. It was revolutionary then, and it is revolutionary now. And you still have to be a badass if you really want to make it – or even try.
Jumping to modern times, in 2012 an artist named Chris Shaw was inspired to do an acrylic on canvas painting of Mary holding an AK-47, in a style inspired by Orthodox iconography. He called her Madonna Kalashnikov. He doesn’t seem to have thought specifically about the character of Mary – he says: “The initial idea for the image was conceived during the post-9/11 era. I have always juxtaposed and mixed concepts of culture and religion in my icons, and have long been intrigued by how weapons can be seen as both bad and good – especially if they do the work of God. The concept was taken a little further in another painting I made around the same time, “Madonna of the Suicide Vest”.
“I first exhibited Madonna Kalashnikov at the Varnish Gallery (2012), then at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2013),” he says. “It got a lot of attention but also came back unsold after the two shows, I think it was a bit too subversive for the time. I ended up selling it straight out of the studio.
After that, “I can’t say she was ever a meme or went viral after her debut, but Madonna Kalashnikov’s picture on my website was shared. I was looking for it from time to time and i usually had a kick where it ended up eventually it ended up all over the place unfortunately it also meant that unauthorized prints and merchandise started showing up as it took a lot of work to prevent people from printing it on shirts or other items for sale Bootleg Madonna Kalashnikov merchandise has been popular in Eastern Europe, not surprisingly Tattoos are less frustrating , there are a lot of great tattoos of Madonna Kalashnikov, I always like to see them, she even became a patch for the Ukrainian army.
Still later, “The story continues, in 2018 someone in Ukraine altered an image of Madonna Kalashnikov’s painting. She was now holding a Javelin missile launcher and was posted on Twitter, shortly after being named “Saint Javelin”. Not many people saw it at the time, not me. However, in 2022 amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Madonna Kalashnikov’s St. Javelin version went hyper-viraleventually becoming the face of the conflict and a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia.
While Chris isn’t thrilled with the unauthorized uses, he’s grateful the footage is being used to raise money for Ukrainians fighting against totalitarianism. “I feel better knowing that she has become an icon of hope, freedom and goodness.”
I don’t know what he would think of his interpretation in stained glass, which is quite recent. It was created by a American Artist, Sheila Noseworthy, using vintage glass, made in West Germany, which is no longer available, but which she had kept. I think Chris would agree – not only is the work exquisite, but the goal is to raise funds for Ukrainian defence.
I also have no idea what he would think of this, or other videos on the “Saint Javelin Official” YouTube site. I can tell you it made me laugh and cry. The CC is good, the judges’ voices sound authentic, and HIMARS’ voice is that of a well-behaved child.
Other saints are also called. You can see a wide variety at Saint Javelin official website. One is Saint Neptune, protector of the seas. I would describe the site, among other things, as ecumenical.