Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Glory of Woman, Part 3 of 4

The Creation account in Genesis conveys the truth that man and woman -- equal but distinct -- are in some way an expression of the holy Trinity.

The doctrine of the holy Trinity is three divine Persons in one God:
  • Each Person is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God" (CCC 253).
  • The divine Persons are not roles of the Divine Being, but are really distinct from one another in relation of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds" (CCC 254).
  • The divine Persons are related to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both" (CCC 255).
Likewise, man was first (Father), the woman was begotten from man (Son), and through their love proceeds a new person (Holy Spirit). Is the Son any less divine because He is second in the Trinity? Is the woman any less human because she is after man? Of course not! The Son is divine and of the same and equal divinity like the Father, just like the Eve is human and of the same and equal humanity of Adam. The natural expression of the sexes, whereby "two become one body" (Gen 2:24) in marriage, reflect the incompressible mystery of God’s Trinitarian life: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The marital partners share equality and do not lose the distinctiveness of their identities in their union.

Here is a very fine reflection by Fr. Stephen F. Torraco of EWTN:
The discussion about masculinity and femininity has often assumed that one must choose between one of two alternatives. In the interest of equality between man and woman, one must either 1) recognize no significant distinctions between man and woman, or at least abstract from such distinctions. Otherwise, the reasoning concludes, 2) one will end up arguing for the inferiority of woman to man.

Understanding and choosing between these two reductionist alternatives is made more difficult by the project, beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries, of promoting a masculinity divorced from and oppressive to femininity. This modern approach to masculinity involves rejecting nature's own intrinsic design and adopting the view that nature is unknowable "stuff" to be conquered. This view of masculinity presupposes that knowledge is a matter of power rather than of discovery or contemplation.

We live in a world shaped by this distorted masculinity. We need to rise above it by recovering femininity. However, pitfalls threaten us along the way. One pitfall is identifying the recovery of femininity with the deconstruction of Western civilization, as if the modern project described above were identical with Western civilization (which it most certainly is not). Another pitfall is allowing this modern, distorted masculinity to shape the recovery of femininity. To view the recovery of femininity as a matter of power or as a matter of promoting a "feminist ideology" would be to succumb to thoroughly distorted masculine ways.

The Catholic way of life rejects reductionism of any kind when it comes to masculinity and femininity. Rather than abstracting from the distinctions between them, and rather than viewing the feminine as inferior to the masculine, the Catholic vision maintains that masculinity and femininity involve a complementary.

Man/woman is neither an accident nor an ideology, but the Creator's own design and image. In the light of the Church’s principal doctrines of the Trinity, Christ, and the Church, one can see man/woman reflecting the marital structure of humanity, involving activity as well as a receptivity with a dignity of its own. This marital structure of humanity is Trinitarian in origin and sacramental in history.

"Sacramental" here means that in relation to God all of humanity is feminine in its dependence upon God -- in its receptivity to life in abundance that leads to active fruitfulness. Sacramentality itself presupposes that human nature is not "stuff," but a design -- man/woman -- that mediates the divine. Thus, beyond being the Creator’s own design and image, man/woman is our way of redemption and sanctification. The Catholic way of life views this sacramentality as central to femininity. Sacramentality points neither to power, nor to conquest, nor to making, but to BEING.

Recovering femininity is crucial to our humanity, which is imprisoned today by a distorted and homeless masculinity. However, we will recover femininity only if we finally learn that its recovery is a matter of attending to BEING -- BEING RECEPTIVE -- to the underlying basis that gives meaning to things.