Thursday, July 20, 2006

In praise of being subject to another

Alice von Hildebrand has written a wonderful piece called The Secular War on the Supernatural. The subhead reads, "The supernatural is a partaking in God’s very life. There is not one single religion that can compete with Christianity, a religion allowing us to become God-like by participation in His life."

There are more profound thoughts in her writing than I can point out here. Please, oh please, click over there, print it out and read it thoughtfully. But she makes a point that struck me especially because of my newly-wedded state. No fan of feminism with its focus on the secular realm, she is deeply attuned to what makes women special in supernatural (i.e. God-partaking) reality. She talks about the depth of being subject to another, as a wife is subject to her husband, and the advantage of being a woman who, in the course of her life, will find herself with more natural opportunities to be subject to another than a man will normally experience. (This, as is apparent to all of us, is not a broadly or easily embraced viewpoint.)

This will be a little long, but please read along with me. I'll throw in some emphases so it's not just a broad expanse of eye-tiring text.
If you read the Gospel, women play a very secondary role. Even the Holy Virgin is mentioned very rarely and speaks very little. The very moment that you put on supernatural lenses you are going to come to the strange conclusion that it is a privilege to be a woman. It is a privilege precisely because, to be in the background, from a secularistic point of view, to be humiliated, which often happens, is a tremendous supernatural advantage.

This is something St. Teresa understood so profoundly. It is not true that to be humiliated is to be inferior. It is not true that to be subject to one’s husband is to be inferior. If you read the Gospel of St. Luke when Christ was found in the Temple in Jerusalem and then went back to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, it is said "He was subject to them".

Would you like to be in the situation of St. Joseph or in the situation of Mary? St. Joseph had original sin and was a creature. Mary had no original sin and was a creature. And the Child Jesus was God. And Who was subject to whom? God was subject to these creatures. It’s not a comfortable position to give orders to someone who is Divine. Therefore to be subject does not mean to be inferior, but it means simply the supernatural outlook that to accept humiliation is to come very close to God, because that is our way to Paradise. It’s a blessing. But I claim that women have a particularly religious mission.

Why a religious mission?

Because women, by their very nature are more receptive than men. You see this in the mystery of the sexual sphere. The woman is receptive, which doesn't mean passive. That was one of the dreadful confusions made by Aristotle, that he identified passivity and receptivity and then declared the male superior to the female, which is a pagan nonsense.

The woman has a great advantage over the human male, she is receptive and religiously speaking, receptivity is a crucial virtue. The Holy Virgin taught us that when she said at the Annunciation "Be it done to me according to Thy Word". She wasn’t doing, she said "be it done". In other words she was receptive and her receptivity enabled the Holy Spirit to fecundate her and at that very moment the Son of God was made incarnate in her womb.

St. Teresa of Avila and St. Peter Alcantara say that many more women than men receive extraordinary mystical graces, and if you study the history of mysticism you will be amazed how many more women than men were mystics. Why? They are more receptive and you see, towards God we are all females. A saint becomes a male saint because he learned to be receptive to God’s grace. "Give it to me, O Lord, I cannot do it by myself".

Mrs. von Hildebrand says, ". . . towards God we are all females." We are all Bride in the nuptial reality of union with God. Women have the blessing of being able to consistently make ourselves at home in the reality of active and welcoming receptivity. Our brothers have a considerable challenge -- be priest of God to his family and in his calling, but be Mary towards God. It is possible with God's help, but probably easier if we, their sisters and wives, can share with them the vision of the blessings and security of receptivity in the house of God.


MTR said...

It's not just the secular world. Even the Christian world fears the supernatural.. i.e. God.

It's like we're okay with God, but we don't want to get too weird or something. Its a shame that we fear God in this way.

Debbie said...

This is going to be my final read of this blog. As a Christian feminist, I must respond to this entry, however.
I'm going to ignore the whole notion of Mary's "immaculate conception" and simply say, When did Jesus become God? I believe it is a Trinity, not a Dynamic Duo, that Christians believe in. Why did Jesus call God "Father" if he was God? Has the author of the article dismissed the words "only begotten Son" that actually ARE in Scripture?
I wish both bloggers here well. The subjects discussed, though, are eventually going to cause a rift with someone I love dearly.
So, that's a -30- for me, here and elsewhere.

Rosalind said...

I'm confused, Debbie. As a Christian, are you saying that you don't believe that Jesus really was God? Or are you saying that you do believe it (as you refer to the Trinity), but don't believe the author of the article believes it? According to normative Christian belief Jesus was fully God and fully man, and, in fact, in his earthly life, he was obedient to Mary and Joseph. Contrasting that to our own natural distaste for subordination is a enlightening exercise, which I think von Hildebrand did adeptly.

I understand how you would find the view of women in this article distasteful because of our different approaches to feminism, but I'm sorry you see this posting as sufficient cause for a relationship break. All the best, however.

Enbrethiliel said...


This is off topic, Rosalind, but I thought you'd like to know that I've tagged you for the Book Meme! :)

Debbie said...

Dear Roz,
You completely misunderstood me. I know you and the author believe wholeheartedly in what was written. I believe in Jesus's divinity/humanity, but I still see God as God, and Jesus as God's son, sent to redeem us. If I thought of Jesus as God, then God to me would be divine/human and not fully and only God. That's where Jesus as the son of God comes in for me.
As for a breakup, I didn't say that. What I meant was that I wouldn't be reading the blogs any more because I fear(ed) certain issues -- about which we both feel passionately yet on which we disagree -- could cause a rift and end up hurting our relationship. We both belong to very different denominations. I will admit to being rather surprised a while back at how conservative you seemed to be. I have no idea if you have always felt this way, or if it's a fairly recent thing in your life.
I feel, perhaps wrongly, that the gap between us in this area is wider now than a few years ago. But it does not change my feelings for you.
I still DO want that relationship; I just don't want to jeopardize it in any way by challenging your point of view in the areas of politics and religion.
I love you as a sister and always will. So, are we okay? I apologize for not being clearer in my earlier comments.



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