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.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Not being tagged won't stop me

I've been gone so much that nobody tags me for anything anymore. But memes are so much fun that I tag myself with this one, courtesy of Julie D.

4 jobs I've had:
  • Legal secretary
  • Labor relations representative
  • Executive coach
  • Mediocre waitress
4 movies I could watch over and over:
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Frequency
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Anything with Mel Gibson
4 places I've lived:
  • Rye, NY
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • St. Louis, MO
4 TV shows I love to watch:
  • NYPD Blue
  • Project Runway
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway
  • Homefront, if they'd ever bring it into syndication
4 places I've been on a holiday:
  • Ephesus
  • London
  • Sanibel Island, Florida
  • Lakeside, Ohio
4 web sites I visit every day (it's feast or famine on this one - lately not so much):
4 of my favorite foods:
Therese, will you take a turn?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Q: Is Jesus annoyed when we ask him for help?

Some of the familiar Bible stories are almost opaque to me. I have become so insulated from their power and deaf to God's whisper by the lamination of overfamiliarity that I might as well wrap them in cotton batting and put them in the attic for all the good they do me.

But then, the Holy Spirit does something about it. Last week, I finally encountered Jesus stilling the wind and the waves in Mark 4.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

I asked myself, "What would have happened if the disciples had not awakened him?" Well, it appears that the boat would have been swamped and sunk. When Jesus rebukes them, is he saying that they should have taken no action but instead sit peacefully with their faith? Why, of course not!

What would he have wanted them to do? He clearly wants to be the provision of what they need. Jesus isn't rebuking them for waking him from his sleep and asking for his help. That, just as we find in our own storms, is the only way to be saved from the waves. He takes the same action he would have taken if they had awakened him without fear -- he calms the storm. But he knows their hearts and shows us and them what he considers truly important. Do they live in an igloo of anxiety or in the homestead of hope, faith and knowledge of his love?

What does Jesus want? He wants our love and trust. How will we act if we love and trust him? We will wake him and ask him for what we need. Does he want to provide it? Why, yes. Is he surprised and dismayed when we can't provide our needs for ourselves? Absolutely not.

Wouldn't he prefer that we leap directly to asking him for grace and help before spending an agonizing length of time trying to fix things on our own? Doesn't he long for our presence and love as if he were a bridegroom, hoping that we will find our all in him? Didn't he make the longest journey from heaven to us in hope that we might turn to him with joy when he taps us on the shoulder? Isn't it stupid and pretentious to overlook his power and aid in hope that we can take care of business by ourselves?



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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

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