Pillar II: Embrace WOMAN
Man’s Success is Determined by How he Relates to Woman
Over the last several sessions we’ve been discussing the elements that constitute the FOSJ spirituality. During our last session we discussed the first essential pillar of the FOSJ spirituality, Embrace Silence in its three aspects: silence in self, silence before men and silence before God. Today we will discuss the second Pillar: Embracing Woman. In the beginning, after creating Adam, God said, “it is not good that the man should be alone (Gen 2:18),” and afterward He created Eve to fulfill Adam’s authentic need for human love. From this moment onward, the true man has been and is determined by how he lives in relationship to woman and the children she bears. In a sense, every man, whether he is single, a priest or married, needs woman—the bride—in order to secure his salvation, and every woman needs man—the representative of the Bridegroom—to set the pace of self-giving love for her in order that she be won for Christ. This truth is expressed succinctly in the scripture passage that Pope John Paul II said is, in a sense, a “summa of the faith.” In other words, if all of the Bible could be summed up in one passage, according to the Saint, this passage would be it: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Eph 5:22-28
The Great analogy
Pope John Paul II also said that of all the analogies that describe God’s relationship to man, the marital analogy is the least inadequate. Christian marriage is ordained to be a symbol of Christ’s marriage to His Church. The husband is an image of Christ who is called to exemplify Christ’s undying fidelity by means of initiating and generating self-giving love on behalf of his Bride—who is a symbol of the Church— that he may sanctify her, cleanse her and present her to God. The husband is called to assist in the process of making his wife holy, set apart for God by purifying her by means of his self-giving love and continually presenting her—in his prayers—to the Lord. In other words, we are responsible, to a great degree, for woman. It is our duty to embrace her entire person, uphold her dignity and honor in order that she may understand that she is dignified, beautiful and honored in Christ. The Old Testament begins with a marriage which was intended to be an icon of Christ’s love for His Church, but its failure heaped horrific consequences upon the human family. The New Testament begins with Christ’s first miracle, which occurred at a wedding as a certain sign of His fidelity to redeeming and restoring marriage as a grace transmitting symbol of the divine marriage of Christ and His Church. From this comparison we obtain an incredible insight: God created marriage to speak of His desire and love for us—that He desires us to be one with Him— and that it takes a real miracle to heal human marriage and the relationship between the man and the woman. Considering this, it is our duty, as men, to have faith and trust in God that He can heal our marriages and transform us into men who love like Christ. So, in order to father in the image of God the Father, and become husbands in the image of the eternal Husband, each of us must embrace woman in her three forms: embrace the genius and person of all women, embrace one’s wife and embrace Mary, the Woman.
Embracing the Genius and dignity of all Women
The first way we embrace woman is by embracing the feminine dignity and genius of all women. As we have mentioned in previous sessions, Adam was given the task to till and keep the garden. The words till (abad) and keep (shamar) are translated as “to cherish” and “to protect.” The word garden is occasionally used in the Scriptures to describe woman’s interior person—her sacred feminine interiority: “you are a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed my sister, my bride.”(Song of Songs) Adam was called to defend woman, Eve—her garden—from the serpent. Adam, however, allowed the serpent to enter the garden, and have his way with the woman. Consequently, Eve tempted and seduced Adam to also partake in the forbidden fruit. The perennial temptation with regards to how a man relates to woman is this: man is tempted to either dominate or vacillate, that is, man is tempted to allow his lusts to rule over woman or to allow woman to rule over him by using lust. The golden mean between the temptation to dominate or vacillate is to initiate self giving love by means of defeating lust in the heart. Eve needed authentic self-giving, self-sacrificial love from Adam. Eve needed a man who would sacrifice for her. Yet Adam failed to offer her authentic love, and not receiving the affirmation that her soul desired, she resorted to manipulating Adam.
Daughters of Eve, to this very day, if they do not receive sacrificial love from sons of the New Adam, will resort to manipulating us into giving the false love of the Old Adam. Today’s world is saturated with this dynamic—and all too often men are quite satisfied with this dynamic. Yet, this dynamic restrains them in boyhood. Christ says that “whoever looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart.” John Paul II said, “are we to fear the severity of Christ’s words or have confidence in their salvific power?” (See TOB) Christ calls each of us to love woman in the manner by which He loves the Church: “This is My body given up for you.” In other words, Christ gives us the means to overcome lust and love all women rightly—the Eucharist. By continually receiving His Body into our own bodies, we too can begin to truly express this love: “this is my body given up for you.” Let’s make the theological practical and test whether we are striving to embrace the dignity of all women: In the millionth of a nanosecond, after the moment our eyes first engage the beauty of a woman, how do we respond? Do we imagine her fulfilling our disordered desires, or ask God to bless her and save her from the lusts of men? Do we speak in demeaning ways about woman and her physical attributes, or do we try to see the woman in and through her body? Where do our eyes first rest on a woman—above or below the neck? Our interior sexual posture determines our spiritual potency. Lust chains a man in boyhood, whereas “liberation from lust and the freedom it affords is the condition of all life together in truth.” (John Paul II). St. Joseph refused to expose Mary to shame, that is, he refused to unveil her mystery to the potential of his own lusts. One of the first steps toward upholding woman’s dignity is refusing to unveil her—even in our hearts.
Embracing our Wives
The second way we embrace woman is by embracing and remaining yoked to our wives. Our Lord said that a house divided cannot stand united. The greatest gift we can give our children is a harmonious, united, self-giving marriage. Division in marriage breeds division in the family. The beginning of the reading from Ephesians 5 states: “Submit to one another our of reverence for Christ,” and St. Paul says elsewhere, “Count others as better than yourself.” Considering these things, it is imperative that we understand that our marriages should strive to be images of Christ’s marriage to His Church. Notice also, that for Christ to become one with His Bride demanded great self-sacrifice. This is the key: to unite ourselves fully to our wives, we must sacrifice our ego, our pride and selfish ambitions in order to save her. This means that we must embrace our wives—their health and emotional problems, their authentic needs and desires. We are to protect her from being demeaned or belittled. In a word, we are called to build up our wives in order that they may experience the love of Christ though us. If I don’t give my wife Christ’s love, who will? Christ’s love through me, allows my wife to become the person she is called to be. Without this love, a part of her dies and she becomes lonely and thirsty for false loves.
Let’s make the theological practical. Do we build our wives up or tear them down? Do we compliment her—especially in front of the children, or demean her—do we make her feel stupid—especially in front of the children? Do we become upset or resentful when she gives advice, or do we take her concerns seriously? Do we neglect to have intercourse with our wives because they are not as attractive as the gal online? Or do we use our wives as though they are the gal online? Do we ask God for our wives to experience God’s love through our marital embrace? Do we value her projects as much as our own? Do we contracept in order to objectify our wives and get what we want from her? Or do we sacrifice our sexual desires in order to protect her from lust? Do we grumble and complain and become resentful when our wives do not want to engage in intercourse, or do we give ourselves in sacrifice to God on behalf of her? St. Joseph permanently surrendered his desire for sexual intercourse to God, and because of this sacrifice God gave him the ability to become “Joseph most chaste” and love Mary rightly. God gave Joseph the ability to count Mary as better than himself, and bear her burdens as his own.
The third manner by which we embrace woman is by embracing the Woman—Mary. Joseph’s first step to inaugurating his call to fatherly greatness was entrusting his life and vocation to Mary. To become great fathers, we need the greatest Mother. To become great men, we need the greatest Woman. Recall that Christ’s first public miracle was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Mary was there—even before Christ. It is essential that Mary be with us and we be with Mary if we desire to be with Christ and Christ to be with our families. She sees our family’s need for wine, that is, for grace. Mary is the Woman who all generations call blessed, because she crushes the head of the serpent—because the “Lord is with her.” If we desire to crush the head of Satan, the serpent of ego, of pride, of lust, it is imperative that we entrust our lives to the Woman clothed with the Son. A couple of questions to help us determine if we embrace Mary as the saints do: Do I have an aversion to praying to Mary? Do I think, “I can just go to Jesus —I do not need Mary?” Or do I ask her daily to be my Mother as she is the Mother of Christ? Do I actually refer to her as my “Mother, Mom, or Mama?” Do I pray to Mary daily? Do I talk with her as a child talks to his mother? Or do I believe that submitting to Mary makes me weak and less of a man? Have I consecrated my life to Mary as Jesus and Joseph did?
Embracing Woman in all her Forms.
Let us, as Fathers of St. Joseph, recommit ourselves today to overcome the errors of misogyny, lust, male domination, or the spineless succumbing to be ruled and used by woman, and rather embrace woman in her three forms: the genius and dignity of all women, our wives and Mary the Woman who crushes the serpent.