Tuesday, May 10, 2011

WOMAN: You're Beautiful

The author and singer of this song wrote it about his daughters. I cannot help but think that it is the way God the Father sees each and every single beloved daughter. Read this short piece which is a selection from a book I am writing called "Graced Womanhood."

You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride,
an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed. (Song 4:12)

Woman is a wonderful mystery. Often even to herself, she is an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed. When approaching the topic of womanhood, and especially when approaching women, what is most important is to reveal that each woman is, like any wonderful mystery, meant to be accepted, contemplated, cherished, and most importantly, to be loved. This is ultimately what it what is at the heart of being feminine, to be a receiver of love, primarily the love of Jesus Christ. It is he who cries out, “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!” (Song 4:10). It is he who is pursuing woman, knocking on the heart of each one, daily walking along side them, encouraging and affirming the mystery that they exist to remind the world that it exists primarily for God, to be loved by him and thus to become his beloved.

Despite the beauty of woman, today we find a terrifying cultural and social landscape, where women are not loved or accepted for the gift of who they are and are called to be. The ghastly result is that so many women are deeply wounded. At a time when women have more rights and privileges than never before in human history they are also never before more denigrated and objectified through the improper use of modern media, magazines, internet porn, and a role of women promoted in society that is not at all feminine or worthy of the beautiful mystery of woman.

Working on women’s retreats and days of recollection, teaching toddlers and children, high school and college students, and serving as a spiritual director for many married, single, divorced, widowed, and consecrated women, I found myself mingling tears not a few times with Jesus, who mourns the loss of so much beauty. At the same time, I find myself rejoicing with great thanksgiving at the healing that comes when women become who they are―persons primarily of relationships. It is in the grace and friendship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the graced-friendships with all creatures that takes the form of motherhood, that women find profound renewal and life, healing and growth, the fulfillment of their dignity and vocation.
There seems to be quite a bit of material on this topic already. What good is another book about it? A girl once asked St Edith Stein, “Why is it that at this time, so much is being said, even by men, about the nature and vocation of women? It is astonishing how this topic is constantly being taken up by various parties, and how differently it is being treated.”1 We could also ask, what good is a book about women by a man? What can man know about woman? I would not reply to these questions solely with the fact that the man who speaks here about woman is a priest and therefore a servant of women. True, a priest, because of his second-hand experience of the inner world of women may have a point of view that is unique in the vastness of their experience, especially the experience of their own sinfulness that they reveal in the Sacrament of Reconciliation which most women might not share even with their husbands or co-workers. Also a priest has the experience of the inner world of Jesus, particularly the experience of the redemption of woman. If he is ever so slightly attuned to the Priestly Heart of Jesus, he discovers his own heart to be a refuge and oasis for women, where “their tears are collected in his bottle” (Cf. Ps 56:8). This pastoral charity bears with it a certain wisdom that comes from desiring to lay down one’s very life in Christ for women and their redemption. When you would do anything for a person, even die for them, God gives you a special knowledge proportionate to your sincerity of how to love them and what to say to them, “the good things that they really need to hear, things that will really help them” (Eph 4:29). I must also say that I have experienced for many years a great love for women and an indebtedness to them. It seems that the Lord Jesus, finds himself, as every man, in some sense, indebted to women. Firstly because he would simply not exist, but more profoundly because he would not exist well, not experience the tender, maternal nurturing, by which the personhood of a man is developed and grows, “in wisdom, age, and grace,” (Luke 2:52). God has willed himself to need the love of a mother! Every man, especially every priest, also finds in his own heart a kind of indebtedness to women. Not only by his own mother, or by the Blessed Mother, but by so many women who a priest serves, finding himself receiving from them a continuous source of inspiration, wisdom, and courage to be a man. Many women too find themselves indebted to men. Not only would Jesus not exist without Mary, but of course, Mary would not exist without Jesus. God has made man and woman interdependent upon each other in a relationship mutual love. This is true also for the healthy growth and healing of both men and women.

In my moral theology class at the Angelicum in Rome I remember being told by a priest who would later become the Papal Theologian, Fr Wojciech Giertych OP, that future priests need to be formed and affirmed by both masculine and feminine saints, however, women saints have a special role in calling out the manhood of priests. Likewise, we can be certain, that men have a special role in calling out the feminine healing and sanctity of women. Why is this? It is perhaps because there is not only a very deep need in us when we are young to receive the adventurous masculine love of a father and the calming feminine love of a mother, but we also have this need a second time, when we cross the threshold of Christian emotional and spiritual maturity in love. The Lord Jesus himself has shown us this when he was born of a woman in a manger the first time in Bethlehem, and then spent most of his years as part of the plan of redemption in daily communion with the same woman in Nazareth. Then he brought forth a new birth of the mystical body of Christ, the Church through the same woman and her birth pangs at the foot of the Cross in Jerusalem.

It is to THE WOMAN of redemption, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we must look to find the path for every woman today. Every woman, like Our Lady, in her essence is a mother, and every woman lives out this motherhood in a real relationship with each person of the Most Holy Trinity as a beloved daughter of the Father, a mystical spouse of the Son, and as a real friend of the Holy Spirit. This book could be said to be a journey into the enclosed garden and sealed fountain of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is to Mary, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, that I entrust you dear reader. May Our Lady’s relationships with the Most Holy Trinity bring about healing and growth for every woman, a light for understanding the mystery of womanhood for every man, and the renewal of this world in Christ.

1 comment:

  1. I don't usually like Christain music, but this is a really beautiful song.

    When do you think you'll have your book finished?