In trying to help traditional men and women of today find their true identity in Jesus Christ, I am reading a book by Fr. Karl Stehlin called “The Nature, Dignity and Mission of Women”. So when I can I will continue writing some blogs summarizing his book with some of my own thoughts. This is not light reading. You need to dedicate some quiet time to read it. But in the long run, and with discipline, hopefully you will obtain something that will last your whole life and give you purpose in life.
As children start to mature, the questions usually comes up; “Who am I?”, “Why am I the way I am?”, and “What does it mean to be a man or a woman?”. Young women can even be jealous of young men because of there greater strength and freedom. As they grow more they notice that Men seem to dominate the political and cultural world. This envy can take away the joy of being a woman.
No matter what age we may be, these are good questions to ask and it is well worthwhile the time to ponder on these questions. We do not want to go to the mass media to get our identity. Scholars, psychologist and sociologist tend to identify our characteristics by observing behavior and biological differences. But they cannot explain the purpose of what they observe. The source of understanding of who we are and what is our purpose can only come from God who created us. If we do not start here, we can just go by “what appears to be so” on the exterior and get manipulated by the demonic powers that are opposed to the order established by God for man and woman.
Our meaning is found by looking with the light of eternity. We are limited by our limited intellect and time/space reality we live in. So in order to understand, we need to go to symbols, signs, images, and analogies. To demonstrate an interior reality like love, one may have to express it with a kiss, a flower or a gift. This also includes how we dress and how we eat. A meal can just be functional to get some nutrition or it can be a very warm family gathering. One can dress just to stay warm or one can show the inner riches of a person in the modest, classy clothes one wears. These are exterior realities that express interior realities.
No matter what the scientific world say, the truth is, God created us as man and woman. Both men and women have an immortal soul in a human body. We are created by God, we are in God and for God “in His image and likeness”. In a very limited way we reflect who God is. That is why God created the two different sexes; each imaging different attributes of God, but together even a clearer image of who God is. Like we could say that man images God’s justice and woman God’s mercy, but put man and woman together, that equals God’s love.
We are both created with one purpose or goal. That goal is to get to heaven by responding to God’s graces and be obedient to God. But as man we have one mission and as woman we have another mission, but both with the same eternal goal, heaven. Although the roles are different, the eternal reward depends on how much one does their mission in this life with obedience and love. So in this earthly pilgrimage there is a hierarchy of sexes according to God’s wise ordinance, man’s authority and woman’s subordination. Nevertheless, in God’s sight man and woman are equal. Before you get all upset about this; read all of this to the end. A woman brings children into the world which no man can do. But man can protect the mother and her children.
In order to understand a work of art you need to ask the artist for the meaning. In order to understand us, we need to ask the author, God. We are made in His image, but how can we finite creatures, understand and represent His infinite nature? God is eternal unity, All-One and being itself. By contrast we are composed of different created elements which do not exist independently while God is self existent and unchanging. Our soul is the vital form of the body the matter. Body and soul complement each other as man complements woman and reflect God’s perfect unity. Contrary created realities imitate God’s divine attributes when they are seen in terms of each other. God created one human nature with two sexes represent the different attributes of the divine Being. In the union of marriage, we see God’s indivisible unity.
Man is the image of God “over us” who investigates God’s works and mysteries. Man images God as creator by working, guiding and ordering things. He shares in God’s authority by being head, leader, and organizer. He plans with his intellect and accomplishes them like an architect and master builder. Man seeks God.
Woman in contrast represents God’s loving devotion to His creation as God “in us”. She experiences herself as the house of God, her womb that receives and guards human life and love. Woman rest in God and finds her protection, safety and home in Him. Like Eve: “Mother of the living”, God gives woman the physical strength to receive, bear, bring forth, nourish, and raise new life. She gives man hearth and home where he finds refuge and security out of the storm of the world. She wants to help the poor and alleviate suffering. The fathers of the church call woman “the steward of love and the heart of the world”.
Man dominates in the concrete historical situation of the world. He is to build up the culture, civilization and the Kingdom of God. He exhausts himself with the here and now.
Woman are in the background. She represents the general and what transcends the personal though out history. She receives noble human values, talents and abilities and passes them on to her family and church. Women usually out live men because of their role.
Man is like a rock that is solid. Woman is fluid like a stream. What is personal belongs to man and he uses it up, while what is universal belongs to woman who saves it. Man is the famous personality that was formed by the important woman behind the scenes like St. Monica behind St. Augustine or Blessed Aleth behind St. Bernard. The woman’s life is veiled, concealed and silent. All holy things are veiled, the arc of the covenant, the Blessed Sacrament and the Chalice. Woman is the veil to the most precious thing, life.
As stated above, the most perfect imaging of God is in the indissoluble bond of love in marriage. This is the destiny of man and woman; “to leave his father and mother and to be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Man can live alone better than woman since he was here first and ruled over paradise, the king. Yet it was not good for him to be alone where he could not love the other. So God created a helper for him who could respond to his love. “Flesh of my flesh”. The Holy Trinity is I (Father) and Thou (Son) who Love (Holy Spirit). Woman is very sociable and needs others to help and love. Man is more aloft and interested in difficulties and needs.
An example of man and woman is the tree. Woman is the root system that is hidden and the supporting foundation. Man is the visible tree unfolding in view with all its ramifications. United, they make the perfect tree. Divided they die.
This is how God planned for man and woman to be before the fall. Now it is very different. But Jesus and Mary have given us the medicine to live in God’s design once again. But it is going to be difficult. Just as many who read the parts where man is the king and woman the queen, will complain that God put man in authority. But the abuse of this authority and the hatred of authority come from our clouded concupiscent eye sight. May the grace of God, won by Jesus and that flows through Mary, help us restore our humility and so live in divine order, harmony and love once again.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.