Femininity Reclaimed

May 24, 2009 § 2 Comments

From my current spiritual reading, Fulton Sheen’s incredible book The World’s First Love. Take note, ladies! Let’s re-claim true femininity:

“Mary is here recapturing woman’s vocation from the beginning, namely, to be to humanity the bearer of the Divine. Every mother is this when she gives birth to a child, for the soul of every child is infused by God. She thus becomes a co-worker with Divinity; she bears what God alone can give. As the priest in the order of Redemption, at the moment of Consecration, brings the crucified Savior to the altar, so the mother in the order of creation brings the spirit which issues from the Hand of God to the cradle of the earth. With such thoughts in mind, Leon Bloy once said: “The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman.”

Why? It is not that women are naturally more religious than men. This statement is merely a rationalization made by men who have fallen from their ideals. Man and woman each have a specific mission under God to complement one another. Each, too, has its symbol in the lower order. Man may be likened to the animal in his acquisitiveness, mobility, and initiative. Woman may be likened to the flower, which is fixed between Heaven and earth; she is like the earth in her bearing of life; she is like the Heaven in her aspirations to blossom upward to the Divine. The mark of man is initiative; but the mark of woman is cooperation. Man talks about freedom; woman about sympathy, love, sacrifice. Man cooperates with nature; woman cooperates with God. Man was called to till the earth, to “rule over the earth”; woman to be the bearer of a life that comes from God. The hidden wish of every woman in history, the secret desire of every feminine heart, is fulfilled in that instant when Mary says: “Fiat” – “Be done unto me according to thy word.”

Here is cooperation at its best. Here is the essence of womanhood – acceptance, resignation, submission: “Be It done unto me.” Whether it be the unmarried daughter who cares for the mother with her Fiat of surrender to service, or the wife who accepts the husband in the unity of the flesh, or the saint who accepts little crosses proffered by her Savior, or this Unique Woman whose soul submits to the Divine Mystery of mothering God made man – there is present in varying degrees the beautiful picture of Woman in her sublimest vocation – making the Total Gift, accepting a Divine assignment, being submissive for heaven’s hold purposes. Mary calls herself ancilla Domini, the handmaid of the Lord. Not to be this for any woman lowers her dignity. Woman’s unhappiest moments are when she is unable to give; her most hellish moments are when she refuses to give. Tragedy stalks when woman is forced by economic or social circumstances to busy herself in those materialities which hamper or dam up the outpouring of that specific quality of surrender to Divine Purpose which makes her a woman. Denied an outlet for the bursting need of giving, she feels a deeper sense of emptiness than a man, precisely because of the greater depths of her fountain of love.

For a woman to be the Collaborator with the Divine – whether it be helping the missions, visiting the sick after business hours, freely offering services to hospitals or mothering her children – is to enjoy that equilibrium of spirit which is the essence of sanity. Liturgy speaks of woman as fulfilling mysterium caritatis: the mystery of love. And love does not mean to have, to own, to possess. It means to be had, to be owned, to be possessed. It is the giving of self for another. A woman may love God mediately through creatures, or she may love God immediately, as Mary did, but to be happy she must bring the Divine to the human. The explosive result of woman against her alleged inequalities with man is at bottom a protest against the restraints of a bourgeois civilization without faith, one which has chained her God-given talents.

What every woman wants in the “mystery of love” is not the bestial burst, but the soul. Man is driven by love of pleasure; woman by the pleasure of love, by its meaning and the enrichment of soul it grants. In this beautiful moment of the Annunciation, Woman reaches her sublimest fulfillment for God’s sake. As the earth submits to the exigency of the seed for the sake of the harvest, as the nurse submits to the exigencies of the wounded for the sake of the healing, as the wife submits to the exigencies of the flesh for the sake of the child, so Mary submits to the exigencies of the Divine Will for the sake of the Redemption of the World.

Closely allied with this submission is sacrifice. For submission is not passivity, but action – the action of self-forgetfulness. Woman is capable of greater sacrifices than man, partly because her love is less intermittent, and also because she is unhappy without total and complete dedication. Woman is made for the sacred. She is heaven’s instrument on earth. Mary is the prototype, the pattern-Woman who fulfills in herself the deepest aspirations of the heart of every daughter of Eve.”

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