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Mary, the 'Woman' of the Bible, Calls all Women to Follow Jesus

By Sonja Corbitt
January 28th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What I found in the Catholic Church was the unique dignity of 'woman' for she is personified in 'The Woman', Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

BETHPAGE, TN (Catholic Online) - May I say that I am utterly disgusted with inane TV sitcoms that habitually present men as dazed, beer guzzling, bosom scrutinizing oafs who can hardly string two intelligent sentences together, and “progressive” female politicians who claim to speak and “fight” for me as a woman?

Granted, I’ve had my “feminist” difficulties with religion and church, my insecurities stemming from male domination in childhood. I understand that baby boomer women have an inherent suspicion of some authority structures and the men who crafted them. I get that.

I appreciate their tirelessness in providing me with the luxury of the vote, the sight of the horizon above the glass ceiling, a job that earns my own money and an education consisting of more than the minutiae of home economics. I celebrate those accomplishments on my behalf and try not to take them for granted.

Woman Oppressed

I remember the perceived insult of what is sometimes called the “Scriptural idea” that woman was somehow a creative afterthought to man. The claim was that I seemed to exist to assuage his lonely fear and to merely help him while he alone has the capability and right to do all the doing that gets done.

Its proponents misquote this verse from the first book of the Bible, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18). I remember wondering why I must always be a “helper” rather than a “doer” in my own right.

Additionally, when teaching the Galatians about one of the most important events in salvation history, St. Paul called the mother of Jesus “woman” rather than by her name, "Mary." "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his son, born of woman" (Gal. 4:4). This once bothered me. I thought he was only following Jesus’ example: “When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me?" (Jn. 2:3-4). This sounded like marginalization of women to my sensitive ear.

I heard the argument that the Catholic Church oppressed women all the time. As a convert to that Catholic Church the only response I have ever been able to manage to that is simply “What?!” However, I knew from my own experience that there are strains of Protestantism that are simply archaic by comparison to the Church.

When I converted - or as we are encouraged to say, came into the full communion of the Catholic Church - I was bombarded by well-meaning Protestant wives who rebuked me for stepping out from under my “husband’s authority” and following my conscience into the Catholic Church. Paul’s exhortation, intended to deal with a pastoral problem in Ephesus, was misused as a weapon against me. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22) In fact it was wielded against me like a club until I was sorely bruised.

As a Protestant teacher, I had been constantly reprimanded by curious men who found themselves in my religion classes for the very fact that I was teaching the Bible, until one precious pastor defended me. After all, some evangelical Protestants claim that women can only teach other women or children, should not voice opinions in church, and when they want to know something about God they should ask their husbands.

Woman Raised

Conversely, what I found in the Catholic Church was the unique dignity of “woman,” for she is personified in “The Woman”, Mary, the Mother of the Lord. The previous examples from St. Paul and Jesus echo Genesis 3:15 where “the woman” is first seen at the center of salvation: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

The God who previously “spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb. 1:1-2), fulfills the prophecy and comes as a man "born of woman," a final, eternal, saving revelation. The final Word, came from a woman.

“This is the eternal and definitive Covenant in Christ, in his body and blood, in his Cross and Resurrection. Precisely because this Covenant is to be fulfilled "in flesh and blood" its beginning is in the Mother” (Mulieris Dignitatem, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”, John Paul II).

Rather than intending an insult, St. Paul indicated the profundity of this feminine unique mission with these words, “in the fullness of time." God revealed the extraordinary dignity of "woman" and restored her to the elevated place lost through Eve’s sin, her wrong choice against love. By using the Genesis terminology when speaking of Mary’s role in the Incarnation, St. Paul hearkens back to the beginning of creation, a beginning that illustrates woman as she was first created to be, in the center of the heart and mind of God and in the communion of the Trinity, and illustrates an intentional new beginning for every woman.

Mary becomes one with God, without a sexual act, but in the deepest possible way, the way of complete self-giving. As both Virgin and Mother, this self-giving, without which one cannot fully find him- or herself - speaks to us women whether celibate religious, consecrated virgins or married, whether we give birth to physical children or spiritual ones. This is why the fathers of the Church so lovingly referred to her as the “Second Eve”.

This is properly called “radical” feminism. It gets back to the root, which is what the word “radical” means. This is the path to authentic “power” and provides the dignity all women want and some who call themselves feminists simply grasp at. Mary retains her utter uniqueness, because she alone can be one with her Son in the way of a mother and child, and a disciple. At the same time, it opens up a oneness we can all receive by entering into Mary’s “yes” as “The Woman”. We come into the communion of love communicated through a Man, the One who “gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:22) and for each of us, even unto death on a Cross.

I find myself increasingly moved to pity when I hear the ramblings of those of the Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Camille Paglia ilk, especially those who are “Catholic” and stubbornly assert that what they call the “rights of women” should include such things as aborting a human person, whether through a surgical procedure or ingesting a chemical weapon.

In his prophetic letter on the “Gospel of Life”, the Venerable John Paul II wrote: “In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a "new feminism" which rejects the temptation of imitating models of "male domination", in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.” (The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II, Par. 99)

To my fellow sisters joined in what is the real “feminist” mission, the Mission of the Redeemer of all men and women, let us get to work, the future cries out!

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Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic Scripture teacher, study author and speaker. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit her at www.pursuingthesummit.com and www.pursuingthesummit.blogspot.com.

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