Saturday, May 9, 2015

married or not, every woman is "mother in aeternum"


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Slowly we continue to explore the charisms of woman, in particular that of spiritual motherhood, in light of the reflections of Paul Evdokimov.  He acknowledges once again how difficult this is in the face of historical distortions that have muddled and degraded her essential femininity or have led her to cast off and reject the mystery of her being, her destiny, her vocation and her gifts.  

The Fall has polarized man and woman, hiding their consubstantiality and complementarity and so preventing them from helping each other to become new creatures in Christ.  Woman helps man and is essential to his discovery of his identity; yet, Evdokimov tells us, she can only accomplish this by discerning her destiny and embracing it - by offering her FIAT.  Her very nature brings out and nurtures what is hidden.  She see what alone the soul thirsts for and immediately seeks to direct it towards the One who can quench it.  This, Evdokimov writes, is the "sacramental character inscribed on her being."  With Mary, every woman is endowed with the gift of seeking to reach out and protect all who cross her path.

As Daughters of St. Philip Neri and as those who have embraced this path of Spiritual Motherhood for Priests, you receive under your protection each priest in his weakness and vulnerability, in his sinfulness and brokenness, receiving the words of Our Lord as your own: "Woman, behold your son . . ."  In you and through your prayers and sacrifices on his behalf, he is strengthened and comes to see who he really is in Christ and as priest.   

Woman has her own manner of being, her own mode of existence, the gift of weaving her being in its own relationship to God, to others, and to herself.  Despite so many historical distortions of which woman is the victim, she protects all the more profoundly in herself the mystery of her being and her charisms, or the gifts which St. Paul describes in the amazing symbol of the "veil" (1 Cor 11), an evident sign of the sacred.  Over against this, the great whore of Babylon (Rev 17) profanes and degrades her femininity insofar as it has a religious essence.  She strips off her "veil," makes herself naked, disincarnate herself of the mystery of the feminine, of the fiat pronounced by her eternal motherhood.  And this is the mystery which every woman must discern in order to read there her destiny, her vocation, her gifts.

The biblical narrative of the first human couple, Adam and Eve, reveals the original, the archetype of the consubstantiality, of the complementarity of principles.  The Fall polarized man and woman and ever since they are either beings opposed and struggling against one another or else beings who accept each other's "otherness" and complement each other to make a "new creature" in Christ.

Man overflows his own being, more external to himself, his charism of expansion directs his vision constantly outside of himself.  He constantly fills the world with his creative energies, imposing his mastery upon it and conquering it as engineer and constructor.  Man receives at his side woman, who is to be his companion and helper.  She is at one and the same time beloved, spouse, mother.  Far more interiorized than man, woman is completely at ease within the limits of her being by which she fills the world with her radiant presence.  "The glory of man," (1 Cor 11:7) in her luminous purity, woman is like a mirror in which the face of man is reflected and revealed to himself and by which he is corrected.  Thus she assists man in understanding himself and in realizing the meaning of his own being.  Woman accomplishes this by discerning her destiny, for it is only through woman that man becomes what and who he really is.

St. Peter's words (1Pet 3:4) are addressed to every woman and contain the whole Gospel of her spiritual motherhood.
"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 
This text defines most precisely woman's fundamental charism: the bring to birth of man hidden in his own heart, homo cordis absconditus.

Man is more inclined to be indifferent to his own situation.  On the contrary, the maternal instinct of woman, as at the marriage feast of Cana (Jn 2:1-10) immediately discovers the thirst for the spirit even of men and finds the eucharistic source to quench it.  The ontological relationship of mother and child makes woman like Eve, "the source of life."  She watches over every being, protects life and the world.  Her interiorized and universalized charism of "motherhood" bears every woman toward the famished and needy and makes admirably precise her feminine essence: married or not, every woman is mother in aeternum.  This is the "sacramental character" inscribed in her very being.  The elements of her soul predispose her to "protect" everyone who crosses her path, to discover even in the most aggressive and strong being the child who is weak and defenseless.

If we define masculine love as "to love is to need," then the love of a woman means "to fulfill the need," not only to take care of it but to even foresee the need.

"Jesus, seeing his mother and near her the disciple whom he love, said to his mother: 'Woman, there is your son'" (Jn 19:26-27).  These words of the Lord make the Virgin Mary, the figure of Mother Church and of every woman, a truly ecclesial being.  The eternal virgin and the eternal feminine and the eternal mother from whom we derive the archetype of the Magna Mater.

Paul Evidokimov