Thursday, May 14, 2015

Woman: the soul and salvation of civilization

As the Woman (Mary) expresses most clearly the common destiny to new life (sanctification) by her call to motherhood, she also acts as a “point of encounter between God and mankind” and the “place of convergence” with her fiat (Annunciation) between the two fiats of God the Creator (“let it be” of Genesis) and Christ’s consent to the plan of salvation by His Incarnation.  Hence her intercessory position between heaven and earth and whose fiat joined the completion of the Father’s plan and the Son’s mission.  

Evdokimov sees this reality as expressed in all women and believes that the salvation of civilization depends on their sharing in the "eternal motherhood" of Mary.  Eve was tempted precisely because she "represented the religious integration of human nature"; the one who ultimately grounds man and his vision and understanding of creation.  Her very being stands contrary to the objectification of the other and she is gifted with the capacity to see the imponderables of life and of seeing the destiny of the other.  Far from being the "weaker sex" she is the very heart and soul of culture itself.  In her purity she is a source of integration.  This is why Evdokimov says the demons cannot endure woman when she fully embraces her identity.  That which is "diabolic" by definition seeks to "throw something through or across things." The diabolic act is that act which drives things apart, puts a wedge between things or people.  Whereas Woman, the Virgin/Mother Mary and like her every woman after her becomes a conqueror of evil and source of peace and harmony.  "It is not by fierce action but by her purity and sanctity that woman wounds the head of the dragon."

The bible puts before us woman as the predestined point of encounter between God and mankind.

If the masculine participates in the Incarnation by his silence, in the person of St. Joseph, on the contrary, it is woman who says fiat for us all.  To the creative fiat, "Let it be," of the Father corresponds the humble fiat of the "handmaid of God."  Christ could not take upon himself human flesh and blood unless humanity through Mary had not freely given it to him.  The Virgin is therefore the point of encounter, the place of convergence of the two fiats.

As the figure of the Church, the Virgin personalizes the Church through her own motherly protection and through prayer.  She is the Church's prayer of intercession.

In Greek the word for chastity means integrity and integration, the very power of unifying.  An ancient liturgical prayer is directed to the most pure Theotokos: "By your love, bind my soul," free it from all psychic imprisonment, make unity spring up within me.  Such integration is the only force capable of halting the enterprise of demolition to which modern male-dominated culture seems committed.  In truth, the very salvation of civilization depends on the "eternal-motherhood" of woman.

One can grasp her salvific power if one understands that it is not at all because she was the "weaker sex" that Eve was tempted.  On the contrary, she was lured precisely because she represented the principle of religious integration of human nature.  Attentive in her heart, she immediately succumbed and docile to Adam followed behind, claiming that "the woman offered me the fruit," putting up no resistance whatsoever, not even asking the most basic questions about what he was offered.

Left to himself, man would be lost in the infinity of his abstractions, in the perfected techniques of humiliating others.  Degrading the other, he becomes degraded himself, creating a world corresponding to his own dehumanized vision.  Man places himself in agony.

Many establishes himself in the world by his tools.  Woman however does this by the gift of herself.  In her very being she is intimately connected to the rhythms of nature.  If the masculine quality is to do, that of woman is to be, and this is the religious dimension par excellence.  Man creates science, philosophy, art but distorts all of these by his fearful objectification of "organized truth."  Woman on the other hand, is opposed to all objectification, for her strength lies not so much in creation but in giving birth.  It is by her being that she is herself the criterion which corrects every abstraction in order to bring values back to the center, to manifest correctly what the masculine creativity intends.  Instinctively, woman always defends the primacy of being over theory, of the operative over the speculative, of the intuitive over the discursive.  She possesses the gift of being able to directly penetrate the existence of another, the innate faculty of grasping the imponderable, of discerning the destiny of another person.  To protect the world set up by men, as a virgin to purify it by giving to the world a soul, her own soul - such is the vocation of every woman, whether monastic, single, or married.

Man is ecstatic, going out of himself in the projection of his own genius beyond himself in mastering the world.  Woman is ecstatic in being turned in toward her own being, toward being itself.  Woman operates on the ontological level.  Hers is not to be a verb but esse, the essence, the very heart of a culture.  This is the manifestation of sanctity, this sanctity of being that the demons cannot endure.  It is not by fierce action but by her purity and sanctity that woman wounds the head of the dragon.

According to Heraclitus, "War is the father of all things, harmony and peace the mother."  The father-warrior is symbolized by the bow, the mother-symphony by the lyre.  But the lyre, we might say, is nothing but the sublimated, a bow with several strings.  Rather than death, woman sings to life.  Thus the masculine warrior and killer can be brought into harmony by woman and changed into a bear of life, culture, worship, a celebrant of the Liturgy of praise.

Paul Evdokimov

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