Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Jesus and women

I think we tend to draw stark contrasts when they aren't there. Some scholars give the impresseion that women were just "cattle" in Judaism. This is belied throughout the OT, such as in the stories of Ruth, Judith, Esther, Rahab, Hannah, etc. Women play a prominent role in the Old Testament, and not just as servants of men.

There is no doubt that sometimes men in the OT treat women awfully, but when men treat women as property to be used or worse, they are always punished (David and Bathsheba comes to mind).

I'm not saying that Jesus did not go much further in acknowledging women's value, but I think what he was doing was bringing forth in its fulness something that was already present in the Old Testament, but somewhat obscured and incomplete. He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it.

In the history of the Church, women did not lose their original place as disciples. As the centuries have gone by, women's leadership has been consistently increased. I think it is true that there has always been pressure to allow the worldly attitude towards women to have sway in the Church (to their detriment), so the record isn't perfect (Christians remain sinners), but one can't argue that women weren't valued or weren't leaders.

Part of the problem is that we use worldly standards to assess what is "valuable," "important," "leader." For instance, the "leadership" of mothers is not considered as important as the leadership of men in public life or ecclesiastical life. This does not represent a Gospel hierarchy of values.

Liturgy was an exception for a very important reason; it is seen as a symbol of the marriage between the Bridegroom and the bride. The priest represents the Bridegroom. In the marriage of Heaven and Earth, heaven, represented by the sanctuary, was the domain of the Bridegroom, and the nave was the domain of the bride, represented by the congregation. That is why only Bridegroom/symbols were allowed in the sanctuary during the liturgy. This imagery and symbolism is so deeply rooted in the liturgy, that there has to be a very good pastoral reason to change it. Lots of people resisted because, although they couldn't explain it rationally (we often can't explain our symbols rationally), they understood it emotionally.

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