In today’s society Catholicism is castigated both within and without because of it’s stance on women priests. Without realising it the many people place the dogma of equality and diversity; they see the priest as a powerful position and symbol which should be available to women too. Unfortunately the humanity of the Church has meant that power and the trappings of power have all to often been on display, even if there is also the inevitable misrepresentation of the Church by evil, so you can understand this confusion.
However by focusing on this and the apparent injustice of it we eventually fall just as each generation has before us; “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1). Notice how in Genesis Satan introduces his temptation with an exaggeration of what it was that God has said; that God has said we cannot eat the fruit from any tree. Satan tempts Eve twice, the first time she successfully rebuts him by referring back to what God actually said and also why God has said it – that if eaten, the fruit will kill.
The Fall comes after the second temptation – that Eve will be able to dictate what it right and wrong.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” “
How often do you hear the debate about women’s ordination couched in these terms; “Did God really say that women were not equal with men?” Notice the exaggeration about the effects that none ordination has – that women are seen as demeaned, as less powerful. Yet this results in both the priesthood and the role of women being misrepresented. The priesthood should be one of service, not power. The role of service that women have, motherhood, is correctly identified but often demeaned by those presenting this argument. In failing to see the importance of service and grasping at the elements of power the arguments surrounding ordination miss out on one of the core messages of the Gospel; it is only by thinking less of ourselves and serving others will the Kingdom of Heaven be created here on Earth.
Mary served. Without fanfare or high praise, having a child outside of wedlock would have unjustly led her to have the opposite of praise in fact, she served. She served when she taught Jesus in the home, when she cleaned Him and fed Him, when she let Him start on the path that would lead to His death, when she stood quietly by His cross and held his broken body in her arms, when she travelled with Her sisters to anoint His body, when she prayed with His disciples in the upper room at Pentecost. She didn’t need the position of priest to do this – just as Jesus didn’t have the earthly position of priest to fulfil his priestly role (after all, he wasn’t born into the tribe of Levi). However it’s not as glamorous as having on colourful robes in front of a room full of people watching your every move.
By focusing on power and dismissing service there has been a hollowing out of women’s status in society. That’s a surprising thing to say; everyone from politicians to Hollywood stars are talking about women’s equality and opportunity. However, by referring to just power and money they actually reduce women to what they have.
In Catholicism Mary is elevated because she was a mother. That’s was enough. Her devotion and love, humble a role though it was even in society’s eyes of the time, was enough for God’s appreciation. Irrelevant that women and their children were kept in an outer court in the temples and synagogues, in God’s eyes. Mary is Queen of Heaven because she was Jesus’ mother.
We have forgotten the value of motherhood and focus on what we do as well, as if motherhood is a diversion, a job you do to get to the more interesting stuff. That’s why appreciating Mary is important; we appreciate women in all their glory as God made them.
I’ve shown my love for my mother in law Mary with Lilys. They are actually the Lilys I had in my actual wedding bouquet to my earthly husband. Although they have come to represent funerals in this country this is as a result of their original symbolic meaning of hope and faith. However they also stand for motherhood and innocence. Fitting for my thoughts this week.