Monday, October 31, 2011
Out of Eve's Shadow
Out from Eve’s Shadow
-How Eve impacted women
“Against the State, against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.”
“But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.”
Preface: Eve, Mary and Margaret
Against the Church, against men, against motherhood and against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, today’s voice of progressive feminism rails! Such was the message, such was the attitude and such was the spirit of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. And let there be no doubt, to varying degrees she was remarkably successful at transmitting envy and defiance against the institution of marriage, the family and the Church. The idea that women were and continue to be suppressed by the Catholic Church can be credited in no small part to Sanger’s propaganda.
Since history and sound theology enjoy little esteem in Western Civilization, pitting the Gospel against women has been advanced in our universities and public schools with relative ease. Nevertheless, there is a different story to tell. The plight of women begins with the real “First Lady,” that is, Eve, wife of Adam and mother of the human race. Because she yielded to the Serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, she merited a divine punishment that would not only burden her but it would cast a long shadow over her female descendants.
But when the Blessed Virgin was conceived in the womb of St. Anne a brighter day dawned. From that moment on the ancient pagan bonds, so oppressive to women, began to loosen. To be sure, Christ redeemed humanity at large but he used his own Mother in a particular way to elevate the status of women and in doing so, led them out of Eve’s shadow.
Part I: What Eve’s sin portended for women
1. Unending Tutelage:
In his book, Our Christian Heritage, published in 1889- just twenty five years before Margaret Sanger career got underway - James Cardinal Gibbons reminded Catholics of the Church’s role in elevating the status of women. He said, “In Ancient Greece, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, instrument of man’s passion.” Mind you, ancient Greece was indeed representative of women’s suppression in the pagan world. Gibbons continues: “Every impartial student of history is forced to admit that women are indebted to the Catholic religion for the elevated station she enjoys today in family and social life.”
Now, it is not the point of this post to elaborate on what is an overlooked historical fact: Women were second class citizens and were counted as having less dignity than men before the coming of Christ. Furthermore, during the Christian era, under the auspices of the Catholic Church, the social status of women significantly increased. This is why, during the first centuries of the Christianity, new converts were comprised mostly of women as opposed to men. Oh yes! Women came running to the Mother Church.
2. Her New Name:
After Eve, the social status of women rested in large part on her husband and her ability to produce children. Her dignity as an individual was overshadowed by Eve’s sin and the punishment due to that sin. As indicated, man in his fallen human nature exploited this to the max. Especially before the coming of Christ, Margaret Sanger’s antipathy toward men would have been understandable. No doubt, the female sex did not fare well. But no amount of protesting could have stopped the centuries of this exploitation. The remedy had to come from God himself. “For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands give healing.” (Job 5:18)
Eve was immaculately created. The name given to her before she offered the forbidden fruit to Adam was “Woman.” Adam said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." (Genesis 2:23) That’s right. Eve was originally given the name of “Woman.” At this point equality with Adam was hers. Indeed, she stood on equal footing with Adam. And as his companion, she was called to make up for his limitations by leading him closer to God. But this was not to be. Instead, she became an occasion of sin for him; thus leading him away from God and closer to the Serpent.
God often punishes us with the very things by which we sin. To make a long story short, the Serpent offered the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This, of course, was forbidden by God. The Woman consumed the fruit and then offered to Adam. As such, she became a mediator (or mediatrix) between the Evil One and mankind. Instead of building up and perfecting her husband she became a source of sin and untold evil. As for Adam, he had plenty to account for. But as a consequence of her role in introducing sin into the world the Woman was renamed. New names given by God, Adam or Jesus himself always carry with it a new status. The Woman was then renamed “Eve” by Adam. “The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.” (Genesis 3:20) With this, it was a man Eve enticed to sin and it was a man that was God’s instrument in punishing her.
3. He Shall Be Your Master:
After the Sin, God lined up Adam, Eve and the Serpent in order to mete out their respective punishments. Adam received his punishment as well as the Serpent. “To the woman he said: ‘I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.’” (Genesis 3:16) Eve was the first causality of her own sin; this, among a very long lineage of females. What began as a spiritual and moral tragedy in the Garden of Eden developed into a social and political burden for women all over the world. The Old Testament world (here, I mean world history before Christ) was a man’s world. As Cardinal Gibbons suggested, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, and instrument under man’s dominion. In virtually every and nation in every era women were second class citizens. To a large degree, her worth was dependent upon his choosing and whim.
4. The Curse of Motherhood:
The curse of motherhood? I thought being a mother is a blessing in the eyes of God! It certain is! However, being defined exclusively by what we do or by the role we play can be a curse. Eve was first given the name of “Woman,” the stress being on her individuality and one who was on equal footing with Adam. The name of “Eve,” on the other hand, stresses her maternal vocation. Now, being identified as a mother is a blessing if it is one of many characteristics she possesses i.e. daughter of God, individual, spouse, worker etc. However, to emphasize one characteristic or role at the expense of all the rest is a curse. In the Old Testament, due to the absence of the Holy Spirit, there was an imbalance and a disproportionate emphasis on a woman's duty to produce children.
Do you remember what Jesus said? He taught that in heaven we are not going to be spouses and parents so much as we are brothers and sisters. In eternity, many of our roles will cease to exist. And as for our earthly existence, the maternal of role of mother is indeed active while her children are young. But this function eventually takes a back seat to other roles for her as they get old and move out of the house. When she becomes an empty-nester, her individuality comes to the fore and other roles can be more easily expressed.
With that said, the name “Eve” suggests that her main identity was that of a mother. Indeed, the relationship that defined her was that with her children and not with her husband. To emphasize once again, no longer was her name “Woman,” the wife of Adam but rather “Eve” the mother of Cain, Abel, Seth as well as the rest of her children. Imagine if a man always introduced his wife as the mother of his children and not his wife or “other half.” No doubt, she would feel chagrined. Although her love for her children may not be questioned there would still be a rebellion aroused in her soul at the suggestion that she is a mother first and a wife second. Or imagine if women were primarily valued as mothers and their importance was determined by the number of children she had. Such a value system does not fare well for barren women, widows or even little girls (girls would only have the potential of worth).
Widows in the ancient world were quite often abandoned, barren women disgraced and female infants aborted or killed through infanticide. A letter written by Hilarion to his pregnant to his wife Alis in the year 1 B.C. included this admonition: “If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it!”
“He shall be your master” are words that marked that left deep wounds upon the female gender. This was the world before Christ.
In brief, we cannot forget childbearing pains. “The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.’" (Genesis 4:1) But for every new life that comes into this world the mother will have to suffer. The words, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing” have echoed throughout time. Sex would come at a higher price for women than for men. Perhaps, this is why for women sex is more personal and more integrated with life than for a man. Men can afford to compartmentalize sex. But women cannot.
However, men got theirs (i.e. pay back) when God required Abraham and every male of the Old Covenant to be circumcised. Mind you, for grown men this was a painful procedure which resulted in a flu-like sickness for two or three days. The Lord has his way of evening the score.
5. Plight of Women Symbolized
The Law of Moses required parents to present their new born child with an animal sacrifice to God forty days after his or her birth. But the prescribed ritual was different for female infants than for male infants. He said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period. On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy's foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled. If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood." (Leviticus 12:1-5) The mother was to be unclean and was to purify herself twice as long for a female infant than for a male infant. Now, does this suggest that God loves female infants any less than male infants? Certainly not! It was to symbolize the plight of females before the New Covenant.
Sarah, wife of Abraham, Rachael, wife of Jacob, Hannah, mother of Samuel and so many women lamented to the Lord about the disgrace of being barren. Indeed, they cried out to heaven. Even St. Elizabeth, after she conceived St. John the Baptist, expressed her relief. She said, "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others." (Luke 1:25) Where did this disgrace come from? We can trace it back to Eve.
The answer to the four thousand year suppression of women would not come from political or social measures. The protest of angry women, much like Margaret Sanger’s feminist movement, would prove quite insufficient. Before the Light of Christ would shine the Morning Star, as St. Louis de Montfort called her, would shimmer in the darkness. Centuries before Christmas night, the following passage from the book of Wisdom pointed to a new beginning: “Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled, knew not transgression of the marriage bed; she shall bear fruit at the visitation of souls.” (Wisdom 3:13)
Please scroll down for part II: Mary as the new beginning for women and how the Church elevated the status of women
Posted by Joe at 5:51 PM