Mary
Part 5 Mary and Theology

Chapter m57 Mary as Woman

Bibliography

Introduction

Terms and Definitions

The Ideal Women

God Our Father

Mary as the Feminine Face  of God

To Think About

Bibliography

Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  1974 Feb 02.   Text available in English at  http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul06/p6marial.htm

Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, Encyclical Letter, March 25, 1987

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, December 2001.  (Available on line at the Vatican Web Site at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html    See especially Chapter V:  VENERATION OF THE BLESSED MOTHER OF OUR LORD (183-207)

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By.  (University of Chicago Press, 1980)

Margaret Barker.  "The Images of Mary in the Litany of Loreto"  Usus Antiquior, Vol. 1 No. 2, July, 2010, 110--31.  Available online:  http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/USU_Barker.pdf

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Introduction

What is the difference between men and women? Everyone seems to have an answer to this question. Everyone seems to believe the answer to this question is self-evident. Some people believe that the answer is so self-evident that they have never even asked themselves the question. They simply presume that everyone feels as they do. Everyone seems to be convinced that their answer is the correct answer.

The problem is that not all these answers are similar. Many are not even compatible. And as most of our "data" comes from our subconscious, that unseen part of our theological iceberg, we become irritated and upset when others confront our firmly held (subconscious) convictions.

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Terms and Definitions

Sex and Gender    

Sometimes the distinction is made between sex and gender.

Sex  

"Sex" refers to biological differences present from birth, not all of which are obvious. Some list five differences:
1) the presence or absence of a Y chromosome
2) the type of gonads (an organ that produces gametes; a testis or ovary)
3) the sex hormones
4) the internal reproductive anatomy (such as the uterus in females)
5) the external genitalia.

People with mixed sex factors are intersex.
People whose internal experience differ from their biological sex are transgender or transsexual.

Gender

The term "gender differences" refers to average group differences between males and females that are presumably based on sexually monomorphic (the same between the sexes) biological adaptations--and these group differences are presumed to be due primarily to differential socialization.  Gender identity refers to one's preferred social role.  (The above is taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_humans  )

 With regard to gender -- masculine and feminine differences (what it means to be a male or a female person) -- there seems to be two basic schools of thought: (the following is adapted from Elizabeth Johnson, Truly Our Sister, chapter 3.)

1) An Anthropology of Complementarity

This anthropology is based on an essentialist view of gender. Men and women have two virtually separate kinds of human nature, each gifted with its own characteristics.

Masculine nature is marked by reason, independence, the ability to analyze, and take the initiative, and make judgments.
Female nature is marked by emotion, receptivity, and the ability to nurture, show compassion, and suffer for love.
Masculine nature is identified with spirit; feminine nature is identified with matter.
Men, consequently, by nature are nearer to the divine, endowed with a full measure of soul, while women for their own good need to be governed by men who can guide them toward the higher realm.

St. Thomas Aquinas: "Woman is naturally subjected to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.

St. Jerome: "As long as woman is for birth and children, she is different from man as body is from Seoul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world [and makes a vow of virginity], then she will cease to be a woman and will be called man (vir)."

In this view, (An Anthropology of Complementarity) Mary represents the very best of these characteristics. Mary is the Eternal Feminine.

2) An Egalitarian Anthropology of Partnership

In this view (An Egalitarian Anthropology of Partnership) sexual difference is vitally important, but it does not become the sole, essential marker of a person's human identity. Rather sex combines with other anthropological constraints such as race, class, family relations, social structures, historical era, and geographical and cultural location to define persons as uniquely themselves.

Because we each live immersed in our own social structures, historical era, and geographical and cultural location we simply presume that the effect these play on gender differentiation are universal and eternal.  History, sociology, anthropology, etc. show us that this is not the case.

Anyone who has traveled is surely aware of the effect culture plays in gender identification. During my brief sabbatical in Kerala India I found it difficult to adapt, and often irritating, that men and women were so socially segregated. They sat on different sides of the church during the Eucharist, women did not eat at table with the men, women would not enter the same room with the men when I was giving a parish talk, etc.

An obvious factor (at least it's obvious to me) in this differentiation is education.  A map chart of gender differences in education can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map3.7Education_Discrepancy_compressed.jpg

In this view (an egalitarian anthropology of partnership) Mary takes her place as the distinctive person she is, in solidarity with other women and men and all their diversity.

"Official views of Mary have been shaped by men in a patriarchal context and have functioned powerfully to define and control female lives." (Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 7)

 "Strong emphasis on Mary's obeisance, virginity, and primary importance as a mother shaped a religious symbol that satisfied the needs or a monastic or ecclesiastical male psyche more adequately than it served women's spiritual search or social capabilities." (Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 7)

"Much traditional theology makes her a means to keep women in their subordinate place, for, as Rosemary Haughton argues, "with all her glory she is always obedient, she is not 'ordained', she is the busy but submissive, patient and suffering auxiliary who can intercede but not decide." Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 11)

"Karl Rahner noted that the image of Mary in the church has always been closely tied to the image of women at any given time. Since the culturally conditioned image of women in our day is undergoing radical change, this raises serious questions about the image of Mary that have not yet been adequately recognized. Consequently, he suggested, perhaps it is time for men to stop writing books about Mary and let women have a go at it." (Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 17)

"In order to move forward, one must identify obstacles that are blocking the way. When women begin to analyze the Marian heritage, one basic problem emerges that undergirds all others, namely, this tradition is just saturated with a sexist construal of gender. Drawing from the unquestioned assumption that men are naturally receptive, emotional, and oriented to obedience and service, male theologians over the centuries created an image of Mary as the ideal feminine person. They then either contrasted her unique virtue with that of all other women or help her up as the norm who all other women should seek, impossibly, to emulate. In the process, the Marian symbol functioned powerfully to legitimize patriarchal social structures. Without these sexist gender assumptions, which result inevitably in male social dominance and female subordination, the classic construal or Marian theology would fall apart." (Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 22)

 

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The Ideal Woman

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God Our Father

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Mary as the Feminine Face of God

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To Think About

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 09/18/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org