In the Beginning, God contemplated the possibility of creating a world. A world of matter: mater, materia. There, below, lay the formless void: unformed but receptive. He withdrew into Himself and He asked what the purpose of this world would be. Would it just be a pretty artwork to delight the eyes of the angels? No. He had a greater purpose than that. He would create souls, capable of free will, capable of love. Souls in a somatic matrix that would raise this matter to communion with divinity. A new kind of being in His own image and likeness which He would introduce into His own self by taking on a body and becoming one of them.
Yet, being omniscient, He saw that these creatures would fail Him. They would reject His love. They would choose suffering and death. And He would have to enter into their suffering and death if He was to save them from themselves.
This could only be accomplished through the consent of a woman. God's fiat lux was spoken in anticipation of Mary's fiat. From the Beginning, the woman was there, already conceived in the heart of God, delighting the mind of her Creator. It was her beauty that seduced Him to create, and within her body that the maker of worlds would be nourished and given a human form. She was the archetype of all material creation, the star-spangled womb, the pool of sun-making.
Evil came into the world through a woman's weakness, but life came into the world through a woman's strength. That is how it has been, throughout all of history. The feminine is that which receives inspiration, grace, life, holds it within the body, and gives it existence. Woman is the receiver through whom God transmits the life-giving signal of His love into the world. The mediatrix. The medium in His will made manifest.
She is not passive. She is receptive. It is within her power to refuse, to be the death-bringer, Kali, the terrible mother who devours her children. It is also within her power to be the fruitful vine that brings forth every kind of fruit. She is child-bearer, certainly, but also the bearer of artistic works, political hopes, new ideas, healing knowledge, community histories, loves and remembrances treasured in the heart. She is the Sybil of the Rhine, giving birth to visions, songs, politics and medical treatises under the aegis of the greening power of the spirit. She is the Maid of Rouen, guided by the archangel Michael, marching confidently where men feared to tread. She is Catherine of Alexandria, whose intelligence and inspired wisdom confounded the philosophies of men. There is no area of human life which does not stand in need of her genius, the genius of motherhood without which all the works of men are empty, mechanical and dead.
To be feminine is not to be weak, but to filled with a power greater than one's own. It is the state of every human soul before God, but woman is privileged to bear especially within her body the imprint of this relationship. It is through her that man learns and receives his humanity, in the revelation of Eve that Adam becomes himself. She is Wisdom. Her body is the tabernacle in which the precious blood and body of each new human being is formed. Her mind integrates the world of the body with the world of the spirit. She is a reconciler, an intercessor, a mystery, and a paradox. It is not simply that she intercedes in the world of social relations in order to reconcile people's differences: in the realm of ideas, she reconciles dichotomies; in the world of art, she reconciles styles. She has the capacity to bear new worlds within her imagination and to birth them into a flesh made of words. She is not merely the moon, a pale reflection of the sun's bright light: she does not simply reflect the light of her Creator, she magnifies it.
Femininity cannot be reduced to any stereotype or social construct. It does not limit. It does not circumscribe the heart of woman. It is not an external ideal to which she must conform. It is not a set of qualities or traits, virtues or vices, interests or talents. It is not contained by any cultural imagery. It is an archetypal reality which is imprinted on the female body, which informs every action, every thought, every work, every word which a woman speaks. The fullness of femininity can only be revealed and understood by the total aggregate of every individual woman's experience. All are valid and all are feminine. The femininity springs from the nature of the female person. If the ideals of femininity within a culture do not conform to the personality of a particular woman, this invalidates the ideal, not the woman. Her femininity is primary, the cultural image is only its dim and imperfect reflection.
In the Beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and He was waiting, with baited breath, to receive His image and likeness, His beloved, His Bride. Woman. Fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array.
(Part 12 of 12)