Dominate your husband's wife
LETTERS TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
ABOUT THE COOPERATION BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN
IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD
1. Experienced in humanity, the Church is always interested in the concerns of men and women. Lately there has been a lot of thought about the dignity of women, their rights and duties in the various areas of civil and ecclesiastical community. The Church, which, through the teaching of John Paul II, has contributed to deepening this fundamental theme,1 is challenged today by some currents of thought whose ideas often do not match the genuine goals of promoting women.
After briefly presenting and critically evaluating various current anthropological views, the present document aims to reflect on some requirements for a right understanding of the active cooperation of men and women in the Church and in the world âÂ— with explicit recognition of their differences ÂÂ—. These considerations are inspired by the doctrinal statements of biblical anthropology, which are essential to preserve the identity of the human person. They also want to be the starting point for a path of deepening within the Church and for building a dialogue with all men and women of goodwill, in the sincere search for the truth and in a collective effort to foster ever more authentic relationships.
I. THE PROBLEM
2. In recent years new tendencies have emerged in dealing with the women's issue. A first tendency strongly emphasizes the state of subordination of women to evoke an attitude of protest. In this way, in order to really be a woman, woman makes herself an opponent of man. It responds to the abuse of power with a strategy of striving for power. This process leads to a rivalry between the sexes in which the identity and role of one is detrimental to the other. The result is a confusion in anthropology that brings harm and has its most immediate and disastrous effect on the structure of the family.
In the wake of this first tendency, a second emerges. In order to avoid any superiority of one or the other sex, one tends to eliminate their differences and to regard them as the mere effects of a historical-cultural fact. With this leveling the physical difference, gender called, reduced to a minimum, while the strictly cultural dimension, Gender called, emphasized to the highest degree and considered to be paramount. The obfuscation of the difference or duality of the sexes has tremendous effects on different levels. This anthropology, which wanted to promote perspectives for equal rights for women and to free them from any biological determinism, actually inspires ideologies that, for example, question the family, which naturally includes parents, i.e. father and mother, and the equality of homosexuality promote heterosexuality and a new model of polymorphic sexuality.
3. The immediate root of the tendency mentioned can be found in the context of the women's question. But its deepest justification must be sought in the attempt of the human person for liberation from one's own biological conditions.2 According to this anthropological perspective, human nature does not have any characteristics per se which are imposed on it in an absolute way: every person could and should form himself at his own discretion, because he would be free from any predetermination based on his essential constitution.
This perspective has multiple effects. On the one hand, it confirms the opinion that the liberation of women brings with it a criticism of the Holy Scriptures that transmits a patriarchal understanding of God that is nourished by an essentially male culture. On the other hand, according to this tendency, it is unimportant and meaningless that the Son of God accepted human nature as a man.
4. In the face of these currents of thought, on the other hand, enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, the Church speaks of active cooperation of men and women with express recognition of their differences.
In order to better understand the basis, meaning, and implications of this answer, it is appropriate to refer, at least briefly, to Scripture, which is also rich in human wisdom. In her this answer was revealed step by step thanks to the intervention of God for the benefit of man.3
II. THE BASIC STATEMENTS
OF BIBLICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
5. A first set of biblical texts to study is the first three chapters of Genesis. They lead us »into the realm of that biblical" beginning "", where the truth revealed about man as "the image and likeness of God" "is the unchangeable Gbasis of the entire Christian anthropology represents «.4
The first text (gene 1,1-2,4) describes the creative power of the word of God, which causes one to be separated from the other in the original chaos. So appear light and darkness, sea and land, day and night, plants and trees, fish and birds, all "according to their kind". Based on differences, which also promise new relationships, an orderly world emerges. This is the general framework within which the creation of man is placed. “Then God said: Let us make people in our image, like us ... So God created people in his image; he created him in the image of God. As man and woman he created them «(gene 1.26-27). Man is described here as a being who articulates himself in the relationship between man and woman from the very beginning. This sexually differentiated person is expressly called the "image of God".
6. The second account of creation (gene 2,4-25) unequivocally affirms the importance of gender diversity. Once shaped by God and placed in the garden to cultivate it, those who still use the general expression make human is described, the experience of a loneliness that cannot be filled by the animals present. He needs one Helpthat corresponds to him. This expression does not denote a subordinate role here, but a vital aid.5 The goal is to make it possible for the life of the People does not sink into a fruitless and ultimately fatal preoccupation with oneself. It is necessary that he enters into a relationship with another being living on his plane. Only woman, made of the same "flesh" and shrouded in the same mystery, gives man's life a future. The creation of women by God characterizes man on the level of his being as a being in relationship. In this encounter the word comes up that opens the man's mouth for the first time in an expression of amazement: "That is finally the leg of my leg and flesh of my flesh" (gene 2,23).
With reference to this text of Genesis, the Holy Father wrote: »The woman is a different “I” in common human existence. From the beginning they [man and woman] appear as a "unity of two", and that means overcoming the original loneliness in which man "found no help that suited him" (gene 2.20). Is it only about the ÂÂ "helpÂÂ" with the work, with the ÂÂ "subjugation of the earthÂ" (cf. gene 1.28)? Certainly it is the life companion with whom the man can connect himself as with his wife, so that he becomes "one flesh" with her and therefore leaves "father and mother" (cf. gene 2,24)«.6
The vital diversity is oriented towards the community and is lived in a peaceful way, as is expressed in the topic of being naked. "Both Adam and Eve were naked, but they were not ashamed of each other" (gene 2.25). The human body, which is marked by the seal of masculinity or femininity, »also includes the quality of the“ bridal ”from the beginning, that is to say Ability to give expression to love: that love in which the human being as a person is a gift and "through this gift" realizes the true meaning of his being and his existence ".7 In the further interpretation of these verses of Genesis, the Holy Father continues: "In this particularity, the body is the expression of the Spirit and called to be" in the mystery of creation in the community of persons "in the image of God".8
From the same spousal perspective one understands the sense in which the old account of Genesis shows how the woman in her deepest and most original being "for the other" (cf. Cor 11.9) is there. This statement is in no way intended to evoke alienation. Rather, it expresses a fundamental aspect of the resemblance to the Holy Trinity, whose persons reveal themselves through the coming of Christ as a community of mutual love. “In the“ unity of the two ”man and woman are called from the beginning, not only“ next to each other ”or“ together ”, but also one to live for the other... The text of gene 2: 18-25 indicates that marriage is the first, and in some way fundamental, dimension of that calling. Not the only one, though. The entire history of man on earth takes place within the framework of this calling. Based on the principle that in the interpersonal "community" one is there for the other, the integration of what is "masculine" and what is "feminine" into the human being willed by God develops in this story «.9
The peaceful vision at the end of the second account of creation is an echo of that "very good" that in the first account completed the creation of the first human couple. Here is the center of the heart of God's original plan and the deepest truth about man and woman as God willed and created them. These original dispositions of the Creator, however distorted and obscured by sin, can never be undone.
7. Original sin distorts the way in which men and women receive and live the word of God and their relationship with the Creator. Immediately after God has entrusted the garden to man, he gives him a positive one (cf. gene 2.16) and then a negative bid (cf. gene 2.17), in which the essential difference between God and man is implicitly stated. Seduced by the serpent, this difference is denied by man and woman. As a result, the way in which they live their sexual diversity is also distorted. The Genesis account thus establishes a cause and effect relationship between the two differences: If man regards God as his enemy, the relationship between man and woman is also corrupted. On the other hand, access to the face of God threatens to be jeopardized if the relationship between man and woman is distorted.
In the words that God addressed to women after the fall of man, the character of the relationship between man and woman is expressed in a succinct but shocking way: “You long for your husband; but he will rule over you "(gene 3.16). Often love is distorted by the mere search for oneself, creating a relationship in which love is disregarded and killed and replaced by the yoke of domination of one sex over the other. The history of mankind reproduces these relationships, which openly express the threefold lust which Saint John recalls when he speaks of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the arrogance of the world (cf. Joh 2.16). In this tragic situation, the equality, respect and love that are required for the relationship between man and woman according to God's original plan are lost.
8. A review of these basic texts makes it possible to confirm some key messages of biblical anthropology.
Above all, the personal character of the person must be underlined. »Man is a person: this applies equally to man and woman; for both are made in the image and likeness of the personal God ”.10 The same dignity of persons is realized as physical, psychological and ontological complementarity that creates a harmonious "unity in two" based on relationship. Only sin and the "structures of sin" inscribed in culture have turned this relationship into a potentially conflictual situation. Biblical anthropology suggests that the issues of gender diversity should be addressed publicly and privately in a manner that proceeds from mutual relationship rather than competition or vengeance.
In addition, it should be emphasized how important and meaningful the difference between the sexes is as a reality that is deeply inscribed in men and women. "Sexuality characterizes man and woman not only on the physical, but also on the psychological and spiritual level and shapes all of their modes of expression."11 It cannot be reduced to an insignificant biological aspect, but “is a fundamental component of personality; it is one of your ways of being, of expressing yourself, of getting in contact with others and of feeling, expressing and living human love «.12 This ability to love, the reflection and image of God, who is love, is also expressed in the spousal character of the body, in which the masculinity or femininity of the person is inscribed.
This anthropological dimension of sexuality cannot be separated from the theological dimension. The human creature in its unity of soul and body is characterized from the beginning by the relationship to the other. This relationship is always good and at the same time distorted. It is good, with an original goodness that God has made known from the first moment of creation. But it is also distorted by the disharmony between God and man that came with sin. This falsification, however, corresponds neither to God's initial plan for men and women, nor to the truth of the relationship between the sexes. It follows that this good but wounded relationship is in need of healing.
What ways of healing can there be? If the problems related to the relationship between the sexes were viewed and analyzed only from the perspective of the sinful situation, then thinking would necessarily fall back into the errors mentioned above. One must therefore break through the logic of sin and seek a way that makes it possible to remove this logic from the heart of the sinful person. A clear indication in this sense is contained in the divine promise of a Savior, in which the "woman" and her "offspring" are included (cf. gene 3.15). This promise has a long history of preparation before it is realized.
9. A first victory over evil is described in the story of Noah, a righteous man who is led by God and who escapes the flood with his family and the various animal species (cf. gene 6-9). But above all through the divine election of Abraham and his descendants (cf. gene 12: 1ff.) The hope of salvation is affirmed. So God begins to reveal his face so that through the chosen people humanity may learn the way of resemblance to him: the way of holiness and thus of the transformation of the heart. Among the many ways in which God - according to a long and patient pedagogy - reveals himself to his people (cf. Hebrew 1.1), there is also the regularly recurring reference to the topic of the union of men and women. This is paradoxical if one considers the drama of which Genesis recalls and which was repeated in a very concrete way in the time of the prophets, as well as the blending of the sacred and sexual in the religions around Israel. But this symbolism seems essential to understand the way in which God loves his people: He reveals himself to be the bridegroom who loves Israel, his bride.
If God in this respect is "jealous God" (cf. Ex 20,5; Close 1, 2) and Israel is described as an "adulterous" woman or a "prostitute" (cf. Hos 2,4-15; Ez 16: 15-34), this has its reason precisely in the hope, confirmed by the prophetic word, of seeing the new Jerusalem as the bride made perfect: “As the young man wed the virgin, so your wedded with you Builder. As the bridegroom rejoices in the bride, so your God rejoices in you «(Isa 62.5). Newly created in "justice and justice", in "love and mercy" (Hos 2:21), the one who has turned away to seek life and happiness in false gods will return to him who speaks to her heart. She will sing "as in the days of her youth" (Hos 2:17), and she will hear him proclaim: "Your Creator is your husband" (Isa 54.5). Here essentially the same is expressed as in the passages in which the book of Isaiah mentions the female form of Zion, adorned with a transcendence and holiness, parallel to the mystery of the work that God is doing through the male form of the suffering servant, announcing the gift of salvation destined for Israel.
In using this mode of revelation, the Song of Songs is undoubtedly of paramount importance. In the words of a thoroughly human love, which celebrates the beauty of the bodies and the happiness of mutual search, the divine love for his people is also expressed. The Church has therefore not gone astray when she has recognized the mystery of her relationship to Christ in the bold combination of the wholly human with the wholly divine, through the use of the same expressions.
Throughout the Old Testament, a history of salvation takes shape in which both male and female figures participate. The concepts of bridegroom and bride or of covenant, which characterize the dynamic of salvation, certainly have an obviously figurative dimension, but they are much more than mere metaphors. Indeed, the nuptial vocabulary touches upon the essence of the relationship God establishes with his people, even if that relationship goes beyond what can be expressed in the human experience of marriage. At the same time, in the way in which Isaiah's prophecies link male and female roles in the announcement and promise of the work of salvation by God, the concrete conditions of salvation are at play. This salvation directs the reader to both the male form of the suffering servant and the female form of Zion. In Isaiah's prophecies, the figure of Zion and that of the servant alternate before they culminate at the end of the book in the mysterious vision of the city of Jerusalem, which gives birth to a people in a single day (cf. Isa 66: 7-14): prophecy of the great novelty that God is about to realize (cf. Isa 48,6-8).
10. All of these promises are fulfilled in the New Testament. On the one hand, Mary, the chosen daughter of Zion, embraces and transforms as a woman the bride and groom of the people of Israel, who are waiting for the day of their salvation. On the other hand, in the son's manhood, one can see how Jesus absorbs in his person everything that Old Testament symbolism applied to God's love for his people, which is described as the love of a bridegroom for his bride. In this way, Jesus and Mary, his mother, not only ensure the continuity of the Old Testament with the New, but also protrude beyond that, because with Jesus Christ "all the novelty"13 becomes visible, as St. Irenaeus says.
This aspect is particularly emphasized by the Gospel of John. At the wedding in Cana, for example, Jesus is asked by his mother - who is called "woman" - to take care of the sign of the new wine of the future marriage to mankind (cf. Joh 2.1-12). This messianic wedding takes place under the cross, where - again in the presence of the mother, who is addressed as "woman" - the blood / wine of the new covenant flows from the open heart of the crucified one (cf. Joh 19,25-27.34).14 It is therefore not surprising that when asked who he is, John the Baptist calls himself “the bridegroom's friend”, who is happy when he hears the bridegroom's voice and who has to step back when he comes: “Who the bride has is the bridegroom; but the bridegroom's friend, who stands by and hears him, is delighted at the bridegroom's voice. This joy has now become a reality for me. It has to grow, but I have to get smaller «(Joh 3,29-30).15
In his apostolic ministry, Paul unfolds the full nuptial meaning of redemption when he understands Christian life as a nuptial mystery. He wrote to the Church of Corinth which he founded: “I love you with the jealousy of God; I have betrothed you to one man so that I may lead you to Christ as a pure virgin "(Ex Cor 11,2).
In the letter to the Ephesians, the nuptial relationship between Christ and the Church is taken up and deepened in detail. In the new covenant, the beloved bride is the church. in the Letter to the families the Holy Father teaches: "This bride of whom the Letter to the Ephesians speaks is present in every baptized person and is like a person who appears before the gaze of her bridegroom: He" loved the Church and gave himself for her ... So if he wants to make the church appear glorious before him, without stains, wrinkles or other flaws; it should be holy and flawless "(Eph 5,25-27)«.16
When considering the union of man and woman as it is described in connection with the creation of the world (cf. gene 2:24), the apostle exclaims: “This is a profound mystery; I am referring to Christ and the Church "(Eph 5.32). The love of man and woman, lived in the power of the grace of baptism, now becomes the sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a testimony to the mystery of fidelity and unity from which the "new Eve" is born and from which she lives on her earthly life Pilgrim way lives while waiting for the completion of the eternal wedding.
11. The Christian married couples, immersed in the paschal mystery and made living signs of the love of Christ and the Church, are renewed in their hearts. You can avoid the relationships that are shaped by the desire and tendency to dominate the other that the break with God through sin left in the first human couple. The goodness of love, for which the wounded human heart had longed for, reveals itself with new accents and possibilities. In this light, in connection with the question of divorce (cf. Mt 19: 3-9) remind us of the demands of the covenant between men and women, as God made them at the beginning, i.e. before the onset of sin, which justified the subsequent provisions of the Mosaic Law. This word of Jesus in no way seeks to impose a rigid, merciless order, but is in fact the announcement of "good news", the message of fidelity that is stronger than sin. In the power of the resurrection, the victory of fidelity over the weaknesses, the wounds suffered and the sins of the couple is possible. In the grace of Christ who renews their hearts, men and women will be able to free themselves from sin and see the joy of giving one another.
12. “For all of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ as a garment. There are no more ... man and woman ”, St. Paul writes to the Galatians (3: 27-28). The apostle is not here declaring that the distinction between man and woman, which he says elsewhere is part of God's plan, is invalid. Rather, he wants to say that in Christ the rivalry, enmity and violence that have distorted the relationship between man and woman can be and have been overcome. In this sense, the distinction between man and woman, which incidentally accompanies the biblical revelation to the end, is reinforced more than ever. In the last hour of contemporary history, "a new heaven" and "a new earth" appear in the Revelation of John (Rev. 21: 1), and the female figure of the city of Jerusalem appears in the vision, "ready as a bride who has adorned herself for her husband" (Rev. 21.2). Revelation closes with the word of the Spirit and the Bride, who pray for the coming of the Bridegroom: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22,20).
Being a man and being a woman are like that belonging ontologically to creation disclosed and therefore intended To last beyond the present time, of course, in a transformed form. In this way they characterize love that never ceases (cf. Cor 13.8), even though the temporal, earthly expression of sexuality is transient in its relation to the living conditions shaped by conception and death. For this form of the future realization of man and woman, celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven wants to be a prophetic sign. Those who are celibate anticipate a reality of existence that will remain that of a man or a woman, but will no longer be subject to the current limitations of the marital relationship (cf. Mt 22.30). For those who live in marriage, this status is also an indication and a prophetic sign of the consummation that their relationship will find in the encounter with God face to face.
Man and woman are different from the beginning of creation and will remain so for all eternity. Inserted into the paschal mystery of Christ, they no longer experience their difference as a cause of disagreement that would have to be overcome by denial or leveling, but as an opportunity for cooperation that can be achieved in mutual respect for difference. From here new perspectives open up for a deeper understanding of the dignity of women and their role in human society and in the Church.
III. THE ACTUALITY
OF FEMALE VALUES
IN THE LIFE OF SOCIETY
13. Among the basic values connected with the concrete life of women, we should mention what has been called her "ability for the other". Despite the fact that a certain current of feminism demands claims "for themselves", the woman still retains the profound intuition that the best of her life is to stand up for the good of the other, for his growth, for his protection.
This intuition is linked to their physical ability to give life. The lived or potential capacity for motherhood is a reality that deeply shapes the female personality. It helps her very quickly to achieve maturity, a sense of the meaning of life and the responsibility that goes with it. It unfolds in it the sense of and the reverence for the concrete that opposes the abstractions that are often fatal for the life of the individual and society. After all, even in the most hopeless situations - the past and present are witnesses to it - the woman possesses a unique ability to withstand adversity, to make life possible in extreme circumstances, to maintain a firm sense of the future and to tear through tears to remember the price of every human life.
Even if motherhood is of central importance for female identity, it is not correct to see women only in terms of biological reproduction. In this regard there can be serious exaggerations that glorify biological fertility with vitalistic expressions and are often associated with a dangerous devaluation of women. The Christian vocation to virginity, which is a real challenge to the Old Testament tradition and the claims of many human social systems, is of the greatest importance in this respect.17 This vocation radically refutes any claim to include women in a purely biological fate. Just as virginity is reminded through bodily motherhood that the Christian vocation always includes the concrete gift of self, so bodily motherhood is reminded of its essentially spiritual dimension through virginity: In order to really give life to the other one is allowed not content with physical procreation. This means that there can be forms of full realization of motherhood even where there is no physical conception.18
From this perspective, the irreplaceable role of women in all areas of family and social life, where human relationships and concern for others are at stake, becomes understandable. This clearly shows what the Holy Father denotes Woman's genius named.19 Above all, this means that women are active and also firmly in the family, »the initial and, in a certain sense, ÂÂ" sovereignÂ "society",20 should be present. It is here in particular that the face of a people is formed, and it is here that its members acquire the basic knowledge. They learn to love because they themselves are loved for free; they learn to respect every other person because they themselves are respected; they get to know the face of God because they receive his first revelation from a father and a mother who give them all their care. Whenever these basic experiences are missing, the whole of society is subjected to violence and society in turn produces various forms of violence. This also means that women should be present in the world of work and social life and have access to positions of responsibility that give them the opportunity to inspire peoples' politics and to suggest new solutions to economic and social problems.
In this context, however, one must not forget that the overlap between two activities - family and work - takes on different characteristics in women than in men. Therefore the task arises of harmonizing the legislation and the organization of work with the requirements of the mission of women within the family. This is not just about a legal, economic and organizational question, but above all a question of mentality, culture and respect. What is required is a fair appreciation of the work that women do in the family. In this way, women who voluntarily wish to do so could devote all of their time to domestic work without being socially stigmatized and economically punished. On the other hand, those who would like to do other activities could do so in an adapted work rhythm without being faced with the alternative of giving up their family life or being exposed to a constant stressful situation that is neither conducive to personal balance nor harmony in the family . John Paul II wrote about it: “A society will be honored if it enables the mother to take care of and bring up her children without hindering her free choice, without psychological or practical discrimination and without being disadvantaged in relation to her colleagues to dedicate to the various needs of their age «.21
14. It is worth remembering, however, that the feminine values just mentioned are above all human values: the human condition, both man and woman, created in the image of God, is one and indivisible. Only because women more spontaneously agree with the stated values can they be an appeal and a preferred symbol for these values. Ultimately, however, everyone, whether man or woman, is destined to be there “for the other”. In this perspective, what is called "femininity" is more than a mere attribute of the female sex. The expression describes the basic human ability to live for and thanks to the other.
Therefore, the promotion of women within society must be understood and wanted as a humanization, which becomes reality through the newly discovered values thanks to women. Any perspective that pretends to be a battle of the sexes is only an illusion and danger: it would end in situations of isolation and rivalry between men and women and promote an ego that is nurtured by a false understanding of freedom.
Without prejudice to efforts to promote the rights women seek in society and in the family, these comments seek to correct a perspective in which men are viewed as enemies to be defeated. The relationship between man and woman cannot find its just order in a kind of suspicious, defensive opposition. It is necessary that this relationship be lived in the peace and happiness of undivided love.
On a more concrete level, social policy measures ÂÂ— relating to education, the family, work, access to services, participation in civil life ÂÂ— on the one hand must combat any unjust gender discrimination and on the other hand aspirations and Knowing how to perceive and recognize needs of everyone. The defense and promotion of equal dignity and common personal values must be harmonized with the careful recognition of mutual differences where this is required of the realization of one's own man or woman.
IV. THE UPDATE
OF FEMALE VALUES
IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
15. As far as the Church is concerned, the sign of women is more central and fruitful than ever. This has to do with the identity that the church has received from God and accepted by faith. This "mystical," fundamental, being-like identity must be kept present in pondering the respective roles of men and women in the Church.
Since the first generations of Christians, the Church has viewed itself as a community begotten of Christ and bound to him by a relationship of love, the most excellent expression of which is the marriage experience. It follows that the Church's first task is to remain in the presence of this mystery of God's love that was revealed in Jesus Christ, to contemplate and celebrate it. In this regard, Mary is the fundamental point of reference in the Church. One could say with a metaphor that Mary gives the church the mirror in which she should recognize her own identity, but also the attitudes of the heart, the attitudes and the deeds that God expects of her.
Mary's existence is an invitation for the church to anchor her being in hearing and receiving the word of God. Faith is not so much man's search for God, but rather man's recognition that God comes to him, visits him and speaks to him. This belief that "nothing is impossible for God" (cf. gene 18,14; Lk 1.37), lives and grows in humble, loving obedience with which the Church can say to the Father: "Let it be done to me as you have said" (Lk 1.38). Faith constantly points to Jesus: "Do what he tells you!" (Joh 2.5). Faith goes with Jesus on the way to below the cross. In the hour of deepest darkness, Mary endures courageously and faithfully, because she trusts the word of God with a unique certainty.
From Mary the Church learns familiarity with Christ. Mary, who carried the little child of Bethlehem in her hands, teaches us to recognize the infinite humility of God. She, who has taken the tortured body of Jesus, taken from the cross, in her arms, shows the church how to care for all people who are disfigured in this world by violence and sin. From Mary the Church learns the importance of the power of love, as God shows and reveals in the life of his beloved Son: "He scatters those who are proud in heart ... and exalts the lowly" (Lk 1.51-52). From Mary the disciples of Christ receive the sense and taste for praise before the work of the hands of God: "The mighty one has done great things for me" (Lk1.49). They learn that they are in the world to keep the memory of these "feats" and watchfully await the Lord's Day.
16. Looking to Mary and imitating her does not mean abandoning the Church to a passivity inspired by a conquered conception of femininity and exposing her to a vulnerability that is dangerous in a world where, above all, domination and life Count power. Indeed, the way of Christ is neither the way of government (cf. Phil 2.6) nor the way of power in the worldly sense (cf. Joh 18.36). One can learn from the Son of God that this "passivity" is really the way of love, that it is a royal power that overcomes all violence, that it is "passion" that redeems the world from sin and death and mankind creates new. The crucified, entrusting the apostle John to his mother, invites his Church to learn from Mary the mystery of that love that triumphs.
The reference to Mary and her attitudes of listening, receiving, humility, fidelity, praise and expectation does not in any way give the Church an identity based on a random model of femininity, but rather places it in continuity with the spiritual history of Israel. In Jesus and through Jesus these attitudes become the calling of every baptized person. Regardless of the circumstances, the status of life, the various vocations with or without public responsibility, these attitudes constitute an essential aspect of the identity of Christian life. Even if these are attitudes that should shape every baptized person, the woman is characterized by the fact that she lives these attitudes with particular intensity and naturalness. In this way women play a role of paramount importance in church life. They remind all the baptized of these attitudes and help in a unique way to reveal the true face of the Church, the Bride of Christ and the Mother of the believers.
From this perspective it is also understandable how the fact that the ordination is reserved exclusively for men,22 in no way prevents women from entering the heart center of Christian life. Women are called to be irreplaceable role models and witnesses of how the Church, as the bride, must respond with love to the love of the bridegroom.
17. In Jesus Christ everything was made new (cf. Rev. 21.5). But there is no renewal in grace without conversion of hearts. Looking at Jesus and confessing that he is Lord, it is a matter of recognizing the path of love that conquers sin and that he shows his disciples.
In this way the relationship between man and woman is transformed and the threefold desire of which the first epistle of John speaks (cf. Joh 2.16), no longer has the upper hand. One must accept the testimony that proceeds from the lives of women and reveals values without which humanity would lock itself up in self-sufficiency, in dreams of power and in the drama of violence. Women too must allow themselves to be converted and recognize the unique values which are so effective in love for others and which they bear as a woman. In both cases it is a question of the conversion of man to God, so that both the man and the woman recognize God in truth as their "help", as creator who is full of mercy, as savior, who "so much the world." loved that he gave his only son ”(Joh 3,16).
Such a conversion cannot take place without humble prayer in order to receive that clear vision from God that recognizes both one's own sin and healing grace. In a special way it is necessary to invoke the Virgin Mary, the woman after the heart of God, "more blessed than all other women" (cf. Lk 1.42) and chosen to reveal the way of love to men and women. Only in this way can the "image of God" become visible in every man and in every woman, according to their own grace, that sacred image with which they are distinguished (cf. gene 1.27). Only in this way can the road of peace and wonder be found again, which biblical tradition testifies in the verses of the Song of Songs, in which bodies and hearts burst into the same jubilation.
The Church is aware of the power of sin, which is at work in individuals and in social systems, and which could sometimes lead to the loss of hope in the goodness of men and women. But because of her belief in the crucified and risen Christ, she knows even more about the power of forgiveness and surrender despite all wounds and injustices. The peace and astonishment, to which she points out with confidence to the men and women of today, are the peace and the astonishment which, in the Garden of Resurrection, have illuminated our world and all of history with the revelation: "God is love" ( 1 Joh 4,8.16).
Pope John Paul II approved this letter, adopted in the Ordinary Assembly of this Congregation, in the audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect and ordered its publication.
Rome, at the seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on May 31, 2004, the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary.
+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger
+ Angelo Amato, SDB
Titular Archbishop of Sila
1See John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981): AAS 74 (1982) 81-191; Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988): AAS 80 (1988) 1653-1729; Letter to the families (February 2, 1994): AAS 86 (1994) 868-925; Letter to women (June 29, 1995): AAS 87 (1995) 803-812; Catecheses on human love (1979-1984): Insegnamenti II (1979) - VII (1984); Congregation for Catholic Education, Orientation to education in human love. Advice on gender education (November 1, 1983): Ench. Vat. 9, 420-456; Pontifical Council for the Family, Human Sexuality: Truth and Meaning. Orientation aids for family upbringing (December 8, 1995): Ench. Vat. 14, 2008-2077.
2On the complex question of Gender see also Pontifical Council for the Family, Family, marriage and “de facto” unions (July 26, 2000), 8: L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly edition in German (December 22, 2000), 8.
3 See John Paul II, encyclical Fides et ratio (September 14, 1998), 21: AAS 91 (1999) 22: »This opening to the mystery, which came to him [biblical man] from Revelation, was finally for him the source of a true knowledge that allowed his reason to immerse himself in the spaces of the infinite, whereby he up to then received unexpected opportunities for understanding «.
4John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 6: AAS 80 (1988) 1662; see St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, 5, 6, 1; 5, 16, 2-3: SC 153, 72-81; 216-221; St. Gregory of Nyssa, De hominis opificio, 16: PG 44, 180; In Canticum homilia, 2: PG 44, 805-808; St. Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmum, 4, 8: CCL 38,17.
5The Hebrew word ezer, that with Help is translated, denotes assistance that only one person gives to another person. The expression in no way smacks of inferiority or usefulness, if one considers that God also sometimes in his relationship to humans ezer is called (cf. Ex 18,4; Ps 10,14).
6 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 6: AAS 80 (1988) 1664.
7 John Paul II, Catechesis Man as a person becomes a gift in the freedom of love (January 16, 1980), 1: Insegnamenti III, 1 (1980) 148.
8John Paul II, Catechesis The desire of the body distorts the relationships between men and women (July 23, 1980), 1: Insegnamenti III, 2 (1980) 288.
9 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 7: AAS 80 (1988) 1666.
10Ibid., 6: loc. cit. 1663.11 Congregation for Catholic Education, Orientation to education in human love. Advice on gender education (November 1, 1983), 4: Ench. Vat. 9, 423.
13 St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, 4, 34, 1: SC 100, 846: "Omnem novitatem attulit semetipsum afferens".
14 The old exegetical tradition sees Mary at Cana as the "figura synagogae" and the "inchoatio Ecclesiae".
15 The fourth Gospel here deepens a theme that can already be found among the Synoptics (cf. Mt 9.15 and parallel passages). On the subject of Jesus the bridegroom, cf.John Paul II., Letter to the families (February 2, 1994), 18: AAS 86 (1994) 906-910.
16John Paul II, Letter to the families (February 2, 1994), 19: AAS 86, 911 (1994); see Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 23-25: AAS 80 (1988) 1708-1715.
17See John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981), 16: AAS 74 (1982) 98-99.
18Ibid., 41: loc. cit. 132-133; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instructions Donum vitae (February 22, 1987), II, 8: AAS 80 (1988) 96-97.
19See John Paul II, Letter to women (June 29, 1995), 9-10: AAS 87 (1995) 809-810.
20John Paul II, Letter to the families (February 2, 1994), 17: AAS 86 (1994) 906.
21encyclical Laborem exercens (September 14, 1981), 19: AAS 73 (1981) 627.
22See John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994): AAS 1994, 86 545-548; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Answer to doubts about the teaching presented in the Apostolic Exhortation "Ordinatio sacerdotalis" (October 28, 1995): AAS 87 (1995) 1114.
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