Meditation Seeking Understanding ~ Patriarchy
These pages are meditations on the mysteries of the creation, the incarnation, and the redemption. They explore the Christian understanding that all men and women are consubstantial in one and the same human nature, and are consubstantial with Jesus Christ as to his humanity. The meditations are based on a layman's reading of the Sacred Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Theology of the Body as they pertain to the egalitarian complementarity of man and woman, which transcends the patriarchal binary of mutually exclusive male-female opposites. This understanding of the complementary equality of man and woman applies to all the sacraments, sheds light on the great nuptial mystery of Christ and the Church, and would seem to support the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood and the episcopate.
Patriarchal Disunity of Man and Woman|
Working Draft - 11 March 2016
In the Catholic Church, the resistance to the ordination of women is rooted in a sacramental theology that conflates the patriarchal gender binary with biblical revelation. This is a meditation on human nature, male and female, as it pertains to the sacramental priesthood of the New Law when unconstrained by the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law. This is a visceral issue that cannot not be settled by reasoning alone. This page attempts to support prayerful discernment by stepping outside of the patriarchal box and reconsidering the issue in light of the deposit of faith and the signs of the times.
On the relativity of a passing cultural tradition:
"A custom without truth is ancient error."|
St. Cyprian (3rd Century CE)
Colors: Grey = Biblical "Flesh" (Human Nature), Beige = Body, Pink = Female, Blue = Male, Purple = Intersex.
NB: The grey (biblical "flesh," i.e., human nature) subsists under the other colors for all humans. Needless to say, Christ is 100% human and 100% divine.
Acronyms and Links:
CREATION CORRUPTED BY ORIGINAL SIN
Adam and Eve: Created in the Image of God, of the Same Flesh and the Same Spirit
Genesis 1:27-28, 31; 2:7, 15, 21-23; 3:6-7, 14-17, 5:1-2; CCC 385, 387, 396, 413-421, 1871; TOB 2:4, 3:1-4, 8:1-4, 9:1-5, 10:1, 70:7, 72:5, 102:4
Images: James Tissot - Wikipedia, Gatag Free Illustrations
Point: 1 Patriarchy, the culture of male domination and female submission, is ancient and pervasive but is not natural. The original, natural communion of man and woman was corrupted by original sin. The original unity of man and woman subsists in one and the same human nature but is corrupted by concupiscence and a propensity to selfishness and violence.
Point 2: The sexual differentiation of man and woman is a life giving gift of nuptial love that makes their unity a full image of Trinitarian communion; but, after original sin, this natural order became disordered by patriarchal differentiation of male and female, ideologically manifested as a gender binary that distorts sexual differentiation pursuant to male domination and female submission. As a result, all human relations, as well as the relationship between humans and nature, decayed in purity and harmony.
Point 3: The TOB deconstructs the patriarchal gender binary. A central point of the TOB is that bodiliness and sexuality are not identical realities. Being a body-person (or body-soul) existentially precedes sexual differentiation. Sex is constitutive of the created human person because the human person is a body as opposed to a disembodied divine Person; and subsequently the body is sexually differentiated, but being a body is more fundamental than being a man or a woman, as manifested by the natural homogeneity of man and woman in their "whole being."
Creation of the first human person and subsequent sexual differentiation
Point 4: Since a human person is a body, every somatic trait is constitutive of the human person. There is a continuum of human psychosomatic traits, sex being the most profound, others being more superficial such as race, skin color, etc., but none being determinative of the human person. What is determinative? Each human person is created by "an act of enlivening matter by the spirit." This "animation of the body" is what determines that a body made of dust becomes a body-person, a living soul. So the TOB explicitly recognizes that the "homogeneity of the whole being" of man and woman, made of the same flesh and fully consubstantial in human nature, precedes and transcends all psychosomatic differences, including sex.
BEFORE THE INCARNATION
One Flesh, Many Patriarchs, No Matriarchs
Genesis 3:16, 2:7, 18-24; 5:1-2, 3-32, 11:10-32, 12:1-3, 21:10; Exodus 3:15, 20:17; Leviticus 12:1-5; Numbers 3:1-15; Deuteronomy 21:10-13; Matthew 1:1-17, 13:3-38, 19:12; Luke 3:23-38; John 1:1-14, 4:23-27, 16:2-13, 17:16, 20:17; CCC 145, 239, 370, 706, 762, 1669, 2676, 2779; TOB 22:5, 27:2, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33
Image: Patriarchs of the Bible - Wikipedia
Point 1: After original sin and the inception of the patriarchal gender binary, the father is the head of the family. The divine feminine is suppressed, and God becomes exclusively male in the image of human patriarchs:
God in Man's Image - Cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
Point 2: Before the incarnation, in this patriarchal culture, wives are the posession of their husbands. Only male children are counted. Only the boys are instructed in the Law. The patriarchal priesthood is transmitted from fathers to sons. Only the males can worship in public (synagogue, temple). Only male animals are deemed to be a worthy offering to be sacrificed. It is not a matter of patriarchy being intrinsically evil (nothing human is 100% good or 100% bad) but it is an objective cultural disorder derived from original sin, and one that can and should be corrected in response to the signs of the times; for the patriarchal era is passing away as families increasingly evolve from sole male (father) headship toward joint male-female (father-mother) headship.
Jesus is the "Son of Man," but was the "Son of God" a male before the incarnation? For the redemption and the sacramental economy, is the human masculinity of Jesus more important than the color of his eyes?
Point 3: God is Love, a pure spirit. Before the incarnation, God did not have a body. At the incarnation, the second Person became flesh in time and space, in a concrete human body, with a concrete patriarchal genealogy, like us in all things but sin. In the world, but not of the world, Jesus never identified himself as a patriarch, never married, and never fathered children even in the midst of his patriarchal heritage. He challenged the patriarchal culture without imposing his divine wisdom, and conformed to the culture as much as necessary in dealing with others who were not ready to step out of their cultural box, while planting the seeds for a New Law that utterly transcends the limitations of the Old Law. He chose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel, but after his resurrection sent Mary Magdalene as "apostle to the apostles." Starting with Mary's free decision at the Annunciation (without asking for Joseph's permission!), the incarnation turned the patriarchal culture upside down and inside out; but in a humble way that tolerated resistance to change, not by force.
BEFORE THE REDEMPTION
One Flesh, Before and After the Redemption of the Body
Genesis 2:18-24, 12:1-3, 21:10; Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 12:1-5; Numbers 3:15; Deuteronomy 5:21, 21:10-13; Matthew 8:20, 18:11; Mark 10:35-45, 16:1-3; Luke 2:46, 9:58; John 1:1-14; Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 4:14, 10:5; CCC 145, 706, 762, 1669, 2676; TOB 8:1, 4, 9:1-5, 10:1-4, 19:3-5, 29:1-5, 30:3-5, 31:3-5, 32:3-5, 33:2, 44:6, 55:2-6, 58:3, 59:3, 65:3, 66:1-3, 67:3, 68:1, 69:4-6, 70:5-7, 75:3, 76:6, 78:5, 80:4, 86:1-4, 87:5, 89:1-8, 90:5, 91:6, 92:6, 95:1-7, 95b:1, 96:5, 97:5, 102:4, 116:5, 117b:6, 122:1, 123:7, 129:3-5, 130:5, 133:1
Image: Boy and Girl, Artist Unknown - Union History
Point 1: The original unity of man and woman as created rational animals, and their communion of reciprocity ("Yin-Yang"), are distorted by the patriarchal gender binary in the culture of ancient Israel. This is a distortion made by human hands, not God's. It should be noted that, before the incarnation, the second Person of the Trinity had not assumed human nature, i.e., had not been embodied in human flesh. The incarnation is a discrete event in human history. The second divine Person is eternal, but became flesh and blood in the historical Jesus (later recognized as the Christ), thereby embracing all the limitations of the human condition ("like us in all things but sin"), including sex, ethnicity, height, color of hair, etc.
Point 2: What really matters for the Christian faith is that God became human, in the flesh, not that he was incarnated as a male. Jesus identified himself as the Son of Man, a human being; he never identified himself as a patriarch. For the redemption, and for the sacramental economy of the New Law, his masculinity is as incidental as the color of his eyes. Of course, "incidental" is not the same as "accidental." God having common sense, and always coming to us where we are, it is no accident that the eternal Word became incarnate as a male in a culture where the father is the head of the family, wives are the posession of their husbands, only male children are counted, sons are valued more than daughters, the priesthood is transmitted from fathers to sons, only the boys are instructed in the Law, only the males can worship in public (temple, synagogue), and only male animals are chosen to be sacrificed. The original unity of man and woman had been psychologically repressed and buried, and the artificial stone of the patriarchal binary had been placed at the entrance of the tomb. In many cultures and religious traditions, and in some Christian churches, the stone has yet to be removed.
Point 3: Jesus Christ is Son of God and Son of Man, one divine Person with two natures, divine and human. The Son of God is "eternally begotten," a divine person that transcends all human limitations of time and space, including sex and gender. The Son of Man was born of the Virgin Mary (ca. 4 BC), the same divine Person but now also a human being, a rational animal, a body-soul with a concrete human body of flesh and blood that is limited to be either male or female. Before the incarnation, God is God. After the incarnation, God is God and is, in addition, a human being. Thus the incarnation of God as a human male is part of God becoming human for our redemption in the context of a patriarchal culture. God could as well have incarnated as a human female in a matriarchal culture. Every baptized human person, male or female, is a visible image of Jesus Christ as both Son of God and Son of Man. For the redemption, and for the sacramental economy of the New Law, the human masculinity of Christ is as incidental as the color of his eyes. Lamentably, as of 2016 AD, the hierarchical structure of some Christian churches still images our High Priest, Son of God and Son of Man, as an idolatrous male.
MOSAIC LAW, PATRIARCHAL COVENANT
Mosaic Law and Patriarchal Covenant of the Old Law
Genesis 3:16, 12:1-3, 21:10; Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 12:1-5; Numbers 3:15; Deuteronomy 5:21; Luke 2:22-40; Galatians 4:4; CCC 145, 706, 762, 1669, 2534, 2676; TOB 2:4, 4:3, 5:5-6, 6:3, 8:1, 10:1, 19:4, 21:3, 45:1, 44:6, 55:2, 60:1-2, 69:2, 72:5, 85:9, 86:4, 93:3, 95:6, 99:4, 102:5, 119:4
Image: Bible Scripture
Point 1: Time and place: Israel, before the incarnation and the redemption. Jesus of Nazareth was born under the Law. His parents were subject to the Law and he willingly remained subject to the Law. The ten commandments, good as they are, already reflect contamination by patriarchy.
Point 2: The Old Law is understood and articulated as a patriarchal covenant between a God that looks like a divine Patriarch and a people ruled by Moses and other human patriarchs. The father is the head of the family. Wives are practically the posession of their husbands (cf. the tenth commandment, "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."). It is a phallocentric culture. Only male children are counted. Only the boys are circumcised as a sign of the covenant, and only the boys are instructed in the Law. The patriarchal priesthood is transmitted from fathers to sons. Only the males can worship in public (synagogue, temple). Only male animals are chosen to be sacrificed.
Point 3: It is divine pedagogy that God comes to us where we are. To reveal the divine plan for the New Law in a way that people could understand, the Lamb of God had to be male.
CHOSEN PEOPLE, PATRIARCHAL PRIESTHOOD
Chosen People and Patriarchal Priesthood of the Old Law
Genesis 3:16, 12:1-3, 21:10 49:28; Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 12:1-5; Numbers 3:15; Deuteronomy 5:21, 21:10-13; Isaiah 42:1-7, 54:7-10; Jeremiah 29:11; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; Mark 1:29-39; John 4:27; Acts 10:34-38; CCC 145, 706, 762, 1669, 2676; TOB 2:4, 5:5-6, 6:3, 8:1, 10:1, 19:4, 21:3, 45:1, 44:6, 55:2, 60:1-2, 69:2, 72:5, 85:9, 86:4, 95:6, 99:4, 102:5, 119:4
Images: Sacra Bibbia Illustrata,
Ralph Wilson - Bible Study Series,
Levitical Priesthood - Wikipedia
Point 1: Time and place: Israel under the Roman empire, during the public ministry of Jesus. Brute force was normative under the Old Law. Israel conquered or was conquered, depending on the obedience of the people to a warrior God. The prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, etc.) reminded people of God's mercy, but "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" remains the basic law of the land under Roman rule.
Point 2: In this culture, the father is the head of the family. Wives are, for all practical purposes, the posession of their husbands. Women are not credible as witnesses. Only male children are counted. The patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel are the "fathers" of the chosen people. The patriarchal priesthood is transmitted from fathers to sons. Only male animals are sacrificed. Virility is viewed as the supreme virtue, the summit of humanity. Only the boys are instructed on the Law. Only the males can worship in public (synagogue, temple). Only male animals are chosen to be sacrificed. It is a phallocentric culture of patriarchal domination, of women by men, and of nature by men.
Point 3: In Jesus of Nazareth, God became a human being, the eternal Word assumed a body of flesh in which he humbly submitted to baptism even though he was sinless, to live and suffer under the Old Law in order to bring about the advent of the New Law and the Good News that God wants mercy, not sacrifice. He went around teaching and doing good, thus revealing by his deeds that the name of God is not really Yahweh. The name of God is Mercy!
This meditation does not attempt to "prove" anything. It is a personal reflection about a visceral issue that cannot be resolved by reasoning alone, and prayerful discernment of Christ's will is required. The truth is timeless, but the Church's understanding of the truth is not timeless; the faith is always the same but the Holy Spirit enables the Church to bring out of the deposit of faith what is new and what is old (cf. Matthew 13:52).
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change,
The courage to change what I should change,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Mary, Mother of the Church and Untier of Knots, pray for us.
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