Thursday, 25 July 2013

Man and woman

To what extent are the differences between man and woman rooted in the soul, rather than just the body? If the soul is the "form" of the body, one might assume that masculinity and femininity are characteristics of the soul before they are of the body. Yet the tradition of patristic and medieval commentary on Scripture suggests otherwise. The difficulty was partly how to reconcile the teaching of Genesis that man and woman together were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and that of St Paul that man is the "image and glory of God", whereas woman is (only?) "the glory of man" (1 Cor. 11:7), having been made from man. Most agreed that woman, being taken from the side of man rather than his foot or his head, was intended to be his equal and rather than his slave or his master. Furthermore it was accepted that women were at least as capable as men of receiving grace and becoming saints. But some concluded that "woman" and "man" are sometimes used in Scripture as symbolic terms representing the lower and higher intellect respectively – woman being the lower, more engaged with the physical world. Man, however, has a certain superiority in ruling, according to these writers. To a modern person, such arguments are less than persuasive.

It seems to me that not enough attention was given to the fact that in Genesis 3:16 man's ruling over woman is identified as a consequence of the Fall, rather than as part of the original order of things. As for the allegorical identification with the higher and lower intellect, this is interesting in that it suggests a complexity

Friday, 12 July 2013


"So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). I had not until recently noticed that faith and hope are both destined to remain for eternity. I had assumed that faith would give way to knowledge of God – we would not need to have faith, once we had direct vision, just as we would not need the sacraments, once we had God himself. But St Paul suggests otherwise, and this implies that faith is more than a substitute for knowledge. It is actually a kind of knowledge, the perfect form of which is distinct from love and hope, and inferior to love in some sense, but equally eternal.

This makes sense if we think of faith as equivalent to trust. We place our trust in someone, or in their word. Similarly, the infused virtue of faith is an act of trust we perform – we place our trust in God and in his Word and in the Church who brings him to us. In heaven we will still trust God, and we will still hope eternally in him, but we shall also know fully the One we trust, because perfect love unites us with him, and love "believes all things" and "hopes all things" (13:7).

The encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, is full of important insights. One of them takes the above argument a lot further. "This fullness which Jesus brings to faith has another decisive aspect. In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe, the supreme manifestation of God's love; he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing" (n. 18; cf. 21).

Other interesting themes include faith as light, remembrance of the future (9), deep memory and relativism (11, 25, 40), the spiritual senses of sight, hearing and touch (30-31), importance of Greek philosophy (32), relation of truth and love (29-31), theology as a participation in God's knowledge (36), the "we" of the Church (39), the sacramental structure of faith (40), faith as the common good (51), why marriage must be between man and woman (52), the rediscovery of brotherhood (54), the grammar of creation and ecology (55), union in suffering and death as a call to faith (56-57), and much else.

Read James Schall SJ on the encyclical.
And Carl E. Olson.