Page 9, 5th October 1979

5th October 1979
Page 9
Page 9, 5th October 1979 — The Catholic Church and Women's Lib

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Organisations: Catholic Church


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The Catholic Church and Women's Lib

Genesis 2.18-24: Not so very long ago this reading -recording God's creation of woman from the side of Adam — might have been used to prove the superiority of the male sex. Nowadays the Church moves in the wake — if not the mainstream — of the feminist movement and we arc more careful of making such easy assumptions.

In the two accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis the climax is not the creation of man as some sort of perfection of God's work, but the institution of marriage. The first tells us simply that 'male and female he created them' (1.27): sexuality has as its purpose the growth of the human race — man and woman are called to cooperate directly with God in the work of creation, But in the second marriage is given a further purpose. God says: It is not good for a man to he alone; I will make a helper for him who is like him.' Here sexuality and marriage are divine institutions through which man and woman find their fulfillment — together.

The relationship between the two sexes is not described in terms of superiority or service but as a partnership. The man, who is superior to all the animals, cannot find a companion except in one who is 'flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone'.

Woman complements man; she is the perfect partner for whose sake a man leaves father and mother, attaching himself to his wife, and becoming with her 'one flesh'.

Hebrews 2.9-11: The theme of fulfillment or being made Holy and perfect is particularly strong in Hebrews. Jesus himself, the perfect High Priest, has already made the journey into the splendour of the Father's presence. By becoming 'lower than the angels' and subrhitting to death he is now crowned with glory and splendour.'

But Jesus is also a leader who guides his brothers along the path of obedience learned through suffering (5.8-10). There may be only one High Priest who has access to the Father. Nevertheless we also share in Christ's consecration or fulfillment because the ones who are sanctified are of the same stock'.

The argument is simple enough: Christ who was created a descendant of Adam like us .bcomes the agent of our salvation by letting us share in his priestly consecration. This, according to Hebrews. is all part of God's purpose: the fulfillment which we experience in Christ as he leads us to the Father is the very reason for our creation and continued existence. Creation and Salvation are one.

lark 10.2-16: In the book of

Genesis creation is understandably conceived as a temporal sequence — one -event coming neatly after another. But when Jesus is asked a question about divorce and marriage his fundamental point is that 'from the beginning of creation God made them male and female'.

God did not make Adam and then Eve as an afterthought, as if to keep Adam happy. Man and woman are equal partners in the divine purpose. Moses may have allowed divorce in certain circumstances, for your hardness of heart', but Jesus goes back beyond the Law to the principles involved in the creative plan itself.

The free consent of man and woman by which they are made 'one flesh' becomes in the Kingdom of God which Jesus announces an expression of the relationship which exists between God and his people. Prophets like Hosea and Isaiah sass, Yahweh himself as the loving husband seeking his faithless wife. Paul took up the idea. In the last chapter of Ephesians, for instance, he speaks of the 'great mystery' of Christ and his Church: Christ gives himself up for the Church and establishes through his death and resurrection an intimate relationship like that which exists between husband and wife.

But marriage is not just an image or mirror & the mysteries of creation and salvation. It is where they are actually worked out. where Christ himself becomes present to the two partners and through them to the Family. Where we find a truly Christian marriage there we can say that 'the Kingdom of God has come upon you.'

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