It is nearly two years since I started this blog. Finding a title was something of a puzzle, but the one I chose, with its echoes of Isaiah and Bob Dylan has turned out to be more suitable than I could have imagined at the time, as it has ended up representing most shades of Christian opinion.
In Dylan’s song, the Princes kept their view from the Watchtower, whilst ‘women came and went. barefoot servants too’. I am happy to be numbered among the barefoot serving women. The quarrelsome matters with which the Princes concern themselves are too high for me, although I do my best when required.
Some express surprise that women can be content to be in a Church which they see as sexist, and often find it odd that I do not support the idea of female priests, as though that makes me a traitor to my gender, or oppressed into a state of false consciousness; ironically, this is, itself, sexist. But, perhaps lost in the hubris of supposing they occupy the moral high ground, too many advocates of women’s ordination deny those women who fail to support them even the elementary courtesy of supposing we may have our reasons. What are mine?
I shan’t go into arguments about ‘persona Christi’, they seem sound enough to my mind, but are not mine. Advocates of women being ordained point to Mary Magdalene and Our Blessed Lady as examples of the important role played by women in the earthly ministry of Our Lord; I agree with that. The two Marys, like the other Marys mentioned and like Martha, show that Our Lord was not bounded by the gender roles common in the society into which He was born. But He did not make them Apostles, neither were they commissioned as the Apostles were.
That there are women who feel called to be successors to the Apostles is a fact of our time; but whether the Spirit which calls them is the one who descended at the first Pentecost, well, that only time will tell. The fact that the arguments are so congruent with those of the spirit of this age makes me wonder about the origin of the feelings which some have so strongly; I doubt not their genuineness or strength, but simply note that feelings held thus may, nonetheless, be wrong.
Our Lady and the other Marys were there, at the foot of the Cross; they took the spices to the tomb to anoint the broken body of the Lord. They did not strut and promise as Peter had, nor did they wish to be at the right hand of Jesus in paradise. Indeed, Our Lady did not even protest against the potential injustice which would have been done to her had the angel not told Joseph about the paternity of the child she carried. When the angel of Lord came to tell her the most momentous news ever given to any woman, the Blessed Virgin’s response was that of obedience: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.’
There is something in that response many of us recognise. We are happy to do our part. But our obedience, like her own is not unthinking, for we are told she kept these things in her heart and pondered them. To depart from the fashion of the age is what it is – to have one’s own mind and to give a vote to one’s ancestors; if they were not always wiser than us, we do well to think that we are not always wider than them, either.