Saturday, 4 December 2010

Communication and Good Words

I do wonder if there has been something a bit wrong from the very beginning. Something that was never allowed to grow and be right because of the Fall. Let me explain:

Adam walked with God in the garden, Adam was created without blemish yet he felt a certain lack of wholeness, even in paradise, even walking with God. God saw to his needs and created Eve. Adam instantly recognised that there was a wholeness about him now that this new creature walked and dynamically interacted with him as his best mate. Yet before he really got to know her (he was still learning) he went off on his own, going after one of his own hobbies, not involving his mate. She, being intelligent and therefore bored, went off on her own too, met a wiley serpent and the rest is history.

Has it not been the same ever since: men and women not really understanding each other, not ever really getting to know the true worth of their relationship? Of course the arrival of sin made the whole thing worse, work in progress stopped in its tracks.

This is a bit of a preamble to a musing I had after reading Terry Nelson’s blogpost on the holy woman Margery Kempe. I dug out her writing again (not opened since my undergraduate days) and perused.

In the section towards the end, she is hauled before an Archbishop and accused of preaching, this is part of her feisty account of the proceedings:

Then the Archbishop said to her, “Thou shalt swear that thou shalt not teach nor challenge the people in my diocese.” “Nay sir, I shall not swear,” she said, “for I shall speak of God and undernim them that swear great oaths…unto the time the Pope and Holy Church hath ordained that no man shall be so hardy to speak of God, for God almighty forbids not that we shall speak of him”

A great clerk brought forth a book and laid St Paul for his party against her that no woman should preach. She answering thereto said, “ I preach not, sir, I come in no pulpit, I use but communication and good words, and that I will do while I live”

I’d like to think that Paul’s teaching in 1 Tim 2:12, preventing women from teaching/preaching was rooted in some deep truth and not some embarrassing aspect of sexist history. I’d like to suggest that it shouldn’t be viewed without Matthew 23:8-12 where Christ forbids us to call men Father, Master and Teacher. This is clearly because our Father is in Heaven, and Christ is our Master and Teacher. Men can only teach within the Priesthood (in persona Christi): I just wish they did more of it, I’m sick of lame sermons.

Women can’t be priests so women can’t preach or teach (I mean really, deeply, as Christ teaches us, not the crass stuff I do for a living). Though by our actions and words women (and lay men) should be the best heralds and leaders to the gospels, the best missionaries in the fullest sense of the word.

What is perhaps really forbidden for women (and what was worrying Margery’s Archbishop) is women attracting followers (disciples). Priests have to preach in season and out of season, inspired or not, it is part of their discipline. Women, can and are inspired, but in our default setting we are often laid low with hormones, conflicting emotions, less than inspired feelings, rages and tempers and a gentle insanity unknown to men (who have their own insanities). God appreciates our fragility for what it is, maybe one day the world will wake up to it too.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Rita, this is very interesting. I agree with you about St. Paul. I think he is talking about preaching/teaching in a hierarchical sense and with regard to Ordination. Non-ordained people, men and women teach in a different way, in a different context. So we see Japanese or Korean laymen and women witnessing powerfully to their faith during their martyrdoms; and women teaching their children, especially by the sacrificial way they give themselves for their children (and hopefully) for their husbands.

I think the hormone things you mentioned are a small part of it, but I think it goes deeper. God has a vision of the relationship between the Trinity and the Church, especially the Son and the Church, male-female, and his plan is for male priests to particularly image the Son, and women (especially as mothers) to particularly image the Church.

Sometimes, as you indicate, women do a better job imaging the church than male priests do imaging Christ, but God is willing to use inconsistent and sinful vessels to do his work. In weakness, power reaches perfection.

Anyway, thanks for a very thought-provoking post!