Peter Monty’s recent blog on female altar servers, as well as recent talk about ordainined married men, and speculation about women deacons have prompted me to write this blog. These three “prompts” are subjects dear to my heart, especially the ones dealing with women.
My first response was a very strong one – women have been kept silent, not listened to, and subject to hierarchical restrictions for far too long ! How much wisdom, insight and life experience has been lost, ignored or even belittled ?
Isn’t it slightly ironic that female theologians and biblical scholars are considered qualified enough to teach future seminarians, but cannot proclaim the Gospel or deliver a homily at Mass without the permission of the local bishop.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Who was the first person to proclaim the Gospel? Mary Magdalene! She was commissioned by Jesus to give the Good News of the Resurrection to the apostles. She was the first official witness to the Resurrection, at a time and place when women were considered unreliable in court. She was indeed “apostle to the apostles”!
What was the apostles’ reaction to her news? They did not believe her, dismissed it, belittled it as nonsense, and except for Peter and John, did not act upon it but stayed behind locked doors.
What about the institutional church today? Is it following the example of Jesus or the example to the apostles? Is the church staying behind “locked doors”?
But let’s go back even further, about thirty-three years to Mary, mother of Jesus, the woman through whom the Word of God became Incarnate. God chose to ask a lowly woman, a woman whose status and worth was second-class at best, in that culture and time.
Mary was a woman of few words in the Gospels, but she did proclaim the Good News of the Incarnation to her cousin Elizabeth. She did this by her very presence, and by the words of the Magnificat.
I have often wondered what would Mary say to us today, especially as she sees the role of women in the institutional church.
I have found the following prayer of Mechtilde of Magdeburg, interpreted by Frances Croake Frank in Praying with Women Mystics by Mary T. Malone:
Woman’s Body (1) Did the woman say, When she held him for the first time in the dark of the stable, After the pain and the bleeding and the crying, “This is my body, this is my blood”?
Did the woman say, When she held him for the last time in the dark rain on a hill top, After the pain and the bleeding and the dying, “This is my body, this is my blood?” Well that she said it to him then, For dry old men, Brocaded robes belying barrenness, Ordain that she not say it to him now.