“When I was a child , I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 1 Corinthians 13:11
A popular theme embedded in the masculine journey is that in order for a boy to become a man, he must venture out on a hero’s path. He needs to learn what it means to die to his boyish ways and grow in the skills of manhood. This is often conceptualized as a going out into the wilderness. He must put away the things of his youth and be willing to sacrifice, even himself, if necessary. He needs to be fathered and he must acquire the tools unique to manhood; these tools are not innate, but taught.
Christianity highlights these ideals first in the book of Genesis, where Adam walks with God in Eden. Adam is fathered by God. Later on, in a more obvious example, Christ, the new Adam, sacrifices Himself for us.
The archetype of the man is evident, manhood must be learned and his journey is primarily an external one, complementing the idea of man as protector and provider. He must learn to die to his boyhood ways, and be willing to give of himself.
Once, in a podcast, Jordan Peterson described the ultimate male sacrifice as Christ on the cross. In the same vein, he added that the ultimate female sacrifice is not the crucifixion but rather the image of the Pieta, the Blessed Mother who has let go of her Son to be sacrificed, and holding Him in her arms.
This image is a powerful one.
How could we interpret this in light of the woman’s journey?
The Feminine Venture
In Genesis, Eve is created from the rib of Adam. She does not walk with God. She is not taught how to be a woman. She comes to Adam as she is, and she is named Eve, for Eve means “living” and Eve is the Mother of the Living.
One should note, Adam is not given the title “Father of the Living,” and therefore the singularity of Eve’s name highlights her calling. This is who she is. She is a mother. She is a vessel of life. This is her venture and her purpose.
This concept is crystallized in Our Lady, the new Eve, who bore the source of Life, and is given as mother to all the living, when Christ died on the Cross.
Woman is ready to be given, and in turn receive new life. This is her mark, like Our Lady’s Fiat, “be it done unto me.” Woman’s journey is not necessitated by an external venture, but rather acknowledges that she was forged to give and in turn be blessed.
A woman’s body and biological development all pivot around one thing: she can have a baby. A woman’s role as mother is woven into her DNA. Thus, her journey to realize she must live out a life of selflessness is not an external one, but rather one that is built into her.
She not only bears life, but also nourishes and sustains. Through her, what is good and full of life is able to flourish. As such, the woman is a place of comfort, and peace. She represents God’s peace, and reminds us of His tenderness. She is heart and home, and in order to fulfill this role she must accept the fact her body is not her own: it is a shelter for other souls. Souls that are entrusted to her by God, and ultimately belong to God.
Instead of going on a physical journey to understand what it means to die to self, a woman experiences an internal journey to discover what it means to be a vessel of life.
Thus, returning to the image of the Pieta, we see Mary’s heart pierced because she, in accepting the will of God, gave her life to God to bear Life, and then she gave up her Son. Whereas, Christ, in fulfilling His mission, gave up His life. Here, in the Passion of our Lord, the role of the maternal and the masculine are perfectly etched out in perfect love.
The Modern Dissent
If we look to social media, modern feminine literature, or television, we are thwarted by the concepts of empowerment, individualism, or in other words, “my body, my choice.”
Proclaiming our bodies as our own to flaunt under the guise of confident individualism or empowerment is a twisted form of selfishness and immaturity. First, it severs a woman from her calling: to represent God’s tenderness. A woman who denies that she was made for more is unable to receive, to be “blessed”; in her desire to keep her body as her own sexual tool, she has belittled herself and denied who she is. She refuses to be receptive since she shuns the Marian model, “be it done unto me.”
Skimpy clothing, birth control, and a “don’t tell me what to do” attitude permeate the female world, and are heralded as sources of strength and confidence.
However, these factors reduce a woman to parts. Look at any female Influencer promoting her sexuality through suggestive photos, the comments inspired by such images are often populated by males making crass and nasty suggestions.
Yet, these women are empowered? How does this make sense? They have sold themselves as objects because they refuse to give of themselves in love and selflessness.
Ironically, instead of giving themselves in love to foster more life and beauty in the world, they forfeit their bodies to any wandering eye as parts and pieces to be objectified.
And then they think, “well, that’s girl power.”
Paul VI wrote: “Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
Unfortunately, we have gone further than this, since we live in a day and age where even women forget the reverence due and sell their bodies for instant gratification and validation.
Sacred Vessel Or Sexual Object: Your Choice
In a world of sexual empowerment, i.e. sexual license, men and women move from body to body to satiate their own desires. As such, a naked body is just that, a naked body. It is meant to be used, like a vacuum or coffee maker. There is no mystery or sacredness in an appliance.
Yet, a woman who recognizes that inside her is a mystery: she has a womb; she can carry another soul that will live forever, that her whole bodily development cannot be severed from her maternal role, acknowledges that she has an inherent dignity and mission: to be a sacred vessel of life.
Her body is so much more than just her own, it is a home, a shelter, a sacred vessel. It is given, in humility and in love, to God, her spouse, and her children. It is not meant to be flaunted, but cherished as something beautiful and mysterious. It is in that understanding, that a woman opens herself to be blessed and to receive. In that, new life surges forth and grace abounds.
When women deny their mission, all else frays: that is how powerful the call of the woman is.
A woman does not need to go out into the wilderness because her femininity is freely given to her by God. It is innate. That is why it is all the more poisonous when she rejects it.
Perhaps we’ve been so blinded by the glittering of the world we can’t recognize our calling. Yet, when I sit and gaze at the Pieta, I see a woman who submitted entirely to God. She cradled a Life that was entrusted to her, and gave Him up when He had to die. She knew pain and hardship, yet her willingness to be blessed, and not view her body as her own, elevated her to being Queen of Heaven and Mother to all.
And she is far more powerful than any woman alive today.