Today I had spiritual direction in Terre Haute with Msgr. Larry Moran who is the chaplain for the Carmelite Convent in Terre Haute. Before spiritual direction I had Mass, and I noticed something that I had never thought of before about the Church and women.
The first reading for today's Mass was Adam and Eve - "Why did you sin Adam? Because the woman gave it to me...etc." Saturdays have also had a long tradition in the Church of celebrating a votive Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother, and today the sisters at Carmel chose to do just that. Certainly Eve and Mary have been linked from the time of the New Testament and the early Church, where Mary was often referred to as the "New Eve." Just as sin entered the world through Eve, Mary allowed the Grace which defeated that sin to enter into the world.
Another link jumped out at me today between Eve and Mary, especially celebrating Mass this morning with the cloistered (never leave the grounds) and fully habited (everything but their face is covered) sisters at Mount Carmel. The passage from Genesis is often used by anti-Christian rhetoricists to make the claim that the Church hates women because women are blamed from the beginning with being the vehicle through which temptation enters the world. Blaming Eve for the fall is held up as evidence along side the prohibition against ordaining women, the "wives be subject to your husbands" from Ephesians 5, and other supposedly damning evidence to seal the fate of the Church as the historical keeper of the flame of misogyny.
The irony here is that the same people who often paint the picture of the Church as haters of women often turn around and accuse the Church of WORSHIPING a woman, of holding a woman in TOO lofty a position. How can both be true at the same time?
A nice and succinct article on whether or not the Church hates women can be found by clicking here. There is an especially nice quote in the article from historian Henry Chadwick:
"Christianity seems to have been especially successful among women. It was often through the wives that it penetrated the upper classes of society in the first instance. Christians believed in the equality of men and women before God and found in the New Testament commands that husbands should treat their wives with such consideration and love as Christ manifested for his Church. Christian teaching about the sanctity of marriage offered a powerful safeguard to married women (Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, Penguin, 58–59)."
The Church has a lot to say about the dignity of women with John Paul II taking the definite lead in that area. His Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (the Dignity of Women - click here to read) is an AWESOME read - and would make great reflection for a retreat.