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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Father Elijah writes on Gender Differences and their role in Liturgy

I do think that in general the differing capacities of man and woman are part of the reason for the exclusively male vocation to the clergy.

Men and women have to help and serve each other and exchange their gifts : Men in general are more incline to objectivity, and therefore are more apt to help someone to evaluate and discern the growth of the soul towards God and to find the best means to attain the goal that person has set for himself. Of course, someone who does not want to achieve anything does not need the means - so he needs no mediation, neither a father, nor friends, nor a priest...

Women in general have a greater sense of ‘presence’. It’s much more difficult to define than the male sense of objectivity. Women are more intensively present to others and to themselves. Here, subjectivity is as important as objectivity, these are both absorbed into vitality, the richness of life. So are activity and passivity, and so are words and silence - in a way the whole variety of different things is taken up in a unity that has a final and ultimate meaning. It’s beyond mediation, beyond the choice of means - and therefore beyond priesthood.

This probably is not a conclusive argument, because each individual has particular qualities, possibly exceptional ones. And when gifts are mutually exchanged, both genders share more and more the same qualities anyway. You see this happening, step by step, in good marriages. But it never ends, the two need each other all the time to grow. The gender difference remains, and the communion between man and woman is not so much in what has been exchanged but in the need to continue exchanging.

I think the most important argument for an exclusively clergy remains: it shows that the sacraments are for us not the end, but a means - divine though it may be - to attain the End and prepare to see the Beginning. Yet they are not a form of magic, they are here and nowy given to us by a divine Person, incarnated in a human male called Jesus Christ. It’s the stag party before the marriage. I believe the natural gender difference, created by God, is used in the liturgical language to talk about the mystery of salvation - the crowd of the faithful take part in it as an incarnated prophesy of the world to come. I personally can’t understand this without thinking about the ‘pietá’, the image of our Lady holding the body of Christ in her arms after having been taken off from the Cross.

And to finish with a rather silly but true and hopefully wise image: guys are like rubber balls bouncing about the present universe, while one woman is the image of the cosmos to come.


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