March 4, 2011
There is a book titled The Eternal woman, by Gertrud von le Fort which is so dense with fodder for pondering that the preface itself has kept me going for over a week. 'The Eternal woman' deals with “the religious significance of femininity and its ultimate reflection in God.” I’m only on page 16 so far, and have to stop to think about what I’ve read so frequently, that perhaps this is not the right time for me to be reading this book. However, there are entire paragraphs from the preface I want to share with you, in the hopes that these passages will give you something to reflect on, as well. The following are all quotations directly from the preface, by Placid Jordan, O.S.B.

Strength is made perfect in weakness.

Christ does not emerge in a struggle against the Cross, but on the Cross – just as love always is triumphant in surrender.

Man’s weakness is his real and only strength, his surrender to God’s holy will the only true victory he can achieve.

Power and strength ultimately are not of this world, but of the kingdom of God. There is only one way to achieve it: by surrendering to God’s will. Surrender to God is the only absolute power with which the creature is endowed. To bring about his salvation, all man has to contribute is his readiness to give himself up completely. The receptive, passive attitude of the feminine principle appears as the decisive, the positive element in the Christian order of grace. The Marian dogma, brought down to a simple formula, means the co-operation of the creature in the salvation of the world.
Mary’s fiat, then, her willingness to let God’s will be done, appears as the power in her infirmity. In woman’s constitutive desire to surrender, to give herself, rests the very depth of life, for such surrender is the expression of the creature’s unquestioning acceptance of the will of God. The world can be moved by the strength of man, but it can be blessed, in the real sense of the word, only in the sign of woman.

All the achievements of man depend on this primary act of creative surrender which leads to a divine partnership. Did not Christ Himself tell Pilate that he would have no power unless it were given him from above?

There had to be a pure and spotless being capable of receiving the divine element, a feminine principle enlightened by grace. Modern man finds it difficult to absorb such thoughts, for he has lost the sense of mystery. He tries to deny the mystery of life and to ignore its transcendental reality. Woman is as much lost in the resultant chaos and anarchy as man. She has given up her birthright, as it were, by discarding the veil, by forcing her way from the depth of life to the foreground of life. In this light we can well understand how the symbol of the veil became a pivotal element in Gertrud von le Fort’s thinking. It is an eminently feminine symbol which indicates that woman is inaccessible in her innermost being when she becomes the mother of life, and birth is born out of her depth, in silence and solitude. “The unveiling of woman, always means the breakdown of her mystery which bears fruit while what is patent, and revealed, is an end.” (Quoting G. von le Fort)

Amidst this pitched battle between darkness and light [moral relativism etc.] it is woman’s specific calling to restore the right balance which is a prerequisite of all stability. “Women must restore to political and professional life the emphasis on the spiritual, an emphasis now so sadly lacking; we rely on them to help win the spiritual battle against the evils of secularism.” (quoting Richard Cardinal Cushing) Dare we hope that in an age which cheapens womanhood by primitive and inanely vulgar displays, such higher ideals will prevail? Has the trend run its course which started from the pretence that woman could make her best contribution toward human progress by being ‘equal’ to man, rather than by being herself? If woman, both physically and spiritually, fails to exercise her specific function as mother of life, mankind faces a vacuum where her mystery ought to bear fruit. In the midst of anarchy and despair the right balance must be restored between the masculine and the feminine forces, and woman must assert her influence as a woman, by means of her healing, womanly power, to restore order to a derelict human race.

Taken from the 1962 Bruce Publishing edition.

1 comment:

  1. As one having read the Privilege of Being a Woman a year ago and being absolutely smitten by Alice Von Hildebrand, I cannot wait to get my mitts on this book. Thank you so much for posting excerpts from the book, it is plainly obvious that it is a very profound and thought provoking book that will find a place on one of my many bookshelves. Thanks again!!



What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!


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