March 10, 2014
We're reading the Apostolic Letter of John Paul II on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, 
Mulieris Dignitatem.  

If you're just joining us, here's the first week's readings, and the second week's readings.

Week 3: Read MD part IV (Eve-Mary) - text is below
While you're reading consider the following:

Reflection
Sin came into the world through a man and a woman. Redemption comes through a man and the free cooperation of a woman. In past ages, every covenant God made with humanity was addressed to a man (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David). It is only with the New Covenant that God restores the original harmony, the "unity of the two" by addressing a woman and awaiting her consent, her "Fiat".

"In Christ the mutual opposition between man and woman, which is the inheritance of original sin, is essentially overcome."
"Mary is the 'new beginning' of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman."

Woman is the meeting place of God and man, both for sin and salvation. The Russian Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov concludes that the devil tempted Eve because she was stronger than Adam in the spiritual sphere. "When the organ most receptive and sensitive to the communion between God and man is troubled, the rest will take care of itself. Adam shows no difficulty is following Eve."* Mary reverses the tendency of sin by obedience to God. All women, in their own way, help to restore humanity to harmony with one another and with God. (The Dignity and Vocation of Women : Study Guide (Together!), pg. 31)

*Paul Evdokimov, Le Femme et le Salut du Monde, Paris, 1958, p 157.

Pray
Mother Mary, I know that you are the model for all women and that our salvation depended on your total gift of self. I want to imitate your generosity, but myriad fears hold me bound. Your silence, rather than being an obstacle, should teach me to find you in quiet moments of stillness and contemplation. Help me to slow down and consider how my freedom can be ordered to a response more like your own. I can respond in freedom as you did. Help me to extend my heart, so that I can create a sanctuary of love and life as you did amidst the chaos of this fallen world -- a sanctuary that echoes our heavenly home where you reign as the Queen of all Hearts. Amen. (On the dignity and Vocation of Women, Anniversary Edition, by Genevieve Kineke, pg. 53)

Act
Write our three note cards that say "Be not afraid!" and put them in places where you think they will be most helpful in the course of your day.  (Ibid., pb. 53)



IV
EVE-MARY
The "beginning" and the sin
9. "Although he was made by God in a state of justice, from the very dawn of history man abused his liberty, at the urging of the Evil One. Man set himself against God and sought to find fulfilment apart from God".28 With these words the teaching of the last Council recalls the revealed doctrine about sin and in particular about that first sin, which is the "original" one. The biblical "beginning" - the creation of the world and of man in the world - contains in itself the truth about this sin, which can also be called the sin of man's "beginning" on the earth. Even though what is written in the Book of Genesis is expressed in the form of a symbolic narrative, as is the case in the description of the creation of man as male and female (cf. Gen 2:18-25), at the same time it reveals what should be called "the mystery of sin", and even more fully, "the mystery of evil" which exists in the world created by God.
It is not possible to read "the mystery of sin" without making reference to the whole truth about the "image and likeness" to God, which is the basis of biblical anthropology. This truth presents the creation of man as a special gift from the Creator, containing not only the foundation and source of the essential dignity of the human being - man and woman - in the created world, but also the beginning of the call to both of them to share in the intimate life of God himself. In the light of Revelation, creation likewise means the beginning of salvation history. It is precisely in this beginning that sin is situated and manifests itself as opposition and negation.
It can be said, paradoxically, that the sin presented in the third chapter of Genesis confirms the truth about the image and likeness of God in man, since this truth means freedom, that is, man's use of free will by choosing good or his abuse of it by choosing evil, against the will of God. In its essence, however, sin is a negation of God as Creator in his relationship to man, and of what God wills for man, from the beginning and for ever. Creating man and woman in his own image and likeness, God wills for them the fullness of good, or supernatural happiness, which flows from sharing in his own life. By committing sin man rejects this gift and at the same time wills to become "as God, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:5), that is to say, deciding what is good and what is evil independently of God, his Creator. The sin of the first parents has its own human "measure": an interior standard of its own in man's free will, and it also has within itself a certain "diabolic" characteristic,29 which is clearly shown in the Book of Genesis (3:15). Sin brings about a break in the original unity which man enjoyed in the state of original justice: union with God as the source of the unity within his own "I", in the mutual relationship between man and woman ("communio personarum") as well as in regard to the external world, to nature.
The biblical description of original sin in the third chapter of Genesis in a certain way "distinguishes the roles" which the woman and the man had in it. This is also referred to later in certain passages of the Bible, for example, Paul's Letter to Timothy: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (1 Tim 2:13-14). But there is no doubt that, independent of this "distinction of roles" in the biblical description, that first sin is the sin of man, created by God as male and female. It is also the sin of the "first parents", to which is connected its hereditary character. In this sense we call it "original sin".
This sin, as already said, cannot be properly understood without reference to the mystery of the creation of the human being - man and woman - in the image and likeness of God. By means of this reference one can also understand the mystery of that "non-likeness" to God in which sin consists, and which manifests itself in the evil present in the history of the world. Similarly one can understand the mystery of that "non-likeness" to God, who "alone is good" (cf. Mt 19:17) and-the fullness of good. If sin's "non-likeness" to God, who is Holiness itself, presupposes "likeness" in the sphere of freedom and free will, it can then be said that for this very reason the "non-likeness" contained in sin is all the more tragic and sad. It must be admitted that God, as Creator and Father, is here wounded, "offended" - obviously offended - in the very heart of that gift which belongs to God's eternal plan for man.
At the same time, however, as the author of the evil of sin, the human being - man and woman - is affected by it. The third chapter of Genesis shows this with the words which clearly describe the new situation of man in the created world. It shows the perspective of "toil", by which man will earn his living (cf. Gen 3:17-19) and likewise the great "pain" with which the woman will give birth to her children (cf. Gen 3 :16). And all this is marked by the necessity of death, which is the end of human life on earth. In this way man, as dust, will "return to the ground, for out of it he was taken": "you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (cf. Gen 3:19).
These words are confirmed generation after generation. They do not mean that the image and the likeness of God in the human being, whether woman or man, has been destroyed by sin; they mean rather that it has been "obscured"30 and in a sense "diminished". Sin in fact "diminishes" man, as the Second Vatican Council also recalls.31 If man is the image and likeness of God by his very nature as a person, then his greatness and his dignity are achieved in the covenant with God, in union with him, in striving towards that fundamental unity which belongs to the internal "logic" of the very mystery of creation. This unity corresponds to the profound truth concerning all intelligent creatures and in particular concerning man, who among all the creatures of the visible world was elevated from the beginning through the eternal choice of God in Jesus: "He chose us in (Christ) before the foundation of the world, ... He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" (Eph 1:4-6). The biblical teaching taken as a whole enables us to say that predestination concerns all human persons, men and women, each and every one without exception.
"He shall rule over you"
10. The biblical description in the Book of Genesis outlines the truth about the consequences of man's sin, as it is shown by the disturbance of that original relationship between man and woman which corresponds to their individual dignity as persons. A human being, whether male or female, is a person, and therefore, "the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake"; and at the same time this unique and unrepeatable creature "cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self".32 Here begins the relationship of "communion" in which the "unity of the two" and the personal dignity of both man and woman find expression. Therefore when we read in the biblical description the words addressed to the woman: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16), we discover a break and a constant threat precisely in regard to this "unity of the two" which corresponds to the dignity of the image and likeness of God in both of them. But this threat is more serious for the woman, since domination takes the place of "being a sincere gift" and therefore living "for" the other: "he shall rule over you". This "domination" indicates the disturbance and loss of the stability of that fundamental equality which the man and the woman possess in the "unity of the two": and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman, whereas only the equality resulting from their dignity as persons can give to their mutual relationship the character of an authentic "communio personarum". While the violation of this equality, which is both a gift and a right deriving from God the Creator, involves an element to the disadvantage of the woman, at the same time it also diminishes the true dignity of the man. Here we touch upon an extremely sensitive point in the dimension of that "ethos" which was originally inscribed by the Creator in the very creation of both of them in his own image and likeness.
This statement in Genesis 3:16 is of great significance. It implies a reference to the mutual relationship of man and woman in marriage. It refers to the desire born in the atmosphere of spousal love whereby the woman's "sincere gift of self" is responded to and matched by a corresponding "gift" on the part of the husband. Only on the basis of this principle can both of them, and in particular the woman, "discover themselves" as a true "unity of the two" according to the dignity of the person. The matrimonial union requires respect for and a perfecting of the true personal subjectivity of both of them. The woman cannot become the "object" of "domination" and male "possession". But the words of the biblical text directly concern original sin and its lasting consequences in man and woman. Burdened by hereditary sinfulness, they bear within themselves the constant "inclination to sin", the tendency to go against the moral order which corresponds to the rational nature and dignity of man and woman as persons. This tendency is expressed in a threefold concupiscence, which Saint John defines as the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). The words of the Book of Genesis quoted previously (3: 16) show how this threefold concupiscence, the "inclination to sin", will burden the mutual relationship of man and woman.
These words of Genesis refer directly to marriage, but indirectly they concern the different spheres of social life: the situations in which the woman remains disadvantaged or discriminated against by the fact of being a woman. The revealed truth concerning the creation of the human being as male and female constitutes the principal argument against all the objectively injurious and unjust situations which contain and express the inheritance of the sin which all human beings bear within themselves. The books of Sacred Scripture confirm in various places the actual existence of such situations and at the same time proclaim the need for conversion, that is to say, for purification from evil and liberation from sin: from what offends neighbour, what "diminishes" man, not only the one who is offended but also the one who causes the offence. This is the unchangeable message of the Word revealed by God. In it is expressed the biblical "ethos" until the end of time.33
In our times the question of "women's rights" has taken on new significance in the broad context of the rights of the human person. The biblical and evangelical message sheds light on this cause, which is the object of much attention today, by safeguarding the truth about the "unity" of the "two", that is to say the truth about that dignity and vocation that result from the specific diversity and personal originality of man and woman. Consequently, even the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words "He shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the "masculinization" of women. In the name of liberation from male "domination", women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine "originality". There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not "reach fulfilment", but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness. In the biblical description, the words of the first man at the sight of the woman who had been created are words of admiration and enchantment, words which fill the whole history of man on earth.
The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her "fulfilment" as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the "image and likeness of God" that is specifically hers. The inheritance of sin suggested by the words of the Bible - "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" - can be conquered only by following this path. The overcoming of this evil inheritance is, generation after generation, the task of every human being, whether woman or man. For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman's personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation.
Proto-evangelium
11. The Book of Genesis attests to the fact that sin is the evil at man's "beginning" and that since then its consequences weigh upon the whole human race. At the same time it contains the first foretelling of victory over evil, over sin. This is proved by the words which we read in Genesis 3:15, usually called the "Proto-evangelium": "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel". It is significant that the foretelling of the Redeemer contained in these words refers to "the woman". She is assigned the first place in the Proto-evangelium as the progenitrix of him who will be the Redeemer of man.34 And since the redemption is to be accomplished through a struggle against evil - through the "enmity" between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of him who, as "the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), is the first author of sin in human history - it is also an enmity between him and the woman.
These words give us a comprehensive view of the whole of Revelation, first as a preparation for the Gospel and later as the Gospel itself. From this vantage point the two female figures, Eve and Mary, are joined under the name of woman.
The words of the Proto-evangelium, re-read in the light of the New Testament, express well the mission of woman in the Redeemer's salvific struggle against the author of evil in human history.
The comparison Eve-Mary constantly recurs in the course of reflection on the deposit of faith received from divine Revelation. It is one of the themes frequently taken up by the Fathers, ecclesiastical writers and theologians.35 As a rule, from this comparison there emerges at first sight a difference, a contrast. Eve, as "the mother of all the living" (Gen 3: 20), is the witness to the biblical "beginning", which contains the truth about the creation of man made in the image and likeness of God and the truth about original sin. Mary is the witness to the new "beginning" and the "new creation" (cf. 2 Cor 5:17), since she herself, as the first of the redeemed in salvation history, is "a new creation": she is "full of grace". It is difficult to grasp why the words of the Protoevangelium place such strong emphasis on the "woman", if it is not admitted that in her the new and definitive Covenant of God with humanity has its beginning, the Covenant in the redeeming blood of Christ. The Covenant begins with a woman, the "woman" of the Annunciation at Nazareth. Herein lies the absolute originality of the Gospel: many times in the Old Testament, in order to intervene in the history of his people, God addressed himself to women, as in the case of the mothers of Samuel and Samson. However, to make his Covenant with humanity, he addressed himself only to men: Noah, Abraham, and Moses. At the beginning of the New Covenant, which is to be eternal and irrevocable, there is a woman: the Virgin of Nazareth. It is a sign that points to the fact that "in Jesus Christ" "there is neither male nor female" (Gal 3:28).In Christ the mutual opposition between man and woman - which is the inheritance of original sin - is essentially overcome. "For you are all one in Jesus Christ", Saint Paul will write (ibid.).
These words concern that original "unity of the two" which is linked with the creation of the human being as male and female, made in the image and likeness of God, and based on the model of that most perfect communion of Persons which is God himself. Saint Paul states that the mystery of man's redemption in Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, resumes and renews that which in the mystery of creation corresponded to the eternal design of God the Creator. Precisely for this reason, on the day of the creation of the human being as male and female "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). The Redemption restores, in a sense, at its very root, the good that was essentially "diminished" by sin and its heritage in human history.
The "woman" of the Proto-evangelium fits into the perspective of the Redemption. The comparison Eve-Mary can be understood also in the sense that Mary assumes in herself and embraces the mystery of the "woman" whose beginning is Eve, "the mother of all the living" (Gen 3:20). First of all she assumes and embraces it within the mystery of Christ, "the new and the last Adam" (cf. 1 Cor 15:45),who assumed in his own person the nature of the first Adam. The essence of the New Covenant consists in the fact that the Son of God, who is of one substance with the eternal Father, becomes man: he takes humanity into the unity of the divine Person of the Word. The one who accomplishes the Redemption is also a true man. The mystery of the world's Redemption presupposes that God the Son assumed humanity as the inheritance of Adam, becoming like him and like every man in all things, "yet without sinning" (Heb 4:15). In this way he "fully reveals man to himself and makes man's supreme calling clear", as the Second Vatican Council teaches.36 In a certain sense, he has helped man to discover "who he is" (cf. Ps 8:5).
In the tradition of faith and of Christian reflection throughout the ages, the coupling Adam-Christ is often linked with that of Eve-Mary. If Mary is described also as the "new Eve", what are the meanings of this analogy? Certainly there are many. Particularly noteworthy is the meaning which sees Mary as the full revelation of all that is included in the biblical word "woman": a revelation commensurate with the mystery of the Redemption. Mary means, in a sense, a going beyond the limit spoken of in the Book of Genesis (3: 16) and a return to that "beginning" in which one finds the "woman" as she was intended to be in creation, and therefore in the eternal mind of God: in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is "the new beginning" of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman.37
A particular key for understanding this can be found in the words which the Evangelist puts on Mary's lips after the Annunciation, during her visit to Elizabeth: "He who is mighty has done great things for me" (Lk 1:49). These words certainly refer to the conception of her Son, who is the "Son of the Most High" (Lk1:32), the "holy one" of God; but they can also signify the discovery of her own feminine humanity. He "has done great things for me": this is the discovery of all the richness and personal resources of femininity, all the eternal originality of the "woman", just as God wanted her to be, a person for her own sake, who discovers herself "by means of a sincere gift of self".
This discovery is connected with a clear awareness of God's gift, of his generosity. From the very "beginning" sin had obscured this awareness, in a sense had stifled it, as is shown in the words of the first temptation by the "father of lies" (cf. Genesis 3:1-5).At the advent of the "fullness of time" (cf. Gal 4:4),when the mystery of Redemption begins to be fulfilled in the history of humanity, this awareness bursts forth in all its power in the words of the biblical "woman" of Nazareth. In Mary, Eve discovers the nature of the true dignity of woman, of feminine humanity. This discovery must continually reach the heart of every woman and shape her vocation and her life.

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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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