Wednesday, April 3, 2013
What's In a Word?
There has been much talk and hype in this house in the last week about our new Pope's decision to wash the feet of women. Mostly I talked, and my husband listened, read, and researched. I didn't want to say anything publicly on this, but I find myself delving into these long-standing inner-monologues throughout the day, which leads me to realize that I need to blog on this and all consequential subjects.
The Pope washed the feet of women. Firstly, he has the absolute right to do whatever he pleases with the General Instruction during the Liturgy. He is the supreme head of the Liturgy here on earth, he alone can make or break "the rules" according to his station. Secondly, the Pope in no way has publicly endorsed female priests or any other such nonsense. The act of washing the feet as Christ himself has shown is to embody service to ALL as to be carried out by His disciples upon His passing. This specific act has nothing to do with the priesthood. The entire rite is optional. And on, and on, and on it goes...
I am conflicted on this though. If the Pope had changed the Rubrics by way of an explanation before the service, maybe I could understand better. While I understand that the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) indicates that this gesture of the washing of feet is to show charity and service to all, it also clearly indicates that it should be the feet of men. No, I find that it is not because the Church is misogynistic or based on an antiquated male hierarchy. It was because only men were present at the Last Supper, at least according to the Sacred Gospel accounts that we have. And according to Jewish customs at the time, only men were allowed to dine together during the Passover meal, the Seder. Women would be in another room, and if the home permitted, the women would be on a separate level as the men. Christ was not one to stand on tradition though, He could have permitted women to be present simply (and yet profoundly) because He was God. And yet He didn't. The men present, his Apostles, were there upon his willing it, and it was there that Christ also led them to the example of service in the washing of feet. He could have washed feet at any other time, but he did so right before He taught them the most sacred of meals that they would enact again and again, and which would become the lifeblood of the Church. He entrusted to these men the sacred responsibilities of service of both the body (by washing the feet) and the soul (by instituting the Eucharist).
I just think there's so much pain surrounding this act of the Pope. From all sides. Pain that comes from those who feel disenfranchised and ignored by the Church. Pain from those who embrace the traditions of the Church and her role of guiding both men and women to use their gifts by virtue of their sexuality to serve the Church. And that pain has ultimately caused a lot of knee jerk, emotional, responses. I've been confronted a lot by people of all walks of life and on both sides of the Adam/Eve debate why not? Why shouldn't women's feet be washed? After all women are called to serve and to be served are they not? The answer is obviously yes. I believe that Christ singles out women and raises them up according to his very Passion. When these same men, who became established Priests in the new Church, cowardly turned away and fled from Christ, it was the women who faithfully followed in his footsteps. It was women who wiped his face, who mourned and wept for him, who comforted him and his mother, who attended every turn on that walk to Calvary. These women were called for their constancy, and for their fearlessness. For their weeping vigil and broken heartedness. And they were rewarded, these same women, upon seeing Christ resurrected. In a mysterious way that only God can show to us in His time, what the men received in the Last Supper, the instruction to serve and to care for, the women went forth and did to Christ Himself. In action. This is not an insignificant thing. The men had their feet washed with the exhortation to wash others feet. It was a woman who washed the face of Christ. The man who received the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ went out and betrayed Him with a kiss. The woman who had been caught and held in the bondage of the sins of lust, greed, pride, and all the deadliest followed faithfully our Lord who was able to rescue her soul from death. The men wept with grief until they could no longer stay awake during our Lord's agony. The women wept again and again as they carried our Lord's agony in their witness to Him. Of course the Lord would give the women special recognition, not just because of their sex, but because of their faithfulness to him.
So then why the outcry, mostly from women, in our time? Where has this faithfulness gone? I believe that women are so hurt in our time. More hurt than in anytime in history. I think it is interesting and Godly timed that Christ spoke to women, in front of the women who would follow him to his death these words "Blessed are the wombs that do not bear and the breasts that do not nurse. (Luke 23:29)" He was speaking directly to the women of all time, but how relevant is that today? Ask any mother who has more than 3 children what kinds of scrutiny she gets when out with her family. The world throws this mantra out all. the. time. And women are hurting and bereaved more and more by it. They search for something, anything, some affirmation that the standards they are desperately trying to live up to are equal to God's approval of them. They wait on the Church to recognize their sex, the brute Bishops, Cardinals, and Pope to affirm their dignity. Women are killing themselves in our day and age, and killing one another, in some form of unspoken rat race that will lead to nowhere but a trap. A mind game that will lead to damage. The world as we live in it today offers us one lie, ladies, one big lie. If we want to serve the Church, if we want to serve one another, if we want to have our feet washed, we must eat that apple all over again. We must be the world's adaptation of the Beatitudes and make sure that our wombs do not bear and our breasts do not nurse. This is why, I believe, that no woman who wants her feet washed can stand the thought of having a man represent her. No man is equal to the sacrifice she has given to be able to serve her Church. By sabotaging her sexuality, by this rupture with nature she is so willing to cause, she wants the Church not to recognize her sex, but to recognize the sacrifice she is willing to make in subduing her sex in order to buy the lie that this will make her somehow equal to man. Christ came to raise the temple, our bodies, our very selves, in glory like His own. All that we are as men and women, all that makes us human. And in that glory there is no room for destruction or decay. So why would women feel that it is more pleasing to God to forsake all that it is that makes her "woman", to poison her own body, heart, mind, and soul in a way that cannot be undone? And this is the lie that makes the snake hiss with glee.
Yes, I do believe that BOTH men and women are called to serve Holy Mother Church. But I believe that the Church in Her eternal wisdom recognizes the gifts that BOTH men and women can bring to her. If it weren't for Christ's time on earth, women would not be recognized in the context of the dignity that only Christianity brought with it. Women were nothing more than property in Jewish times, and it was only the affirmation of Christ that raised women to the role of disciple, unheard of in the Temple days. Women have a direct connection with the founding and the history of our Church, there is no denial of that fact. But where Christ gave specific example, wouldn't we be best to follow it? For His reasons, mysterious though they are, men had their feet washed. Do we serve Christ best by following his example? Or do we serve Him best by manipulating a role He meant for men now that He's been gone these 2,000 years.
I love our new Pope. I pray for him, and I ask the Holy Spirit to be with us all. Where true charity and love are found, there is also true humility. I pray for all the gifts that the Spirit can provide on these feast days of Easter. And I ask His help to guide my heart in pondering the many mysteries that are so above my ways, its like watching a sparrow high up in the sky. Christ the Resurrected Lord, have mercy on us all. Amen.