Lent with St Edith Stein Day 11: Feminine Nature and the Holy Spirit

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 11: Feminine Nature and the Holy Spirit

“Although perceived in many ways, it is accepted by most that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are rendered back in being, knowledge, and love. Divine wisdom was incarnated as Person in the Son; love came as Person in the Spirit. The intellect is predominant in masculine nature; on the other hand in woman’s nature, it is the emotions. We can thus understand why a particular association is constantly being made between woman’s nature and the Holy Spirit.”

St Edith Stein, Spirituality of the Christian Woman


               We know from scripture that “God created man in His image; male and female He created them.” So we understand that we were created in the image and likeness of God, not as a singular species, but a dual species. As we’ve discussed previously, men and women were created differently with intention. Furthermore, individuals were created differently, also with intention. So how is it that we are created in the image and likeness of God when we’re created differently?

               As humans, we are finite creatures, however, God is infinite. As finite creatures, we can only reflect a fraction of the divine nature, so the divine nature is broken into rays and each of us reflects the divine prototype in different ways. On a higher level, men and women reflect different aspects of the image of God through our masculine and feminine natures. And then on an individual level we reflect the image of God through our spiritual gifts. Together, we are able to make up for what is lacking in each other and reflect God more perfectly.

               St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas both suggested that the likeness of the Trinity could be found in the human spirit. The Father manifests as being, the Son manifests as knowledge and the Holy Spirit manifests as love. Men are more strongly guided by their intellect, so they are tied more closely to Christ. This is borne out by men being called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and Priests who serve in persona Christi.

               Women, however, are driven by emotions; the emotional life is our strength. So there is an association between the feminine nature and the Holy Spirit, which is manifested as love. The Holy Spirit is consoler and helper, healer of the wounded. Women tend to take up these roles as well. While the Spirit bestows all gifts, woman helps to develop these gifts in herself and others.

               The Holy Spirit is also known as the Paraclete, which is advocate, comforter, and helper. Woman was also created as a helper. St Edith wrote that “This ‘gracious spirit’ wants nothing else than to be divine light streaming out as a serving love.” This desire for serving love is at the core of feminine nature.

               We can look to Mary as our greatest example. She sought to be a handmaid always and wanted nothing more than to be a vessel for grace to flow. It was not through herself that humanity would be saved but through her offspring. Mary is evidence of the conquering power of selfless love and purity. She is the only example of feminine nature’s original purity. This is not by her own merits, but because of God’s grace and goodness that we have this example before us.

               St Edith wrote “Every other woman has something in herself inherited from Eve, and she must search for the way from Eve to Mary. There is a bit of defiance in each woman which does not want to humble itself under any sovereignty. In each, there is something of that desire which reaches for forbidden fruit.”

               The surest path from Eve to Mary is through total surrender to Christ, abandonment of our own wishes and desires, and willingness to serve as a handmaid always.

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