Lent with St Edith Stein Day 16: The Notion of a Perfected Womanhood

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 16: The Notion of a Perfected Womanhood

“It has been woman’s mission to war against evil and to educate her posterity to do the same; this has been true of woman including the Mother of the Son who conquered death and hell, but it will have to remain so until the end of the world.”

St Edith Stein, The Problem of Women’s Education


               Yesterday, we discussed the notion of perfected humanity and how perfection is the goal of our religious education and spiritual formation. In this session, we’ll drill down further and explore perfection as a woman and an individual.

               As always, let’s go back to Eve. She was created as a helpmate, for Adam’s sake. This does not denigrate woman to say that she was created for man’s sake. Unless, of course, we take that to mean that she exists only to cook, clean, and satisfy sexual desires. Or if we try to weaponize man’s need for woman in an attempt to subjugate him. The relationship between man and woman should never be one of slave and master.

               When Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, Eve was given a particular mission. To create offspring that would crush the serpent’s head. This is reinforced in Proverbs 31: she cares for the needs of her family and others and raises up children who fear the Lord. This is a vital mission; to prepare an army for God.

               Of course, we see this perfected in Mary. Mary and Jesus are the new Adam and Eve. However, unlike Adam and Eve, they do not become one flesh. This is where the Catholic ideal of virginity originates. Man and woman need each other to make up for what is lacking in each other, and marriage gives us wholeness in complete union with each other. But rather than union with each other, Jesus and Mary each had complete union with God.

               Does this mean Mary is too far away to be a role model for us? Absolutely not. Mary’s identity is summed up in the statement, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” Men, particularly priests, are called to serve as the proxy of Christ in the church and in our homes. Mary does not represent Christ, she stands beside Him. She is always by His side, not for His sake, but for ours. This is the image of perfected woman: to stand by the side of Christ, always willing to serve others, helping them become what they need to be in order to wage war against evil.

Each soul is unique and created with an individual purpose. It is impossible to generally discuss what it means to find perfection in your individual calling. However, Edith says that “especially needed are faith in one’s own being and courage regarding it, as well as faith in one’s individual calling to definite personal activities and a ready willingness to follow this call.”

You were created with purpose, with intention. If you’re not sure what your individual vocation is right now, I encourage you to spend some time in reflection or adoration if you can. Whatever your state of life is, wherever you are in your journey, God has a calling for you.

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