Lent with St Edith Stein Day 9: Relationship Between Man and Woman

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 9: Relationship Between Man and Woman

“But the relationship of the sexes since the Fall has become a brutal relationship of master and slave. Consequently, women’s natural gifts and their best possible development are no longer considered; rather, man uses her as a means to achieve his own ends in the exercise of his work or in pacifying his own lust. However, it can easily happen that the despot becomes a slave to his lust and thereby is a slave of the slave who must satisfy him.”

                                  St Edith Stein, The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman


               All of that sounds terrible, but isn’t it familiar? Women are treated as objects, as something for men to attain. Then, somehow, we are told that by objectifying ourselves for the sexual gratification of we are empowered. That’s not how it works, is it? Instead, we have men and women both who view each other as objects. Sex becomes an act for its own sake; a means of satisfying sexual desires with no openness to children. Instead, children are an inconvenient byproduct of sex.

               When men and women place pleasure and self-indulgence at the center of their relationship, they cut off their higher functions. There is no longer a priority of care and love for the other, but gratification for oneself. If couples do have children under these conditions, how can they provide the self-sacrificial love that is required? It is more likely that they will shirk their parental duties. And when they no longer achieve the pleasure they require from each other, they will simply move on, leaving their children without a firm foundation. We see this play out every day with parents not only going their own separate ways, but each attempting to cut the other out of their children’s lives.

               As we discussed previously, woman in body and soul is designed for marriage and motherhood. We are made for love and service. When we make sexual gratification or material gain a priority in our primary relationship, we turn away from our natural vocation. While women are less likely to fall prey to dehumanization than men are, if we focus ourselves on self-indulgence (sexual or otherwise), we will still corrupt our nature.

                Women are naturally more interested in people than in things, but when we suppress our natural empathy and nurturing spirit in favor of sensuality, we can become consumed with a pursuit of “the good life.” Physical and material wants can completely take over and we end up using our drive for transcendence on the attainment of meaningless baubles. 

                 What is the answer? Sacramental marriage. We must surrender ourselves completely to God. We must surrender our marriages completely to God. As St Edith wrote, “Whatever is surrendered to Him is not lost but is saved, chastened, exalted, and proportioned out in true measure.” We must make marriage a partnership of man and wife, both surrendering all to God, all for His sake. When we buy into the secular notion of romantic love that is meant to make us happy, we corrupt this sacrament that is intended to make us holy, to build families and help us on our way to Heaven.

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