Mother, Bride, and Daughter

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Photo: The Aquero Foundation)

I went to Mass at the Carmel of Maria Regina yesterday for the first time since September. And as I knelt in the chapel under the statue of Our Lady, I thought about a recent controversy in which a popular Protestant pastor, theologian, and writer named John Piper claimed that Christianity has “a masculine feel.” I wondered what the nuns in the cloister kneeling in prayer with me at that very moment—together with Our Lady and numerous female Carmelite saints—would think of Piper’s claim.

The words of Holy Scripture and the witness of innumerable saints are so much bigger than Piper’s “Masculine Christianity.”

Let’s start with the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the personification of both her son’s words—”the last shall be first”—and her own—”the humble shall be exalted.” She was a teenaged girl, no more than fourteen, when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed her unique role in the salvation of the cosmos. God’s plan would not only subject her to possible humiliation, it might cost her life. Yet what did she say? “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to your word.” How many of us in that same situation, facing the unknown from such a vulnerable, precarious, and outright dangerous place would say “yes.”

I thought about the women who followed Jesus through his ministry and then stood with Mary at the cross when all but one of the male disciples had fled for their lives. Christianity wasn’t exactly masculine at its darkest hour. I thought about the first witnesses to the Resurrection: the women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday expecting to anoint Jesus’ body only to find him risen. Christianity wasn’t exactly masculine at the moment of its great triumph either. And I thought about the women telling the men the good news—the Gospel. Those first preachers of the Gospel weren’t the Apostles—that is the Twelve—they were apostles to the apostles.

That’s what the Orthodox Church calls Mary Magdelene: “Apostle to the Apostles.” So much for remaining silent in church—unless you really think “church” means a building instead of the Body of Christ.

I thought about all the women saints again, particularly those who are Doctors of the Church: St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and—following her scheduled canonization this October—Blessed Hildegard of Bingen. These women speak to the whole church, as do numerous others: saints, both proclaimed by the Church and known to God alone. There are plenty of sopranos and altos among the choirs of the blessed.

And I though about the women who made a profound difference in my life. My mom who taught me the Golden Rule through both word and example, my wife who brought me back to my faith when it, and I, were all but dead, and my daughter who taught me how to be a father. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Mother, bride, and daughter—just like the church: the Mother of Christians, the Bride of Christ, and the Daughter of Israel. A feminine Christianity that I am man enough to proclaim to the world. But Christianity isn’t just feminine or masculine; it is Godly.

Male and female, he created us in his image and male and female he saved us and remakes us in his image. Because “male and female . . . all are one in Christ Jesus.”—Galatians 3:28

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10 thoughts on “Mother, Bride, and Daughter

  1. Hi
    First of all Mr piper has said so many other things that contradict biblical truth that this seems rather trivial to get excited over, until you notice at least from what I have read that he is pretty much correct. Sin came through Adam even though eve took the first bite. Moses led the israelites out of Egypt. Jesus is a man.
    God has on many occasions used women to suite his purposes but that does not make the Christian religion feminine nor do female saints, wives, mothers or daughters.
    The Church learns its scripture from men, and this because God has made plain and simple the scriptures that explain why it should be so.
    Now the church at Rome is certainly not run by women, its not a very feminine church and to be honest with you I feel you would be better
    comparing scripture with practice in that organisation and reporting what you find as I feel both Pipers form of religion and that of the catholic church are equally erroneous in what they teach.

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  2. I’m not arguing for a feminine Christianity in the same way Piper is arguing for a masculine one. I’m arguing for a complete Christianity. Male and female are both part of the mystical Body of Christ and to single out one—either one—as more significant is to choose part of the truth over the whole truth (and “choice” is at the root of the word “heresy’). Yes, the prophets were men and so is Christ, but just as the Old Testament matriarchs were an important part of the story of Israel, so the women of the Gospels were an important part of the story of Christ. Finally, I bring up the examples of female saints and specifically female doctors of the church to show that even an institution as male-dominated (in its sacerdotal ministry) as the Catholic Church still acknowledges and celebrates the important contributions of women.

    I am sorry you find the teaching of Holy Mother Church as “erroneous” as Piper’s, but as I am a Catholic (and one by choice not upbringing) the likelihood of me reporting on these so-called “errors” is doubtful. I did not accept all the teachings of the Church without some difficulty, but as my fellow Anglican turned Catholic John Henry Newman wrote “A thousand difficulties do not equal one doubt.” I do not doubt Christ’s Church anymore than I would doubt Christ himself, though I acknowledge the many failings of her ministers just as I acknowledge my own many failings.

    Thank you for reading and commenting. May God bless you.

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  3. I apologise if my tone seemed a little harsh no offence was meant.
    When comparing J Piper with the church at Rome I was thinking more of the baseline error of no salvation without works as apposed to God showing mercy from begining to end throughout the whole proccess from birth to death to resurrection.
    piper is portrayed as a reformed protestant nothing in my opinion could be further from the truth. To be honest I dont believe he is any type of Christian, Any man who believes that “God may permit tears in heaven to sweeten the joy of grace” (future grace nonsense) knowing he is contradicting Gods word even admitting so in the same sermon! is probably worshiping some other god
    Cheers for the reply

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  4. Gail says:

    Thank-You David,

    I am recovering from the teachings of men such as Piper & MacArthur. One place I head off to first thing in the morning is Sacred Space. I am healing in the pews of the Catholic Church, haven’t yet converted… I thought this piece might dovetail with your words from Sacred Space. If not, please edit.

    Something to think and pray about this week

    Not everyone finds poetry manageable! I invite you however to let this beautiful poem by Hopkins charm you. It hints at the intimate relationship between Mary and ourselves. I have abbreviated it considerably, but those who are caught by it can get the full text on the Internet. Note the short words and lines, and within them a richness of imagery. Think of the poem as a verbal sculpture, to be appreciated for its beauty and religious sensitivity.
    The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe
    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Wild air, world-mothering air,
    Nestling me everywhere,…
    Minds me in many ways
    Of her who not only
    Gave God’s infinity
    Dwindled to infancy
    Welcome in womb and breast,
    Birth, milk, and all the rest
    But mothers each new grace
    That does now reach our race…
    And makes, O marvellous!
    New Nazareths in us,
    Where she shall yet conceive
    Him, morning, noon, and eve;
    New Bethlems, and he born
    There, evening, noon, and morn…
    Be thou then, O thou dear
    Mother, my atmosphere;
    My happier world, wherein
    To wend and meet no sin…
    Stir in my ears, speak there
    Of God’s love, O live air,
    Of patience, penance, prayer:
    World-mothering air, air wild,
    Wound with thee, in thee isled,
    Fold home, fast fold thy child.

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    • Thank you for commenting and sharing the poem. I love Hopkins’ poetry, and “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe” is one of my favorites. Thinking about Hopkins now, I think I’ll post “The May Magnificat” later this week. I’m planning to post about the Ascension on Thursday. Sunday perhaps? Sometime in May anyway. Thanks again!

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  5. Gail says:

    Bless You David, I will look forward you upcoming posts:

    “Thinking about Hopkins now, I think I’ll post “The May Magnificat” later this week. I’m planning to post about the Ascension on Thursday. Sunday perhaps? Sometime in May anyway.”

    I have so much to unlearn from my fundy days…

    I Bless Nataline Trust for her real & honest blog.

    Longing to learn more & comprehend from what you share. I will be listening.

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