Letter to Women – Week 7
Week Seven: Priests, Prophets, and Kings
In the Holy Father’s own words:
Furthermore, precisely in line with this economy of signs, even if apart from the sacramental sphere, there is great significance to that “womanhood” which was lived in such a sublime way by Mary. In fact, there is present in the “womanhood” of a woman who believes, and especially in a woman who is “consecrated”, a kind of inherent “prophecy” (cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, 29), a powerfully evocative symbolism, a highly significant “iconic character”, which finds its full realization in Mary and which also aptly expresses the very essence of the Church as a community consecrated with the integrity of a “virgin” heart to become the “bride” of Christ and “mother” of believers. When we consider the “iconic” complementarity of male and female roles, two of the Church’s essential dimensions are seen in a clearer light: the “Marian” principle and the Apostolic- Petrine principle.
John Paul II affirms the mysterious idea that in the “economy” of the complementarity of the sexes, the masculine genius is in service to the feminine genius (we see this most dramatically expressed in the providential reality of an exclusively male ministerial priesthood) and in the feminine genius we find an expression of the ideal.
Emily Stimpson Chapman writes in Chapter 7, “John Paul II repeatedly emphasized the importance of the ‘Marian principle.’ That is, he stressed the value of seeing Mary as the ultimate icon of the Church: of what it is, of how believers are called to live, and the destiny God has for His children in eternity.”
In reading and studying Chapter 7, I was reminded of the four images of the Church: the Petrine, the Pauline, the Johannine and the Marian. The Petrine image represents the authoritarian and institutional aspect of the Church after St. Peter “the rock,” our first Pope. The Pauline—after St. Paul—represents the evangelical and missionary aspect of the Church since St. Paul was our greatest evangelist in the early Church. And the Johannine—after St. John the Beloved—represents the prayerful and contemplative aspect of the Church since St. John was a mystic. The Marian image, after the Blessed Mother, however, is not just another aspect but the ultimate icon of the Church. Each believer—whether male or female—is spiritually called to be a “bride” in total surrender and receptivity to God’s relational proposal.
While we’re at it, here’s some classic Alice Von Hildebrand for you:
Consider the Apocalypse. You have this duel between the serpent and the woman. It is a woman who will crush the serpent’s head. Supernaturally speaking, women are so much in the foreground that it is astonishing.
The devil is clever and we are stupid. He knows full well that if he can destroy femininity, he can destroy the Church, marriage and the family. It is all in the hands of a woman!
Pray on it: Understanding the primacy of the Marian principle, which of the other images of the Church—Petrine, Pauline, or Johannine—do I most relate to?