22 August 2006

Creation: A Revealed Truth

These are a few excerpts from an interesting article entitled Revealed Truth by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon. It is on Creation.

“We should reflect, first, that this [that all creation comes from nothing] is a revealed truth. Creation refers to a specific act that cannot be reached by the power of reason. Creation, as the Christian faith understands that term, means the passage from non-being to being. I do not know, nor can I know, by the ability of reason, that all things, visible and invisible, have passed from non-being to being.

Second, what has been created from nothing? We affirm, "heaven and earth, and all things visible and invisible." Not just earth, we understand, but heaven too. Not just the material world that we see, but also the invisible world that we cannot see. Not just the chemical substances of things, but also the mathematical theorems and physical laws that give them coherence. Everything that is not God has been created from nothingness, no matter how high, how metaphysical, how spiritual. Apart from God, there is absolutely nothing that was not made from nothing.

Third, God's creating act is the only thing that separates all things from nothing. No creature is adequately considered, then, if it is considered only in se, in itself. Creatures do not have their being a se, of themselves. They are held in existence only because an immense and continuing act of love holds them in existence. All things that endure, endure because the Creator's hand sustains them in being.

If the doctrine of creation is true, the wise man is the one who finds that place in his being where God touches him and holds him in existence.”

10 August 2006

A Woman's Role in the Church...a comment

This post was actually intended to be a comment I wrote after reading Caleb's blog post on women in the church. It turned out to be a bit long for just a comment, so I decided to post it as a blog instead. If it's a topic that interests you, I encourage you to go to Caleb's blog (link at right) and read “Thoughts on the Role of Women in Church and the subsequent comments first, then read mine as I was influenced by what was said. I'm sure I can speak for him too when I say we'd both love to hear your thoughts. So here goes the longest comment ever...

I believe that the heart of the issue is women needing to find a voice or a place of influence/authority in what they feel is still largely a man's world. I'm reading a book called "10 Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children" by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. In it he speaks of the importance of the role of femininity in our world: "A woman's gift to the world is her femininity. She takes a cold, desolate planet, warms it with her femininity, and brings forth life. A man's gift to the world is to honor the feminine, and an added obligation is to nurture the feminine in his own heart" (99). He speaks of men and women like this: "Men are a line: their approach to life is very direct and goal oriented. Women are a circle: less direct, gentler, more open to the world around them, inclined toward circles of family and relationships...Women need men. Men have raw energy...Male aggression is necessary, but unchecked it becomes brutal. The feminine neutralizes masculine aggression and makes it more refined. And in neutralizing the male tendency toward aggression, it paves the way for transcendence. Women are more naturally spiritual than men" (97,114). So of course it is essential that women be recognized and honored in the Church and it's local places of worship.

I've always had a strong belief that a woman's place is not at the head of the church. I have such a strong intuitive feeling about it, but you've (Caleb) spurred me to put some intellectual thought into it. The first question I thought of is this: why does/would a woman need to have (access to) a position of authority within the church structure? Does she need a recognized, defined role/title in order to have a significant influence on the church structure and body and in order to make full use of her gifts of wisdom and knowledge (teaching)? I really, truly believe that, for women especially, a true leader does not need a defined place in the church structure. Women are an incredible force. I think the beauty of a woman is that she doesn't need as much structure as a man (in general) to thrive. She is a circle. She has a special ability to exist under the 'rule' of man-made organizations and at the same time not be bound by them, still never betraying her faith nor breaking the rules. (Am I making any sense?) By not having a defined position of leadership, she is able to move freely and be true to her feminine nature. No rules and politics and intellectual barriers to restrain her from acting on her spiritual intuition. So not only does she not need it, she can work her best 'magic' without it.

I like to think of Mother Theresa. I don't know many details about her life, but I do know enough that her main goal was to spread compassion as God commands. She began working out her own salvation by being a humble servant to God and man, and in the end she became a sort of spiritual world leader. She influenced every part of society: the very poor and sick to the most wealthy politicians and world powers; from lay Christians (an non-) to pastors, to the Pope. I would argue that her life and words will be remembered with more clarity and love by the world in general than, perhaps, the Pope himself, the highest leader/teacher in that faith! I wonder, if Mother Theresa had taken a defined role as deaconess or teacher in her convent or local parish, would she have had the same opportunity to enter into and change the world with her teaching?

Mother Theresa and hundreds/thousands of women like her have existed in the course of Church history--powerful prophetesses, teachers, and evangelizers. I think a few things when I look at the lives of many of these women: 1)Their goal was simply to serve God and spread His message 2)They sought nothing for themselves except salvation 3)A lot of the time, their authority as teachers seemed to have come as an after-thought. Most did not have a title/role given to them by the body of believers which in turn gave them authority. Rather, their holy lives and words were authoritative in and of themselves. People began to understand that these women didn't just have nice things to say, but they took the words as teaching because they recognized the deep spiritual wisdom and knowledge. The women's gifts blossomed and were appreciated through the natural flow of their feminine, Spirit-driven lives as passionate women who were "open to the world around them".

I know a woman who has the knowledge and spiritual wisdom that people flock to. Hypothetically, if I had to choose a female pastor/teacher for my church, she'd be it. She is very passionate, driven, and people listen to her. She is using her gifts fully within the church. Her love of God and continual spiritual growth and her priest's recognition of who she is and her abilities has brought them into a unique relationship. Through the years she has gained considerable influence, though the priest and the church's rules and ways of doing things remain unchanging and solidly Orthodox. She works in the church in all sorts of capacities, and her service has made her well-known and loved by everyone. She often gets calls from people asking for advice, spiritual or personal, or asking her to explain about church history, theology, and about the sides of controversial issues. I think she does more teaching now, perhaps, than she would ever have had the opportunity of doing in a church 'office'--those positions come with other responsibilities that make those people renowned for being super-busy and unavailable. Plus, by not being bound to any rules nor by the need to be exceptionally careful as to what she says (b/c she is not officially representing the church), she is able to be more liberal in her discussions with people, though, of course, she doesn't waver from a firm set of beliefs. I mentioned her work in the church—she's the one who gets things done. Because she doesn't have as many layers of red-tape (church-style) to get through in order to accomplish a task, the priest makes good use of her desire and ability to lead and get things done. He tells her what he needs, she tells him how she'd like to do it and what she'll need...and after discussing the main details, he sends her off with a blessing and thanks. She's able to use her gifts freely, and the church reaps the benefits. I think she's a prime example of how women can influence the entire church very effectively without an official title/role.

Actions speak louder than words. I think Peter's instructions to wives in I Peter 3:1-2 is an example of a woman's unique call to witness and teach through lifestyle. I think it can apply to all sisters in Christ in their relationships with each other, their spiritual brothers, and the leadership.

Can a woman be fully feminine and be at the head of a church? I think the position of leadership strengthens a man's “manliness,” and it requires a woman to put aside some of her qualities of gentleness, openness, and “live by intuition” mentality. It is a give-and-take for her. Some roles simply require more masculine traits. Ideally should women be expected to be fully feminine? Or is it better/does it make them more “developed” if they have more of a combination of characteristics? We expect men to learn to find their feminine side...it seems to make them better people. Is the reverse true for women? I don't think so. In that book by Rabbi Boteach, he believes that the feminization of the world's history is “messianic progress”. It's something to consider.

Besides all that, I still believe that Paul was quite clear in Timothy 2:11-14 that in church he does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man, that she should be silent in these cases (side-note: I believe prophesy and prayer to be wholly different things from teaching. The authority in prophesy is the Holy Spirit, not the vessel.) Because he traces it back to the Fall, I do not believe it is simply a cultural thing that we don't need to heed nowadays. Paul also says that “woman is not independent of man, and
man is not independent of woman” (1 Cor 11:11) and that both are part of the royal priest hood and heirs with Christ. Men and women are equally valuable, intelligent, wise and spiritual. But at their core, their very essence, they're different, and so they are called to different roles and different ways of serving the church. That's the simple, bottom-line answer for me.

{Last note: If it is the structure of the church that largely prevents women from taking 'office', why not get rid of the structure altogether? I believe that having a church structure is essential to maintaining consistency and preventing spiritual heresy and chaos. God refers to his people as sheep (will follow just about any other sheep over a cliff) and we, the church, need solid leadership. God calls for church leaders to be the shepherds and heads of the church families as He is the Great Shepherd and head of the Body of Christ.}

02 August 2006

28 Weeks

Now I'm seven months along. She's moving more than ever, and I still love it! The constant fatigue is gone, and I feel pretty good these days. It's been hard to fall asleep lately--can't turn my mind off. It's starting to sink in that we're going to be holding a little baby of our own very soon, although it's still a bit surreal. My guess is that it won't seem real until she's about a week old. I'm starting to have dreams about having her around in our everyday life: taking turns holding our little bundle at church; going for long walks while we wait for papa to come home; her sleeping in the moses basket over dinner at someone's house. The dreams are preparing me, I think, for the reality of having a child...so is the insomnia. We've been looking for a place to buy, and it takes some effort to remember that we need to live in a family/kid-friendly environment with a nearby park or nice grassy area, a fenced-in backyard or porch area, and so forth. It's so tempting to buy a nice, new condo near the lightrail that is sure to increase in value over the next year just because of the location and newness. The problem is that it is a concrete environment (although clean and nice looking) surrounded by snake-infested fields. No place to play. Is there even a park within walking distance?--probably not. The next options are the older condos that have the grassy knolls, are in good locations, are decent but not likely to appreciate. Thankfully we don't have to worry about the schools yet! All in all, everything is going well and we are both getting more and more excited about meeting our little baby. Any apprehension I've had is gone, and I am ready for a family.