Male and Female He created Them

Source: FSSPX News

The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese (1563)
The Synod on the Family ought to be a clear, concise reminder of the Church’s doctrine on Catholic marriage; unfortunately it is an occasion for progressive bishops to present heterodox teaching that is in sync with the ideas of the individualist, hedonistic post-modern world.

This sermon by Father Xavier Beauvais, in the Church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in Paris on the Second Sunday after Epiphany, was published in the original French in Nouvelles de Chrétienté no. 103 (pp. 13-16). It sets forth what we would like to hear from the mouths of some of the Synod Fathers on the proper role of the husband and the wife in a Christian home.

Male and Female He created Them

The Gospel about the wedding feast at Cana is the Gospel of marriage, which is the basis of the family, just as the family is the basis of society. As we know, our souls were created by God to reach the final destination which is God Himself. And if God created men and women, it is because He gave to men their own mission and to women a mission of their own. Woman was created by God and united by Him, by means of the Sacrament of Matrimony, to a man so that he might be attached and devoted to her, that they may be two in one flesh, and that she may be his companion in the procreation and education of children, and also in domestic life so as to keep house for him and to reign as queen over his home. This is the proper mission of the wife as compared with the husband. One therefore will not have the same psychology as the other.

The man’s psychology predisposes him to be the authority, the head of the family: husband and father. The woman’s psychology immediately induces her to be the queen of the family: wife and mother. This is not a human invention, because the fundamental relationship between these two psychologies is found in Genesis. The woman is taken from the man, and not from just any part of the man: she is drawn from the heart of the man. Eve comes from Adam as her principle, just as the Church comes from Christ. And what is the precise point from which the source springs? From his opened side, from the heart itself.

Fashionable egalitarianism

Thus the woman is not drawn from the head of the man, and that is why she does not dominate, as the head dominates the body. Nor is the woman taken from the feet of the man, and therefore she is not his slave. The woman is drawn from the heart of the man, and therefore she is his love. The husband is the head, the wife is the heart. The man is therefore the head of the woman. He is the prince of the family, and she is drawn from him as her principle. But she is drawn from his heart. She is therefore in relation to him as the heart is in relation to the head.

When we understand that, we emerge from the atmosphere of egalitarianism that is so fashionable today. A woman is not a man’s equal, any more than she is unequal to a man. Tell me, are the lungs equal to the hands? Are the eyes equal to the ears or unequal? To tell the truth, these questions have no meaning. Woman is to man as the heart is to the head. The heart and the head must therefore live in unity. Pope Pius XI wrote in his Encyclical on marriage, Casti connubii (December 31, 1930): “If the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.” Thus in marriage the essential thing is that each spouse do his best to keep to the place that is assigned to him in the plan of creation.

Therefore it is important for the husband to become—with God’s help—the attentive head who is devoted to the common good, because authority is always granted with a view to the common good of the whole body. It is fitting also that the woman become—with God’s help—in all truth the heart, the source of love for the whole body, but completely associated with the will of the head, completely submitted to the head of the family by her affection. Any disorder runs the severe risk of shaking the familial organism from top to bottom, because it is just as bad “to have no head” as it is “to lack a heart”.

So there must be complementarity in marriage. In the first place, the man mistrusts his own impressions, but he mistrusts his wife’s impressions much less. The husband knows that he has methods of judging that are more precise and more certain than his wife. But these methods are less rapid. Literature, history and Sacred History are peppered with the dreams, the forebodings or the impressions of women. Sometimes they are wrong, and sometimes they are on the right track. Look at how Saint Matthew records the warning that Pilate received from his wife: “Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him” (Mt 27:19). Although female intuition is not necessarily right, there is no more basis for declaring that all men who have a reason for something are ipso facto making a sound judgment. What we are saying here is that a woman’s mode of knowledge is not a man’s mode of knowledge. There is a fundamental difference between them that makes them what they are respectively. If man is reasonable and woman intuitive, it is fitting for the head to be reasonable and for the heart to be intuitive.

A woman is therefore generally less reasonable than a man, and a man is generally less intuitive than a woman. But a man can make poor use of his reason: his selfish interests, his pride, his passion can compromise his judgment and sometimes even darken his intellect. As for the woman, she can become the victim of her intuition by an unbridled imagination, by overindulging her sensibility, by coquettishness or vanity. All this can in effect compromise the stability of her feelings and sometimes even make her scatter-brained. A man does not rely on his impressions, he studies, examines, truly seeks to not allow himself to be dominated by a preconceived idea or an emotional feeling. As for the woman, she is constantly assailed by her impressions. She is the marvelously faithful echo of everything going on beside her, around her. She will notice thousands of unimportant things. She is indifferent to nothing, which then makes her less rational than a man in her judgments.

Mutual enrichment

As for the charity between spouses, everything is arranged so that the husband and the wife might be mutually enriching or might quarrel ceaselessly.... Yes, because if the husband starts to regret that his wife judges too quickly and without a real reason, he has not reached the end of his difficulties. And if the wife starts thinking that her husband is slow-witted and defiant by character, she will probably suffer. On the contrary, if the husband accepts his wife’s impressions as warnings from her heart, which sometimes is constrained without reason—and sometimes for plenty of reasons!—and if the wife is able to trust her husband’s final judgment and submits to it while seeking to understand the reasons on which it is based, respecting him as the head; then, on either side, charity between the spouses will be greatly facilitated. He will be enriched by his wife’s heart, and she will be enriched by her husband’s reason, and, with age, she will become increasingly imbued with his judgment. And they will end up having one heart and one soul.

Thus there will be two sorts of fruitfulness resulting from the fact that a woman knows intuitively and a man—rationally. It should be no surprise therefore if the creation of great works of the intellect appears throughout history to be the work of man. This is because God has reserved for woman the fruitfulness that comes, not from the paternal acts of the intellect, but from the maternal acts of the heart, the soul and life. She can perform this role only by accepting it fully and remaining humbly in the place—an immense place—that He assigns to her. For only humility associates us with great works.

Woman’s role

In a magazine published by the University of Ottawa in 1949, Marie-Paule Vinay wrote an article entitles “The role of woman”. One passage from this article struck me:

This role is par excellence a hidden role, and the fact that it is buried is somehow related to its efficacy. Indeed, the purer and more silent the woman’s renunciation is, the farther the man can advance in his conquests of the mind and the heart, without any danger to the equilibrium of the social body as a whole. The wife, in the family, is that much more useful, the more self-effacing she is. This law seems to be inescapable. A woman who is not self-effacing effaces others. A woman who is not a backdrop becomes a silver screen. This can be observed everywhere. Depending on the personal importance that she assumes, different departments of family life are disturbed. An unknown woman, the soul of the silences in her house, gives to the world a lesson in order.

Like an anonymous stone in a building, she supports what is above by resting on what is below. She legitimizes and unites the two with her whole being. She is a blessing for the whole building. Is not the unknown par excellence this woman who hides in the bosom of Light, the Blessed Immaculata, of whom only one personal characteristic has been handed down to us: “She kept all these things in her heart.”

This is God’s plan. Oh, obviously He does not forbid all those extra-familial activities of the wife, private or even public activities in which her vocation to motherhood can flourish in a spiritual way that is no less real. Nevertheless, by her nature, and within the bosom of the family, the wife is called to live not for herself, not even in relation to herself. She is called to live not only for those whom she loves—the man is called to do that, too—but to live in relation to those whom she loves. You see, I said all this so as to show quite simply that in a Christian marriage the husband and wife are called to complement each other. There is an order to follow in love, as there is in all things. Now, what do we see today? Some husbands who set themselves up as authoritarian, others who think that they are kind because they always yield in all matters..., wives who lead their husband around by the nose, others who assert their independence. There are even husbands and wives who think that they love each other better because they have decided to let each one have his or her own tastes, if not his or her own friends and outings, and then they are surprised when they split up some day. The day comes when the bill for all disorders must be paid.

Authority and self-sacrifice

People have not realized in time that for years they have despised the natural order, which contains the true meaning of authority and submission. There are words that have lost their true meaning. There are ideas that can no longer circulate because the words through which these ideas ought to circulate have lost their meaning. This is the case with the word “authority” and the word “submission”. People no longer know what they mean. For many people today, authority will imply “despotism”, “tyranny”, “fascism”. For many people today the idea of obedience is disagreeable, outmoded, truly repulsive; they will replace it with spontaneity and self-determination. The result of all this is that we no longer find many heads or true leaders. There are many people who pretend to take charge, but for the most part they are not responsible leaders but men who wanted power to flatter their own pride, their thirst for personal glory and are therefore capable of any cowardly act or betrayal whatsoever rather than to give up their demagoguery and their wish to please. “A man incapable of wearing a crown of thorns so as to remain faithful to his authority is not a leader but a demagogue.”

What happiness belongs to a young man and a young woman who have just exchanged their sweet consent before the altar of God with the convictions that we have just mentioned! He, the young man, has resolved never to decide anything by himself through egotism, self-interest, sensuality or pride. Resolved always to decide through love for his wife, for the good of the children that she will give him, for the Church. Resolved to make this sacrifice of self, to live this life of true love, because he knows that he has received his wife from God so as to lead her to God, her and her children. Resolved never to abdicate his role as head, whatever difficulty or outside enticement he may be going through, resolved always to live for the little flock that is entrusted to him, whatever renunciation that may demand of him.

And she, the wife, is certain that she can rely on her husband, leave things up to him, trust in him so that he may lead her to Jesus Christ. She knows that God has given her a husband who will be able to listen to the advice of his wife and be enriched by her inspirations, take into consideration all her remarks, which are so perspicacious that they will very often astonish him. She knows exactly what Our Lord is asking of her when He tells her through Saint Paul to be submissive to her husband. This does not mean that she must be subject to his caprices, to selfishness that would compromise their home life, to a manifestly bad or unreasonable attitude. No, it is clear that this order that subjects the man to God and the wife to her husband can gleam in its perfection only if the husband remains Christian and worthy of the name “man”. If he really is that man and that Christian, already reestablished by grace, then how happily his wife will rely on him. She will see to it that she counsels him well. He will join her to his reflections and deliberations. She will highlight what only a woman can see. He will make use of this advice reasonably to enrich the reasons that will sway his decision. But she will know that in normal married life, he is the one to make the decision, the act of judgment that is of capital importance. For his part, he will know that even if he has followed her advice or counsel, one of his wife’s ideas, and later experience disappoints his hopes, he will never have the right to turn against her and reproach her. He is the one who bears the responsibility for it.

All these things are so, and they deserved, I think, to be said. So be it.

Father Xavier Beauvais

(Bibliography: Marcel Clément, La joie d’aimer [The Joy of Loving], Nouvelles Éditions Latines)

(DICI dated October 16, 2015)

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