©2019 by the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project.

A Touch of Metaphysical Humor

ALICE VON HILDEBRAND

 

Catholic News Agency

December 03, 2013

“Freedom of choice” has conquered the heart of modern man. To him it signifies liberation from all mediaeval taboos that for centuries have burdened men’s consciences and prevented them from growing wings.

One of its most eloquent advocates is Nancy Pelosi, whose philosophical formation being very – let us say, anemic – interprets “freedom of choice” to mean that every woman has a right to either keep the child growing in her womb or eliminate this unwelcome guest.

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s commands, they were indeed using their “freedom of choice”: with the results that we all know. When Cain killed Abel, he indeed had a choice: to respect his brother’s life or to use violence to bring him to the tomb. When a father gives his teenage son a knife for his birthday, the boy indeed has freedom of choice: either to improve his mechanical skills or to plunge it into the heart of a schoolmate who defeated him in a tennis match.

More examples are not needed to make us aware of the huge field of abuses to which the discovery of this “divine secular right” can lead.

To some modern men’s distress and grief, there are things, however, which are “imposed” upon us, and therefore in which we are deprived of this birthright, to decide by ourselves. A few examples are called for: we do not choose our parents, we do not choose when and where we were born, we do not choose our physical appearance…and we do not choose our sex.

It is this latter “infringement” upon our freedom of choice that will retain my attention. One thing is certain: we are born either male or female and have no say whatsoever in this matter, which, after all, is not unimportant.

This leads me to a humorous question (I say humorous when I should rather stupid): If, seconds before conception, God had asked us: “Would you rather be a boy or a girl?” I wonder what most people would have chosen? Before making a choice, we should wisely examine the pros and cons of our possible decision. This is difficult to do before one exists! It is conceivable that many people would have chosen to be males – that is, the “strong sex.” The noble St. Francis of Sales even calls this sex “the more excellent” sex without giving us any argument. He was in fact just echoing Aristotle, who claimed that the superiority of the male sex is due to the fact that man is active while woman is only “passive.” With due respect to one of the greatest philosophical giants that the world has produced, I nevertheless dare accuse Aristotle of failing to distinguish between  “passive,” which is clearly inferior to “active,” and “receptive,” which is the glory of “creatures.” (Indeed, “what do you have that you have not received”?) Any preference given to the male sex echoes the basic premises of feminists like Simone de Beauvoir who writes that woman is not a “being”; that she is only a “becoming”; moreover, that she is “disgusted” with her own body; that she “produces nothing” (for to give birth is “nothing”); and more of such nonsense ad nauseam.

Not having her “fame” (and not wishing to have it for very valid reasons), I nevertheless dare challenge Simone de Beauvoir. It is my claim that there are very convincing reasons for choosing to be born a woman.

My arguments do not aim at convincing my “philosophical enemy” for the obvious reason that I shall base my arguments on the Bible, which she rejects as a pack of myths. I, on the contrary, happen to believe that it is a sacred book, and that to reject its message, far from being a sign of wisdom, is indicative of very grave intellectual flaws. Failure to open our minds and hearts to its message will lead to our own doom.

God created man (homo) in his image and likeness, making it clear that male and female have the very same metaphysical dignity. He decided, however, to create them male and female, that is, homo vir and homo mulier: a male human person and a female human person. Unfortunately, in English the word homo is open to confusion as it applies both to a human person and to the human male.

Can a reverent reading of this sacred book offer us facts that would justify my claim that the female sex is in fact the privileged one?

I am not a Biblical scholar, so I will just follow the text as given in translations acknowledged to be valid. The sacred text tells us that Adam was created first. This is one of the “powerful” arguments that feminists use. Eve was just an “afterthought.” To be man is to be a male; the female is a sort of appendix. But it could also be argued that the “final copy” comes after the “rough draft,” and that would give Eve priority.

None of the animals that God had created were worthy companions for a human person, and yet man being a person is made for communion (“It is not good for man to be alone”).  God decided to create Eve: a female human person.

Whereas Adam’s body was made from the slime of the earth (not a very aristocratic origin), Eve’s body was taken from the body of a human person made in God’s image and likeness. This is definitely a nobler origin. We are told that Adam was put in a deep sleep and, upon waking, saw Eve. His response was enchantment: “flesh of my flesh; bone of my bone” (Gen. 2:23). For her sake, he will leave father and mother, and join to his wife. (Of course, for good reasons, this does not apply to Him who came directly out of God’s hands.) It is not said, however, that the woman will leave her father and mother.

Adam’s enchantment climaxed when he proclaimed his wife to be “the mother of the living.” Can one imagine a more glorious title? The sacred book declares solemnly that “Woman” and Life” are so intimately linked that they should never be separated.

Then came the tragedy of original sin. St. Augustine – one of the greatest luminaries of the Church – being human, can, like Aristotle, make misleading statements. He wrote that the Serpent addressed himself to Eve because, “being the weaker,” she would be easier to conquer, that is, to “defeat.” I, on the contrary, believe that he addressed himself to Eve because, being very sly, he knew that she had an enormous influence on her husband, and that, once conquered, he would sheepishly follow suit. He is indeed the first of a long dynasty of wimps.

It is deeply meaningful that whereas both are severely punished, her personal punishment is particularly harsh. That is, it is related to the very domain which is her glory: to give life. This privilege, however, is not taken from her, but she will have to pay for it. This is why in the Bible, while referring to very severe suffering, we often find the words, “like a woman in labor.”

Moreover, God also solemnly declared that there will be an enmity between the Serpent and the woman: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:16). But this is not yet the end of this dramatic story.

Referring to Cain’s birth, Eve exclaims, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Gen. 4:1).  Adam is not even mentioned. I can vividly imagine Adam in the background, murmuring sheepishly, “After all, she knows I am the father; why does she ‘forget’ to mention my role?” Of course, Eve knows that, but being a budding theologian she also knows that his role, while crucial, is short-lived and totally secondary compared to her role as mother. She also knows that in procreation God has the crucial role.

I just wrote that Eve, unwittingly – without a degree – is a theologian. She knows intuitively that a human person has a soul: neither the semen nor the egg has this privilege. They are both pre-given and placed by God in the body. But the person – made in God’s image and likeness – is granted personhood by receiving a soul, and the human person starts existing the very moment that God Himself creates the soul (neither father nor mother have anything to do with it) and places it in the female body. This implies that God “touches” the female body, and whatever God touches is “sacred.” This should shed light on the mystery and dignity of the female body and explain why St. Paul insists that it calls for “veiling.” Once again, it is thanks to feminists’ ignorance that many women in the wake of Vatican II, at least as it was interpreted by the media, have given up the beautiful tradition of having women enter Churches veiled.

We have lost sense for mystery, for sacredness, and this might explain why our society is not only sick but in many ways “comatose.” A society that has lost the sense of the sacred is a society that has chosen death.

But the role of women in the world, in the family, and in the Church is not over. God in His infinite goodness has promised man a savior:  this savior was to be born of a woman. Isaiah writes: “A virgin shall conceive, and she shall bear a son and his name will be Emmanuel, God among us” (7:14).

We know through Revelation that this Virgin’s name is Mary, that she is the daughter of Joachim and Anna, and that she was born unstained by original sin. Indeed, it would be inconceivable that the Second Person of the Trinity should be placed in a stained cradle. For that is the proper name for a womb: the cradle of life.

This fact should fill women with awe: for they too share the anatomy of the Blessed one among all women; they too are granted the costly privilege of giving life; they too have breasts whose generous milk keeps new born alive. If only little girls were made aware of the sacred dignity of their body, then they would shun with horror “modern fashions” that aim at degrading this mystery.

In due time, Mary gave birth to a Son who by sacrificing His life, re-opened for sinful man the doors of Paradise – on the condition that accepting His holy teaching, he follows the path joyfully chosen by Mary who said that she was “the handmaid of the Lord”.

In giving birth to Jesus, Mary, who as woman is the mother of the living, gave birth to Him, who was to declare himself to be “Life Itself.” No founder of any religion has ever dared to make such a claim. No one of them has declared himself to be the Truth. Indeed, Christ is clearly the Priest par excellence, the One interceding to God for the salvation of sinful man. There is only one Priest: Christ. And this Priest has no earthly father, but has an earthly mother. This again, should make women tremble at their dignity. It also reveals to them in a glorious light that their mission is to be mothers of priests. (This is a powerful argument against the priesthood of women.)

How I wish that on Thanksgiving Day all women would join hands and sing to God a hymn of gratitude for having made them to be women. “If they only knew the gift of God,” as Christ said to the Samaritan woman, and would understand that unless they “rediscover” the beauty of their mission as “mothers of the living,” and refrain from choosing to murder a “child of God” in the cradle God has given them, they should realize that the world is inevitably heading for disaster.

It is my firm conviction that the role of women in the world, in society, in the family, and in marriage is so crucial that the legalization of abortion is Satan’s greatest victory since original sin. He has managed to rupture the bond between women and the living.

Ezekiel tells us, “lex peribit a sacerdote” (the law shall perish from the priest).  Indeed priests play a crucial role in human life. I can imagine that if he were alive today, he would write: lex peribit a mulieribus (the law shall perish from the women).

Indeed, it is a privilege to share the sex of the most beautiful of all of God’s creatures: she is, while metaphysically inferior to angels (who are purely spiritual persons), their queen: Regina Angelorum.

The choice offered to women is simple: either Daughters of Eve…or Daughters of Mary. May the Blessed One among women open our eyes so we may echo her words to the Angel: “Ecce ancilla Domini.”