The Power of the Woman:Tenderness Builds Personhood

The woman is more powerful than the man, by far. Why? Because man (Adam) experienced the uniqueness of his excellence as person imaging the divine Persons in a cosmic creation that was (even with animals) mere “thing,” object, non-person. But he never experienced being image of God until she came. The first loneliness we could call “cosmic” because he (Adam) was the only person in it, and he experienced loneliness.  God arrives on the scene and declares that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen     ). As in passing, John Paul II remarks that you would think that man would feel accompanied by the animals. But no. The animal never quite does it because we quickly discover under intense questioning of your black lab or golden retriever that there is nobody (an “I” )home. As relational to man as some animals can be, there is no relationality as that of a person whose metaphysical structure is precisely to be imaging the relationality of the Creator. It was startling to read Ratzinger’s description of the Father (in the Trinity) as “the act of engendering.” I am thinking of Ratzinger’s text where he writes that “the first Person does not beget the Son as if the act of begetting were subsequent to the finished Person…” The 1990 edition used the phrase “coming on top of the finished Person,” both phrases used to account for the fact that Ratzinger wanted to convey, namely, that the engendering of the Son is not an action accidental to the Person of the Father but rather the very act that is the Person of the Father. Clearly, this is philosophically revolutionary and impossible to imagine if not to think. But that is the point. Ratzinger wanted the reader to think beyond the Aristotelian metaphysic of “substance” and accident where “substance” is that which is “in itself” and accident is that “in another.” He immediately said as much. “(It, the Person) is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, ‘wave’ and not ‘corpuscle’.” Here he is referring to the Schrödinger wave theory where “the structure of matter is as ‘parcels of waves’ and thereby fallen upon the idea of a being that has  no substance but is purely actual, whose apparent ‘substantiality’ really results only from the pattern of movement of superimposed waves.” He goes on: “In the realm of matter such a suggestion may well be physically, and in any case philosophically, highly contestable. But it remains an exciting simile for the actualitas divina for the absolute  ‘being- in act of God, and for the idea that the densest being – God – can subsist  only in a multitude of relations, which are not substances but simply ‘waves’, and therein form a perfect unity and also the fullness of being” In fact, he goes on to declare: ‘Therein lies concealed a revolution in  man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view.”[1]

               And what goes hand in hand with this theological and philosophical development is the change in epistemology because, although we can think what is being said, we cannot say it and presume that it can be understand as long as the empirical world obtains as criterion. This can come home to us quickly if we ask the question: “Is this all there is?” when looking for the meaning of thecaleidescope of empirical sensations that we take in over a period of time. And we can ask that because we “experience” that there is something more beyond what’s being sensed. And we are taking in more because, according to Karol Wojtyla, we are experiencing ourselves as subjects experiencing things (objects) through our senses. And so we discover that we access empirical reality through the medium of the self, the “I” that is not part of our landscape of sensed objects.

               And as soon as that is discovered, you realize that you are not directly known as you know everything else through the senses, but tangentially, or indirectly “out of the side of your eye,” perhaps we should say “concomitantly.” And I believe this is the way Wojtyla began his work, “The Acting Person” which he wrote during sessions of the Vatican II and which became the thread of “Gaudium et Spes.” And so it seems that the epistemological realism was increased by this attention to experience and the “consciousnss” that accrued to the whole of Vatican II. For example, without this heightened access to self as reality, how could GS24 have come into being: “man, the only earthly being God had willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of self,” where self is not mere thought in idealistic subjectivism, but the very reality of God “I am Who Am,” and I become who I am by giving myself away?”

So what does this have to do with the woman? The man, Adam, was made perfect by God without lacking anything as to manhood.. He was commanded to work (to turn material reality into gift for another) and to name the animals (develop science and technology) to do better work. And he developed dignity because of the work. He was excellent. He become a refined subject by mastering himself to master the earth and present it as a gift to the Creator.

               But the more he perfected himself, the more subject (the more “I” ontologically) he became, and the more lonely. He developed himself into subject in a cosmos of objects, and he felt alone. And God came and announced that having been made in the image of a “we” (“Let us make man in our image after our likeness) that it was not good for man to be alone. And so he recreated man to a higher perfection as male and female so that there was another enfleshed person (“bone of my bone”) to whom the gift of self could be made and they could finally become themselves fully as image of the “we.” That is, now they can actualize themselves as ‘relations.” And so the metaphysics developes from substance (to be in self) to relation (to be for other).

               And perhaps we could that knowing must now be explained from its highest paradigm: Christ. How to know Christ  Who is the Apex of Subjectivity: The Scriptural name is “I am.” See John 8, 24; 8, 28; 8,  58. The only access we have to the “I” is the experience of the “I” in ourselves. We do that when we act according to who we are, i.e. we go out of ourselves. The paradigm is Christ who reveals himself to be prayer: see Luke 6, 12; 9, 18; 9, 28. And so, Christ not only prays, He is prayer: total relation to the Father. If we pray with Him, we can begin to experience what it is to Him in ourselves. Simon did this and was asked to name Christ. He was able to know Him because Simon had become Him by the action of going  out of self: Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And the proof of the epistemology: “Flesh and blood has not revealed that to you, but my Father in heaven. And I say to you: You are Peter and on this Rock I will build my Church. Or, “If you abide in my word, you will be my disciple indeed. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” That is, if you live my life, you will become another me. And you will know me.

               Once we move from an objective epistemology to subjective, we move from representation to experience and we begin to know people and things as they are existentially – i.e. really. Christ asked the Samaritan woman to bring Him her husband. She took off the mask and told the truth (I have no husband). To her standing there in abject humility, Christ reveals Himself to her. Let’s learn that.

    What, then about the woman? She is the extra to man that makes man to be really who he is. She is absolutely essential to him to be a subject and person although he was perfectly made man from the beginning. “Only too much is enough”!!!!!!!!!!!!


[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity”   (1990) 132;

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