Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stained-Glass Ceilings - What would St Jerome say?

The Times (London) has an article by its Religion Correspondent, Ruth Gledhill with the headline Historic Church of England deal paves way for first women bishops . I have been reading more than writing over the last few days but I am making lots of notes. I am revisiting Marina Warner's book Alone of all her sex: the myths and cults of the Virgin Mary; which so my handwritten note on the inside cover tells me - I purchased and first read in Oxford in 1979.

Several years of theological study and three-quarters-of-a-lifetime of daily theological reading since  I first read it , has made  the book come alive in my re-reading of it. 
I know not what shall become of this reading and pondering but I am determined to look further at the notion of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) as the Second Eve.
The  reference in n The Times today  to Stained-Glass Ceilings in relation to  'women bishops'   and my re-reading of some of the material regarding the BVM from the Patristic Period,  pose to me a question that needs to be thought through: If those women presenting for ordination as priests or bishops today were intact virgins would the Early Fathers approve of their ordination?  Listen to what St Jerome says:
"as long as a women is for birth and children, she is different from man as body is from soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will ceased to be a woman and will be called a man."   
St Jerome, Comm.in Epist. ad Ephes. III

I am researching further a comment attributed to St Ambrose which goes along the line: 
"She who does not believe is a woman and should be designated by the name of her sex, whereas she who believes progresses to perfect manhood, to the measure of the adulthood of Christ. She then dispenses with the name of her sex"
Mary Daly quotes this in The Church and the Second Sex  (p. 43, Boston, 1968) but I am still looking to verfy this last quote.

Just some random jottings from me as I read and reflect a little further on this -  but I cannot help but think about the Stained-Glass ceiling without a topographical  reference to the intact Maidenhead so be beloved by the Early Fathers. Does RUth see a connection perhaps?