Alice C. Linsley
C.S. Lewis wrote, "With the Church, we are farther in: for there we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge. Or rather, we are not dealing with them but (as we shall soon learn if we meddle) they are dealing with us. " (from "Priestesses in the Church?")
C.S. Lewis places the discussion of the distinction between male and female in the context of Holy Tradition, for as he states, "With the Church, we are farther in..." As Christians we are so deep in Holy Tradition that we appear odd and out of touch to the world, but in fact, we alone are in touch with Reality. It is not something we brag about. It is something that God has accomplished in us by Divine Mercy. We have been granted clarity in a world where the God-established distinctions and boundaries are blurred. For Christians, righteous or ethical living means observing and honoring these distinctions and boundaries.
To illustrate the contrast between the world's understanding of ethical living and the Church's understanding, consider popular views on diversity and inclusion. In contemporary America "diversity" means drawing together the factions that I agree with and who I can count on for support. We saw this most recently in President Obama's selection of religious speakers. He chose a progressive Protestant, a gay Episcopal bishop, a left-leaning female ecumenist and a female convert to Wahhabi Islam. These speakers represent the diversity that Obama approves and from which he draws political support. He hopes from this consolidated base to gradually include those segments of society that don't support him: traditional Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, pro-life Protestants, a large number of American Jews, and many conservative Americans who are nervous about overturning the Protection of Marriage Act.
This brings us to a better understanding of the popular notion of inclusion. To be "inclusive" is to at least appear to reach out to people who differ from you. It is driven by a utopian vision of a society in which gender, racial, religious and political distinctions are set aside. It is to insist on egalitarianism. Such a view is contrary to Holy Tradition which makes distinctions and uphold boundaries. Holy Tradition renders egalitarianism meaningless. Why? Because egalitarianism is the world's attempt to create an alternative reality. Let us consider how this is so.
The Gospel according to Luke is indisputably the most egalitarian of the four Gospels. Yet Luke's Gospel makes it clear that the equality and inclusion we yearn for is found only within Holy Tradition. In the parable of the wine and wineskins (unique to Luke) we read "And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better" (Luke 5:36-39). This parable is about Holy Tradition. That becomes evident when we remember that new wine is not stable. Old wine, on the other hand, can go into both new and old wineskins because it is stable. What is new therefore can't be inclusive because it can be received by only the new. On the other hand, what is old is inclusive because it can be received by old and new. In this parable Luke testifies that Holy Tradition is inclusive in nature.
The alternative reality which the world attempts to force even on Christians leads to death and destruction because it is ultimately intolerant. It declares war on the saints who uphold Holy Tradition. This is why it is so important for Christians to understand our Tradition and to stand on the right side of the lines that are drawn.
Ideologies Opposed to Holy Tradition
Christians have difficulty grasping the distinction that Holy Tradition upholds between male and female because we fail to weigh the authority of Tradition against the ideologies that oppose Tradition. These ideologies include Feminism, Empiricism, liberal Protestantism and revisionist liturgies and prayer books.
Feminists attack Tradition on the grounds that it perpetuates oppression and exploitation of women. This is easily demonstrated to be false. The study of history reveals that the plight of women has improved wherever Christianity has become the dominant religion. Christianity’s legal establishment under Emperor Justinian resulted in improved status for women in the Empire. With the implementation of the Justinian Code the following practices quickly disappeared:
· Polygyny (the practice of maintaining multiple wives)
· Cultic prostitution
· The 3-tiered caste system that limited women’s marriage options
· The practice of fathers selling their daughters into slavery.
The Code also made it legal for:
· Slave owners to grant liberty to as many slaves as they wanted.
· Families to retain the estate in cases where the father died intestate.
· Noble women to exercise political power.
Where is the evidence that women have been oppressed under Church rule? Not much of a case can be made based on historical evidence. Christianity has largely improved the conditions of women.
Feminists want to see the demolition of patriarchy worldwide. This demonstrates how out of touch with Reality they are. Patriarchy is the universal order, with soft patriarchies found in many places. After 85 years of ethnographic research, no true matriarchy has been found to exist. A true matriarchy requires the following conditions:
· line of descent must be traced through the mothers
· rights of inheritance must be figured through the mothers
· political power must be vested with ruling females
· females must have the final say in deciding matters for the community
No true matriarchy has ever been identified by cultural anthropologists.
The real reason Feminists oppose Holy Tradition is because the father plays a primary role in establishing and maintaining a chain of believing descendents. Sadly, in the West, fathers have largely relinquished their responsibility to be spiritual heads of their families and to instill Holy Tradition in their children. As my friend, Father Timothy Fountain, explains, “Males are charged with spiritual protection of the people, not because they are superior, but because that is their assigned role.”
Empiricism undermines Holy Tradition by insisting that there is no place in education and in public debate for metaphysics. Many of the famous empiricists of the 20th century were atheists because their alternative reality precluded the possibility of a Creator and rejected metaphysical categories.
Liberal Protestantism is utopian in its outlook, seeking to bring its own version of peace on earth. This too is an alternative reality. It sets itself against the Reality of the Pleromic Blood and the Messianic Priesthood. The liberal Protestant aligns with forces for world unity and regards Holy Tradition as a quaint vestige of the past.
Revisionist liturgies and prayer books have tossed out much of Holy Tradition in their attempts to introduce egalitarianism to the Church. This is evident in the post-Vatican II liturgical 'reforms', especially in bringing the altar away from the East wall and having the priest celebrate facing the people. Here the reformers failed to uphold the binary distinctions inherent in Holy Tradition.
The priest stands facing East. The people are at his back, to the West. This is a critical and ancient aspect of Holy Tradition. Among Abraham's people the Sun was the emblem of the Creator. The Creator ruled the heavens, making a daily visitation of His realm from East to West (phenomenologically speaking). In so doing, the Creator cast His glory over His lower holdings on Earth. Out of deference to the Creator, Afro-Asiatic chiefs established their territories by positioning their 2 wives in separate households on a North-South axis (except Lamech the Elder, who set himself up as equal to God).
Holy Tradition teaches us that the priest stands at the sacred center between the rising of our God at His visitation and the passing of His glory over the people. All of this was tossed out in the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms.
Ignorance of the origins of the Priesthood has contributed greatly to the gradual undermining of this sacred institution. Protestants don't get it because they do not hold to a sacramental view of the Lord's Supper. Many Anglicans don't get it as is evidenced by their willingness to put women in the order of Priests. Roman Catholics, despite the in-roads of modernism, have preserved the distinction of a male priesthood in keeping with Holy Tradition. The Eastern Orthodox churches have preserved the Tradition very well, but at least one American seminary now entertains the possibility of women priests.
Primitive societies are much better at recognizing and upholding binary distinctions than moderns. They made distinctions between East and West, between Male and Female and between blood shed in birthing and blood shed in killing. The two bloods represent the binary opposites of life and death. The blood shed in war, hunting and animal sacrifice fell to warriors, hunters and priests. The blood shed in childbirth fell to wives and midwives. The two bloods were never to mix. That’s why women didn’t participate in war, hunting and ritual sacrifices. That’s why men were not permitted in the birthing hut.
Among tribal peoples, brotherhood pacts are formed by the intentional mixing of bloods, uniting two men, but binary distinctions such as male and female, or human and God are still maintained as part of sacred tradition.
This anxiety about the shedding of blood is universal and very old. The priesthood probably came into existence from the first day that blood was shed and humanity sought relief of blood anxiety. As a point of fact, the first blood, according to the Bible, was shed in giving birth. The second shedding of blood was when God make skin clothes for Adam and Eve. The third shedding of blood was when Cain killed Abel. We note that between the two bloods (birthing and fratricide) God sacrifices an animal to provide for the needs of humanity. God is the first Priest.
Today when the Orthodox priest proclaims “Christ is in our midst” and the congregation responds “And ever shall be” we are reminded that Christ gives us His Body and Blood. Though we speak of the Eucharist as a “bloodless Feast” (against the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation) we do not in these words deny the reality of Christ’s Blood. That is why a priest standing at the altar must immediately leave the sanctuary if he should cut himself and bleed. Here is yet another distinction between bloods: the Pleromic Blood of Christ and the mortal blood of man. Mortal blood must give way to the Pleromic Blood. St. Paul cautions the churches not to dishonor the Pleromic Blood. It must be received only by those who discern Christ’s Body.
Discerning binary distinctions is essential to understanding Holy Tradition. Upholding the distinctions is essential to preserving Holy Tradition. Every ideology that opposes Tradition blurs the distinctions between Male and Female and God and Humanity.
To read the first and second essays in this series go here and here.
Another Way to Read Scripture - Alice C Linsley Reading Scripture through the lens of cultural anthropology is rigorous because no assumption can stand untested, and no assertion can b...
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