AREN’T we fortunate? At least we can always brag that we had one perfect woman. That should be important for us of this century. We haven’t made up our mind how to treat women, and women haven’t made up their mind how they want to be treated. We don’t quite know what we want from them, and they are very confused about what they want from us.
Yes, the twentieth century has got women all mixed up. We moderns idealize them and commercialize them; we adore them and we degrade them. We demand that they lift us up and insist that they let us drag them down. We are maudlin about mothers, but we give the publicity to the childless divorcees.
Two generations ago [from 1954] a famous theatrical producer talked about “Glorifying the American Girl” and started fashions that have been pretty tough on the decent.
We make them the mistress of our purses, but we fill those same purses by using them in advertisements that must make them blush, and bait our commercial hooks with their beauty.
Today marriage is the climax of all romantic fiction and theatre; and the start of the problems of the divorce court, the soap opera, and the sessions on the psychiatrist’s couch.
One of our standard jokes, along with the mother-in-law, is the Before and After Marriage Jest.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Pardon the laughter!
That was before,
But this is after.”
ONE PERFECT WOMAN
Yet poets and philosophers, painters and theologians, saints and historians have a way of agreeing that we had and still have one perfect woman. “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” as the Protestant poet Wordsworth sang in one of literature’s most frequently quoted lines.
Strangely enough, Buddha is the world’s most reproduced male figure: more artists have carved him in stone and painted him in frescoes than any man that ever lived. But Mary is the world’s most painted woman. More women are called Mary or one of the names taken from Mary (Marian, Marion, Miriam, Marie, Marilyn, Maureen, and so on) than are named after any other woman that ever lived.
Wise Jews are proud that she comes in the long line of their distinguished Jewish women. Moslems usually speak of Jesus as the Son of Miriam. And only in very recent times, when some off-brands of Christianity thought to honour the Son by plaguing and distorting the Mother, has any Christian failed to be proud that Christianity gave the world the lovely Maid, the pure Virgin, the glorious Mother, the outstanding Heroine of all history.
IT STARTS WITH CHRIST
Catholics never forget that Mary begins with Christ.
In point of time, of course, it is the other way around. In point of importance and logic and understanding, the Mother begins with the Son.
But that is true of our whole Catholic world. Everything really begins or takes its new and true meaning from Christ.
The New World and the New Age begin with the Son of God.
He is the fulfilment and climax of one half of history, the fountain and inspiration of the other. He unites the universe as the eternal Son of God comes to earth from heaven to show us the face of the perfect God made the perfect man. Divinity glows in the star of Bethlehem, the Transfiguration on the Mount, the miracles and prophecies of a lifetime, the perfection of His character, the splendid heroism of His death, the utter wisdom of His teachings, the amazing purity of His law. His humanity is ours raised to heights which become our most challenging aspiration.
He is all-simple and all-wise;
He is all human struggle and all human power;
He is the subject of four small volumes and the study of the ages;
He is the sinless among the sinful, the brilliant among the dull, the consistent among the inconsistent, the clear among the confused, the brave among the weak, the pure among the fleshly;
He is the Carpenter who, before He handled hammer and saw and planks, had given form and law to the universe. Here is human perfection, the Perfect Man for whom philosophers had wistfully sighed. Here is our humanity at its highest, since it is divinity in humble disguise.
WHO FOR HIS MOTHER?
This is Jesus Christ, the man the world has never dared forget, however uncomfortable it finds His law. This is man, as man would be, if he truly were like God; and God, as God became, when He stooped to the level of our earthbound existence.
For this perfect man, whom could God select as mother?
For that matter, had we the selection, what kind of woman would we pick?
Certainly God would insist on a perfect mother for His perfect Son. And our sense of the fitness of things makes us give the same answer: Nothing less than feminine perfection to mother the perfect man.
Christ had for His one and only Father the all-perfect God. The mother chosen for that perfect Son by the all perfect God would in simple logic need to combine all the finest qualities we expect of motherhood, whether we mean the purity that precedes it or the absolute loyalty and gentleness, the care and tenderness that follow it.
Thus Christians (until very recent times) unanimously believed. They could not conceive a perfect Christ and a tainted Mother, an unselfish Son and a selfish, petty, irritable Dame. Like all mothers she gave Him life, was the very fountain from which His human nature took its origin; and then like all good mothers she gave Him His human education and training, her soul and heart and mind the sources of that “wisdom and age and grace” that marked His development. The Divine Nature of Christ proceeded from the Father in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity; the Human Nature was conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Mother on earth. It is inconceivable that that Mother should be other than as perfect as God’s grace and her co-operation could make her.