Looking Back, Being Present, Looking Forward

by Robert Dunkan

I became aware of a lovely poem titled Back Home by Margaret McCarty today.  It’s about looking back and wishing you could start over by listening to your parent’s advice (and taking it) a little more than you did and appreciating their love and care more a second time around….if only you could go back.  I can think of countless things my parents told me that I wish I would have listened to but even so, they raised me well and my life turned out pretty good with a 19-year marriage, the 3 beautiful daughters we’re raising, and my Catholic faith firmly intact.

I’m glad my parents are still here, both about to turn 70 soon, so I can let them know that all the things they taught me were heard and are appreciated now, much more in mid-life, than they were in my youth.  It also gives me a bit of peace when my daughters seem to not really hear or take to heart the life lessons I’m trying to teach them.  I have more faith that even though the evidence seems to the contrary, that the seed is indeed well planted and will serve them well in their journey.

Lastly, this poem brought to mind that although I have gained wisdom and grace, there is still more growing to do.  There are still ways I can apply what I know even better in order to merit children who will be able to look back at their mother as fondly as the author of this poem was able to look back at hers.

BACK HOME

If I had the power to turn back the clock,
to go to the house at the end of the block,
The house that was home when I was a kid,
I know I would love it more than I did.

If I could be back there at my fathers knee,
and hear once again all the things he told me,
I’d listen as I never listened before,
for he knew all too well just what life had in store.

And all the advice that dad used to give,
His voice I’ll remember as long as I live,
It didn’t seem very important then,
What I would give to live it all over again.

But what I would give for the chance I once had,
to do something more for my mother and dad,
I’d give them a little more joy and a little less pain,
a little more sunshine and a little less rain.

The years roll by and we cannot go back,
Whether we were born in a mansion or in a shack,
But we can start right now in the hour that’s here,
and do something more, for the ones we hold dear.

Since time in it’s flight is speeding so fast,
there’ll be no time spent regretting what’s past.
Let’s make tomorrow a happier day,
by doing our good unto others today.

~ Margaret W. McCarty © 2016. All rights res

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My Two Cents on Anthony Esolen’s article Modesty and Charity

Richard Avedon | Photography and Biography
Photo by Richard Avedon

As always, another good article by Anthony Esolen which can be read at the link below.  Do read the whole thing, because there is a lot of good content.

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2018/01/15/modesty-and-charity/

Here are some of the highlights that particularly stood out to me…

The following line made me laugh at the image he conveys

…we cannot talk about sexual modesty without the prudes of vice fainting away, for fear that “theocrats” will sweep them to some faraway castle, there to terrify them with gifts, poetry, and courtship…

 

Boys ought to temper their aggression, even their happy aggression, around girls. That includes off-color talk. To do otherwise is to say, “I am in charge here, I do what I want, and to hell with you.

So also with immodest dress. A woman who dresses to show off her form in a provocative way is saying either, “I want you not to look at my face but at more important things lower down,” or “To hell with you.”

Yes.  We have a lot of that “to hell with you” attitude in our society today.

If I see a woman whose dress seems like a strip of plastic wrap, to be used once and taken off, thoughts of sex come immediately to mind, which is what the woman intends unless she is a fool. So I check myself and turn aside. I don’t want to think those things.

Right. As a Christian he has an obligation to self-mastery even when others aren’t displaying it. The woman has an equal obligation to modesty which, if she’s Christian, she should know better.  If she’s not, we do have to deal with living in a fallen world that we should try to influence as best we can.  However, I think that even non-Christians can see the reasonableness of the Christian position which affirms obligations for both sexes to be considerate of the other.

It won’t do to say, “Don’t think them. ” [sexual thoughts]

As humans, we will have thoughts and images come to mind in response to our environment. The key with the Christian is to not entertain those thoughts but to turn your mind away from them. Once you choose to entertain them, you have engaged your will and have now sinned. [But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28] This principle is not just for men either. It’s for women too. Christ may have been addressing men when he spoke but there’s nothing special about women in that they are not prone to this sin. Although, the temptation will be less or more easily overcome generally for women.

Every human strength also betrays a weakness. A woman’s sensitivity to feelings – sensitivity without which the human race could never have survived – is also a temptation to choose just the right word to hurt the most. A man’s inclination to roughness against the stubborn resistance of the natural world – roughness without which the human race could never have survived – is also a temptation to violence.

Right. The strengths and weaknesses of both male and female have an effect on civilization and both can have either noble or disastrous ends.

Charity, forbearance, an honest admission of one’s susceptibility to sin, and consideration for the susceptibility of others, particularly members of the opposite sex, whose feelings are sometimes quite different from ours, should govern our choices in dress, speech, and physical deportment.

That’s the key right there. Getting most people on board with it is another matter.

Do We Really Need to Focus on the Masculine and Feminine So Much?

With all the talk of sex and gender and what it means to be a man or a woman these days, we have seen an explosion of books and blogs on the topic.   Catholic women have been studying for years to determine what St. John Paul II fully meant by the feminine genius.  Now men and women are also exploring “the masculine genius.”  A quick internet search of either phrase will bring up essays, blog posts, youtube videos, and books on the subjects.  It’s not just Catholic literature that explores these ideas-it’s everywhere.  Protestant denominations, the toxic secular Red Pill manosphere/Red Pill women sites, PUA’s, feminists, and every sexual orientation humanity can think of has something to say on the topic.

I’ve been thinking about these themes for many years myself and the conclusion I’m coming to is that unless we begin to teach real virtue again and have people come to a deeper understanding of it, we will continue to chase our tails trying to nail down definitions of masculinity and femininity.  Without this foundation of not only understanding the virtues but of incorporating the self-discipline to actually discern which ones are our strengths and which ones are our weaknesses along with working on growing in them, we will never have the wisdom to discern the truth of anything else.

I do happen to think that we need to be able to define masculinity and femininity, man and woman, fatherhood and motherhood.  These conversations are really important to have because of the assault on these terms which tear at the very fabric of society.   However, until we convince people of the wisdom in understanding and gaining virtue and virtuous living, we will be severely limited in the scope of our understanding man and woman.  Virtue is foundational and without it other concepts are built on nothing but sand.

Here’s a good overview and description of the virtues.

http://catholicbible101.com/thevirtues.htm

The Work Women Do….

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“The work women do within the family units should be acknowledged and deeply appreciated. The ‘toil’ of a woman who, having given birth to a child, nourishes and cares for that child and devotes herself to its upbringing, particularly in the early years, is so great as to be comparable to any professional work.. Motherhood, because of all the hard work it entails, should be recognized, as giving the rights to financial benefits at least equal to those of other kinds of work undertaken in order to support the family during such a delicate phase of its life.”

St. John Paul II

False Assumptions About The Nature of Marriage

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Just wanted to share a comment I made to a commenter on this article [How acting like a feminist can ruin your marriage] at The Federalist.

OLO101 says

“Few women want to waste their time and intelligence in being a glorified sex slave house cleaner”

I responded

“Of course they don’t. But who says this is what marriage is? A husband and wife have sex because they desire each other. One doesn’t force or make the other one have sex. Not if they love them. If a husband is treating his wife like a sex slave, then he’s not being a husband by definition. A husband is a partner for life who has vowed to love, honor and cherish. If he does other than this (or the wife, for that matter), then they are breaking their vows. The wife should call her husband out on this because she has the right, by virtue of the vows, to expect him to keep up his end of the bargain as does he. A wife doesn’t have to be a sex slave. That’s not what was promised her when he made the vows to her. She, likewise, made the same vows and has her own responsibility to keep them.

Sex is, however, a part of marriage so if a woman doesn’t desire it to be a part of her life, she is free not to marry.

About housekeeping. It’s a necessary part of life for everyone to have to clean their home unless you want to live in squalor. If you can afford to pay someone to do it, that’s great. If not, it must be done. It’s actually a mark of intelligence, IMO, when a person can see the good in it and creates that order in their environment for the purpose of sustaining hygiene, providing nourishment, and organizing space that makes room for creativity, study, intellectual pursuits and leisure. It’s actally the mentally ill or those with very low IQ who, oftentimes, fail to see the necessity of it or don’t have the capacity to create that order in a sustainable way. Are you saying that housework isn’t something worthy of an individual’s time or intelligence? Are you saying that’s it’s work that’s beneath anyone over a certain level of IQ and only the unintelligent should be relegated to it? I hope not.

Yes, it has always fallen to the woman to do the greater share but that was because she was there most of the time and had more time to devote to it. It was a division of labor. In a good marriage, each spouse should appreciate the contribution of the other and recognize it’s value. Was the huband’s contribution more valuable than the wife’s? If having a clean and orderly living environment is important and must be done, it has it’s own value and not a small one either. There are two questions here. Should it be ONLY the wife’s responsibility? and Should it be the wife’s ONLY contribution? No. Not if it’s looked at as a necessary and valuable labor that MUST be done.  It’s up to each individual couple to decide how to divide it. If they both work outside the home, then they divide up chores according to who is better at certain ones or has a stronger opinion on how certain ones must be done. If there are any left over after that, perhaps they rotate those. Or they can hire out for any neither wants or has the time to do if they can afford it. If someone works part-time outside the house, then they will do a larger share than the other because they have the time, not because they are a man or woman. If one works and one stays home, then obviously the stay-at-home, will do the most, while the one who works full-time, will pitch in a little in the evenings and weekends as needed.

If you don’t want to have sex or to clean your home, you are free to not do so. No one is compelled to marry but the local government might get involved if you don’t clean your home and it starts to affect your health and safety or that of your neighbors.

How Far Should a Woman Go to Be Modest for the Sake of Keeping Men Chaste?

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‘Eve Tempting Adam,’ by Johann Carl Loth

Modest dress in women will ONLY be a help to the men who are ALREADY working on keeping their thoughts chaste. It’s a service of love for our brothers who want to see the women around them as sisters and not as objects of their uncontrolled lust.

Men who already walk around with the intent to indulge in looking at women’s figures to titilate their own lustful thoughts, will salivate just as much over the woman who is obviously dressed to attract sexual attention as they will a woman who has taken care to keep covered from about no more than mid-thigh to the top of her cleavage. As long as she is dressed prettily but not dowdy or in a tent that completely hides her form, she is prey to the weak man who doesn’t even try to master himself in this area. There’s not a darn thing she can do to keep him from having the thoughts he’s going to have. It’s his sin, not hers.  It’s not on her to hide the femininity God gave her by depersonalizing herself in garb that hides her true form altogether.

Women don’t need to ask men what is modest. If we are in any way honest with ourselves and it’s our intention when we buy clothes and get dressed, to not explicitly try to gain sexual attention, then we will most likely pick out appropriate clothing. It’s ok to want to look pretty and well put together and that’s not immodest at all.

Examples

Modest in a way that reflects femininity and will be a help to men who have already decided to gain mastery over lustful thoughts…….

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Modest to the point of depersonalization (complete denial of the female form) in an attempt  to keep already unchaste men from thinking nasty thoughts.  It is not necessary for women to go this far.  Men have a responsibility to overcome their own sin and to master their sinful inclinations.

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Summary

Women can choose to be a help to men in their quest to keep their thoughts chaste and we can choose to recognize and honor our own dignity in how we dress.  Men can have a weakness in this area but ultimately it’s up to the man to decide to have dominion and mastery over himself.  Until he desires this and attempts it, there’s not much individual women can do to help him without completely hiding the fact that we ARE women with a female form that God has given to us.   We are not responsible to keep men from sinning to the point that our very being as women must be denied, covered up and formless.  It’s not our job to completely take the responsibility of self-mastery from individual men.  Each man is responsible for himself and for his own sin.

Random Thoughts on Men, Women, God and Theology of the Body

Some random thoughts inspired by  St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  The thoughts shared are not ones that I’ve fully fleshed out (but have revised somewhat from the original post when published) but are more of a train-of-thought put down in writing so that perhaps I can come back to them later in more depth.  If these ideas inspire some of your own, please share them in the comments. We all benefit from hearing and considering different points of view.

Males in a certain way highlight the image of God as One.  One who is other to his creation like a father is outside the process of nurturing and growing new life.  A father relies on the mother’s willingness to accept him, nurture and develop the life of their child within her, and to make room for him within the mother/child bond.  God, too, does not impose on us.  He reveals Himself and calls us to accept Him, cooperate with Him in creating new life, whether physically or spiritually, so we can share with Him the fruit of our works.  Our working with God reveals to us our dignity as sharers of His image.  St. John Paul II wrote “The man—even with his sharing in parenthood—always remains “outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own “fatherhood” from the mother… ”  “Fathers must insert themselves into the bond between mother and child as a ‘second other’ by an initiative very much like that of adoption.” wrote author John W. Miller in Biblical Faith and Fathering: Why We Call God Father.

Philip saw a lecture on this artist, Brian Kershisnik and said that this painting, entitled "little father" was how he felt when he saw his wife breastfeeding their children--helpless.
Little Father by Brian Kershisnik This painting seems to depicts the feeling a new father has in relation to his wife and child. It’s important that mothers make room for the father within the mother/child bond and to nuture and encourage all the family relationships, as shown in the painting below.

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Females in a certain way highlight the image of God as Trinity insofar as she features the deep interpersonal intimacy and communion among and between persons.  Pregnancy shows this communion in the most obvious way in which the bond between mother and child which is so exclusive and deep that even though they are two distinct persons, they seem as one.  God desires to share His intimate life and love of the persons of the Trinity with us.  He wants us to be in relationship with Him in which He lives in and through us.  He desires this deep and intimate communion with us so much that He uses the humble instruments of  bread and wine, “the work of human hands” in which to transform them into His body and blood so that we can have His very life living within us.  St. John Paul II wrote “In the light of  the “beginning,” the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude toward human beings—not only towards her own child but every human being—which profoundly marks the woman’s personality. It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more.”

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Another painting by Brian Kershisnik. “Climbing Mother” This painting seems to show the deep communion between mothers and children. The children seek out her care, nurturing, warmth, comfort and the safety of her arms. This is much like how we seek the comfort and support of God when we are at our most vulnerable.

To be clear, to highlight a certain aspect of God for the male and female, doesn’t mean one should be limited by it because each of us is called to fully image God as both One and Trinity as an individual.  However, man and woman together is also a full image of God in that each person is wholly and completely a human person whose dignity as such should be respected just as each person of the Trinity is a recognized person but they are also called into intimate communion to serve one another in love.  Man and woman shouldn’t be thought of as 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 but rather should be seen as 1 + 1 = 3.  This is most clearly seen in the creation of a new human life.  The child is not a portion of two halves that made a whole in which now there are thirds.  This is another whole person from two whole persons.

In order to be fully integrated as a human being, we need to fully develop ourselves and understand who we are as an individual and to understand the dignity we have as a unique soul who has been endowed with the ability to reason and to have dominion over our place in the world.  However, as an individual it is not good for us to be alone as it was not good for Adam to be alone.  We are called to communion with others to be able to give and receive love just as the persons of the Trinity have this reciprocity of love among them.

A male-centered world view and radical feminism seems to value individual autonomy and the role of dominion over the earth (the image of God that is One and that is more prominently featured in the male) over and above the more female-centered world view of interpersonal relationships in a communion of love (the image of God that is Three that speaks of a deep sharing of life and that is more prominently featured in the female.)

What needs to be brought to everyone’s attention is that neither is better than the other nor should one way of being be valued over the other because if either feature is missing, then you don’t have an image of the true God, you have a false god.  A solitary being (either male or female) who has no “other” (whether a complementary partner or a life concecrated to God) to fulfill the purpose of communion is stunted and sterile, physically and spiritually.  They remain a solitude.  Beings who look for communion but only to fulfill themselves without recognizing and respecting the “other” as another person with their own dignity, will consume or take all of another so that the “other” no longer exists.  This also produces a sterility that fails to multiply.

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To be human as an image of God is to recognize your individual dignity as a person and to respect the individual dignity of other persons while sharing in communion with them by the giving and receiving of love.   This sharing in communion is not limited, of course, with other human beings but helps us to know and understand our relationship with God.

There must be a deep respect for the individual person and their liberty that comes from their dignity.  There must also be deep respect for that which is intimate and relational between individuals in a way that does not seek to dominate but to give and hope to receive in return.  Each individual should ask themselves how they can serve the “other” but shouldn’t seek or demand to be served but rather can indeed hope to be served in kind.  If that service is not returned by the one to whom it was given it is really no matter because every service rendered to another for God’s sake WILL BE richly rewarded by God at the perfect time and place of His choosing.  We can rest in this trust in Him.

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by Brian Kershisnik

” The major challenge the contemporary woman faces today is not equality but rather identity.”

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The following quote is one I read on facebook this morning…..

Cardinal Scola of Milan argues that the major challenge the contemporary woman faces today is not equality but rather identity. Women will always fall short of the mark if they only compare themselves to men’s essentially masculine achievements. Women will never realize what their own unique feminine contributions to family, society and Church may be if they continue to measure themselves only by the standards men have achieved. Women must look into their own minds, souls and bodies to discover what contributions that they, and they alone, can offer to society. Someone asked Napoleon who was the greatest woman in history. Bonaparte answered, “The one with the most babies.” The emperor might have given this answer with his tongue in his cheek but his response is absolutely correct. Motherhood is the unique female contribution to society, family and Church. Women must look first to those roles in world history that no man can ever fulfill. Others note that daughter, sister, wife and mother are clearly roles unique to women. Such roles must not be ignored even while women pursue wider careers. The alert daughter and the aware sister have gifts to offer a family and a neighborhood that sons and brothers cannot. The observant wife and attentive mother have talents not found in the best of husbands and fathers. Femininity, unique to womanhood, is a divinely instilled response to life that only a woman may discern. Feminism ignores womanhood, bent only on remaking women in the image of men, robbing females of their distinctive destiny that goes back to Eden.

In stressing equality over identity modern society manages to distract women from the ongoing attack on the very nature of womanhood, on the very essence of femininity. Abortion, contraception, sterilization, surrogacy are plainly attacks on motherhood. Divorce, cohabitation and single motherhood are obviously assaults on the dignity of woman as wife. Pornography certainly exploits women who are daughters and sisters. Women truly have to ask themselves what particular vocation, what special role in society, what exceptional contribution to the human race, can they make through their feminine gifts that no Boy Scout or male CEO or heavy-weight athlete could consider or achieve. The era when educated women could expect only to be school teachers, nurses, or secretaries is still within memory. Since then women’s contribution to science, medicine, technology, education, business and athletics has been greatly enhanced. But progress must not be at the expense of true womanhood. Scouting badges, social advancement, and vocational success must be achieved by a deeper appreciation of one’s true self not by the imitation of someone else’s accomplishments.

My thoughts –

There is nothing wrong with women pursuing traditionally masculine pursuits IF they are so inclined.  There always has been and always will be outliers and those on the fringe who live in a way that doesn’t conform to social norms.  BUT what we have today is a push to strongly encourage all girls and women to reject the gifts and talents that are uniquely feminine in favor of tradtional masculine pursuits and that must stop.  Young women shouldn’t feel ashamed to reveal their desire to marry and raise a family.  It used to be acknowledged that motherhood had tremendous influence in moving society in the right direction simply by raising children with well-defined character and values who grew up to be valuable, contributing members to society themselves.  Now, being a mother is denigrated by being “just a SAHM.”  It’s believed that the power to influence society is “out there” somewhere rather than in the home.   The real truth is that home life and family has tremendous power and influence for good if the task of upholding it is undertaken as the sacred duty that it surely is.   While women shouldn’t be relegated to the home by law, it should still be seen as THE most influential domain in terms of it’s value rather than the least.  It should be a mark of honor for women who choose to spend a portion of their life serving the family at home.

Image result for contemporary paintings of mother and familyIt will take both men and women to acknowledge that the uniquely feminine contributions are important or even MORE important in shaping the character of our nation and neighborhoods than what goes on in the wider world.  It is a much forgotten idea that government, business, education, science, technology and medicine are all meant to be at the service of the most fundamental unit of society, the family and the individuals that make it up.  Unfortunately, what  we see today is that the individual is seen as not a member of a family unit that must be protected but as a unit of production that is meant to serve industry as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.  Very little to no thought is given to that person’s responsibilites and obligations to the family in which they belong.  The individual is at the service of the state or corporation rather than the other way around.  We need more women and men who will speak out about the family being the center around which decisions and policy are made.  We need men and women to value family and to see that the work done there is of the utmost value to both the individual and society.  It is then that women will value their identity as women and all of society will operate in service of the family which always was and always will be women’s unique domain.

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Vincent Van Gogh Three Pairs. I like this painting because for me it depicts the idea that the wearers of these shoes were out working all day but at the end of that day, they return home to the place where the real service of their work was directed. The wearers of these service-worn boots should find a loving embrace, a hot-meal and a clean, comfortable bed, making the service they provided more than worth the effort.

The woman’s task is not easy–no task worth doing is easy–but in doing it, and when she has done it, there shall come to her the highest and holiest joy known to mankind; and having done it, she shall have the reward prophesied in Scripture; for her husband and her children, yes, and all people who realize that her work lies at the foundation of all national happiness and greatness, shall rise up and call her blessed. ” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Feminine Beauty is a Reflection of the Divine Beauty of God

Notre Dame, Montreal

“Beauty is not the icing on the cake; it is one of the 3 layers of the cake. It is the child of the marriage of truth and goodness. It is ‘the splendor of truth’ (to quote John Paul the Great’s great title) that attracts us to truth, and it is the ‘beauty of holiness’ (Psalm 29:2) that attracts us to holiness. Beauty is one of the things God is. It is ‘the glory of the Lord’ (to use von Balthasar’s title), the ‘divine Beauty ever ancient yet ever new’ that won Augustine’s restless heart. Beauty is a magnet and our souls are iron filings, and when we sense beauty we speed home.”
~~Peter Kreeft, Jesus Shock

God is beauty.

Feminine beauty is a reflection of this.   Beauty causes the perceiver to look more deeply and what they should see is that the outward beauty points to an inner virtue and holiness.  IOW, outside beauty is the herald of true goodness.  The female should cultivate her outward beauty only as way to attract others to her so she can use her feminine influence to point them to the Divine Beauty of God.   This is the only honest use for it.  God has given women the privilege of reflecting something of His Divine Beauty.  God is inherently beautiful due to His goodness and His truth.  When we women use this attribute for any other purpose, it’s essentially worthless.  This gift of beauty, given to the female, should be a reflection of her inner goodness and her steadfast committment to the truth of God in Christ Jesus.

If we approach our appearance from this understanding of beauty as a reflection of God, holiness and truth, it will be our guide in helping us avoid excessive garishness on one end of the spectrum and excessive modesty on the other.  It will remind us that anything we do to our outward appearance will only have value if it’s a reflection of our inner attitude and holiness.

Men built the cathedrals with great beauty and splendor because they instinctively knew that our houses of worship should point to the awesome beauty of God.  They knew that beauty should draw worshipers in and cause their attention to be lifted up to the Source of all beauty.  We call the Church our Mother.  It’s her beauty, majesty, goodness, and truth that points us in the right direction beyond herself to the One from which all her attributes radiate.

I have often seen comments around the internet of women who lament that because we refer to God as He, that they feel excluded from God and there is nothing of femininity in God.  This is not true.  God is spirit.  God is not male nor female.  All the good attributes that we find in God we find in all humanity, male and female.  The masculinity of God in relation to humanity has to do with His loving us first and our feminine response to that love which we return to Him.  (John 4:19) God’s masculine relation to us should not be confused with His being male in the human sense.  Christ, in His humanity, is male as a reflection of God’s masculine relation to humanity.  He is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride. All that is good in masculine AND feminine attributes come from God who encompasses all goodness.  God is One but He is also Three Divine persons who participate in the giving, receiving and the giving of love in return among them.  There is nothing about the female person that isn’t also a full reflection of God.  Beauty is one of the ways females showcase a particular aspect of God.  Our nurturing, protecting, life-bearing, feeding, teaching, loving and responding to love are other ways we reflect God to others.

Women, rejoice in the beauty you have been given.  Nurture and cultivate it but not to the exclusion that you nuture and cultivate the good and the holy in your soul.  Let your beauty draw others to you so you can point them to the Source of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

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