International Women’s Day: Women in the Bible

Our Lady is the true model and example of womanhood. She is a creature apart, more beautiful by herself than all creation.

Newsroom (March 9, 2022, 11:20 AM, Gaudium Press) Yesterday, March 8th, civil society celebrates International Women’s Day, a modern convention that in earlier times was not necessary. At least this is what we can deduce from the excerpts that we will transcribe from a speech given by Juan Donoso Cortés on April 16, 1848, when he took his seat in the Real Academia de la Lengua:

The Gentile family and the Hebrew family

If you take into account the distance between the Gentile family and the Hebrew family, you will immediately see that they are separated by a deep chasm: the Gentile family is composed of a master and his slaves, while the Hebrew family is composed of a father, a wife and children.

Absolute duties and rights enter as constitutive elements of the former; the latter, limited duties and rights. The Gentile family rests on servitude; the Hebrew family is founded on freedom. The first is the result of forgetfulness; the second, of remembrance; the forgetfulness and remembrance of the divine traditions, clear proof that man does not ignore but forgets, and does not know but learns.

Now it will be easy to understand why the Hebrew woman loses in the Biblical poems everything that was dark and sinister among the Gentiles; and why the Hebrew love, unlike the Gentile love, which was the fire of hearts, is the balm of the souls.

Open the books of the Biblical prophets, and in all those pictures, whether laughing or gloomy, with which they made the startling multitudes understand that either the clouds were passing away or that the wrath of God was near, you will always find in the first place the virgins of Israel, always beautiful and clothed in lovely radiance, lifting up their hearts to the Lord in melodious hymns and angelic songs, or laying down, under the weight of sorrow, the sweet sugars of their foreheads. […]

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Women who ruled and prophesied

The Hebrews were not content to entrust the soft sceptre of their homes to a woman, but often placed in her strong and victorious hand the pendant of battles and the government of the State.

The illustrious Deborah ruled the republic as the supreme judge of the nation; as general of the armies, she fought and won bloody battles; as a poetess, she celebrated the triumphs of Israel and sang hymns of victory, handling at the same time, with equal freedom and mastery, the lyre, the sceptre and the sword.

In the time of the kings, Alexander Jannaeus’ widow held the sceptre ten years; King Asa’s mother ruled in her son’s name, and the wife of Hirkanus Maccabaeus was appointed by this prince to rule the state after his days.

Even the spirit of God, which communicated to a few, descended also upon the woman, opening her eyes and her understanding so that she could see and understand things to come.

Huldah was illuminated with the spirit of prophecy, and the kings came to her startled with great fear, contrite and afraid, to know from her lips what was written in the book in Providence of their empire.

Woman, among the Hebrews, sometimes governs the family, sometimes directs the State, sometimes speaks in the name of God, sometimes overwhelms the hearts, captive to her charms.

She was a beneficent being, who already participated in both angelic and human nature.

Just read the Canticle of Canticles and tell me if that most gentle and delicate love, if that wife clothed in sweet-smelling, sweet-smelling lilies, if that harmonious music, if those innocent and elevated raptures, and those delightful gardens, are nothing but things seen, heard, and felt on earth, things that present themselves to us as dreams of paradise.

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And yet, gentlemen, to know the woman par excellence; to have certain notice of the charge received from God; to consider her in all her immaculate and most high beauty; to form some idea of her sanctifying influence, it is not enough to set our eyes on those beautiful examples of Hebrew poetry, which until now have dazzled our eyes and sweetly embittered our senses.

Mary: the true model and example of womanhood

The true model and example of womanhood is not Rebekah, Deborah, nor the wife of the Song of Songs, full of fragrances like a bowl of perfumes.

It is necessary to go further, and rise higher; it is necessary to reach the fullness of time, the fulfillment of the ancient promise.

To surprise in God’s way, forming the perfect type of woman, it is necessary to climb up to the resplendent throne of Mary.

She is a creature apart, more beautiful by herself than all creation; man is not worthy to touch her white garments, the earth is not worthy to serve her as a pedestal, nor the brocaded fabrics as a carpet; her whiteness exceeds the snow that piles up on the mountains; her blush, the pink of the heavens; her splendour the brightness of the stars.
Mary is loved by God, venerated by men, served by angels.

[The Father calls her daughter, and sends ambassadors to her; the Holy Spirit calls her wife, and shadows her with his wings; the Son calls her mother, and makes her dwelling place in his most sacred womb.

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The Seraphim make up her court; the heavens call her Queen; men call her Lady: she was born without stain, she saved the world, she died without pain, she lived without sin.

Behold woman, gentlemen, behold woman, for God in Mary has sanctified them: to virgins, because She was a Virgin; to wives, because She was a Wife; to widows, because She was a Widow; to daughters, because She was a Daughter; to mothers, because She was a Mother.

The sanctification of woman

Great and portentous wonders have been accomplished by Christianity in the world: it has made peace between heaven and earth, destroyed slavery, proclaimed human freedom and the brotherhood of man.

But with all this, the most portentous of all its wonders, the one which has most profoundly influenced the constitution of domestic and civil society, is the sanctification of woman, proclaimed from the Gospel heights.

And moreover, gentlemen, since Jesus Christ dwelt among us, it is not licit to cast scorn and insult upon women sinners, because even their sins can be washed away by their tears.

The Savior of men placed Magdalene under his protection. And when the terrible day came, when the sun was darkened, and the earth’s spoils were shaken and moved, his most innocent Mother and the repentant sinner stood together at the foot of his cross, thus giving us to understand that his loving arms were open equally to innocence and repentance.

(Excerpt from a speech given by Juan Donoso Cortés on April 16, 1848, when he took his seat at the Real Academia de la Lengua)

Translation of the original in Spanish present in OBRAS de D. Juan Donoso Cortés. (Ord.) Gavino Tejado. Madrid: Imprenta de Tejado, 1854. Tomo III. p. 171-198.

Compiled by Zephania Gangl

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