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But something has gone badly wrong!
Yes, it has. We need to go back to the four roles given to a man – primacy, procreation, provision and protection. As we said earlier, if these are ends in themselves, they become aberrant. Primacy becomes selfish, narcissistic and a desire for dominance at the expense of others; procreation becomes recreation without consequences and ends up denigrating both men and women – but particularly women – and destroying lives and families; provision becomes greed, materialism and exploitation, while protection becomes violent self-preservation.
Without virtue and self-sacrifice, without understanding their paternal purpose, men clutch at these roles in an utterly childish and egocentric manner. No wonder women are aggrieved! Where are the strong, virtuous men laying down their lives for them? Where are the clearsighted leaders and self-disciplined protectors of the family? All that women can see are grasping, desperate, self-centred, vacuous little boys whose only desires are for personal gratification.
But it goes deeper than this. Part of the catastrophe in the Garden of Eden was Adam’s failure to protect Eve from the temptations of Satan. He sat back and watched as Eve was led astray by the Serpent and offered the chance to be better, greater, wiser than he – to be like God, in fact. God created Adam to be the head of his new Creation with Eve as helpmate, yet here was Eve being seduced by something ostensibly far superior. This offer looks as good to women now as it did to Eve then. Why simply be the helpmate if the role of Goddess is being dangled in front of you?
Still, what was Adam thinking? This woman, this extraordinary being and stunning pinnacle of creation, this completion of himself … and yet, the fear of losing his own life in the face of Satan keeps him an inert and passive bystander. There is no warning for Eve from him, no rush to stand between her and the Serpent, no picking up the nearest weapon to crush its head. At least Eve had the balls to answer it back! Had Adam fulfilled his role as protector, would Eve have resisted the temptation? God only knows, but He tested the metal of His first child and immediately found him wanting. Not much has changed in men as we reach this current generation.
And that’s not everything. When Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden, God punishes Adam by making him live by toil and by the sweat of his brow. God punishes Eve, too, with pain in childbirth. The rest of history is the story of man avoiding toil and sweat and doing his utmost to make his life comfortable. We tend to call this ‘progress’ or, latterly, ‘technological advancement’ but either way, man has increasingly divorced himself from his warranted punishment by avoiding physical labour and retreating into a cocoon of drugs, leisure and entertainment.
Take these two points: duty superseded by an infantile attempt to hold on to power without responsibility; punishment avoided by a childish pursuit of pleasure. If you were a woman, wouldn’t you be mad at men? Wouldn’t you aim to throw off your own punishment to be like them? If the man won’t step up to the plate and toil by the sweat of his brow, why should the woman be expected to look after him and his offspring? Indeed, why should she have any offspring in the first place? They will only hold her back from her own desire for power and pleasure. Once again, man retreats as a submissive bystander and now watches the woman being seduced into killing her own children for the lure of freedom and independence.
That sounds an intractable problem! Is there any solution?
Christ came to make all things new; the victory is already won. Our task is to participate in that victory with great hope and courage.
How do we do this? By taking on the mantle of Christ’s authority.
Let’s return to this point of authority, raised earlier over the question of patriarchy. One of my favourite people in the Bible is the centurion whose servant is healed by Jesus. He understood that authority is only effective when the person wielding it is under authority themselves. Such was his understanding that he wholly expected Jesus to heal his servant from a distance, simply by speaking with authority. Implicit in this is the centurion’s recognition of a Divine Power from whom “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given”. Despite not being a Jew, the centurion fully realised that the authority of Christ must be drawn from an almighty God, or else how could the dead be raised. Jesus exclaimed that he had never seen such faith, even in Israel.
Think of the power a young child has in the phrase, “But Daddy said …!” when it wants a sibling to do something. The child’s words are imbued with the father’s authority, as if the father himself were present. The child understands that the father’s integrity in personally following up any order (or threat) is what lends their words weight. Thus, being true to one’s word is a key component of effective authority. No one cares to follow the command of a person who lacks integrity and doesn’t keep his word.
Another facet of authority is love. A person will rarely hesitate in carrying out the orders of the one they love and who they know loves them in return. Think again of a pupil or a soldier happily fulfilling the instructions or commands of a teacher or officer they love, because love has been shown to them. The story of the centurion is full of this combination of love and authority: the dying slave was “dear to him”; the Jewish elders, who he sends on his behalf, petition Jesus for him, “for he loves our nation”, and you can well imagine that the soldiers he commands to “come” and “go” do this readily out of love for an honourable commander, one who they know would die for them.
Words, spoken with truth and love. Actions, carried out with love and integrity, indistinguishable from the words that have been spoken: “I love you, and I will lay my life down for you” spoken as I lay down my life for you in love.
This is real authority.
Who wouldn’t want to return the gift of themselves in loving care for a man who lived and loved like this? There would be no need to battle for dominance, as both man and woman would submit to each other in great love. But, “as Christ loved the Church”, so it takes the man to make the first move and to die the first death. This is one way in which the punishment of Eve - that the man would rule over her - can be ameliorated, by men living the sacrifcial love of Christ.
This is the authority that will save the patriarchy. This is the authority that will save men, their wives and their families. This is the authority that will restore communities and parishes and lay the foundations for the restoration of Christ’s Church on earth. All social and moral authority extends from this authority, first established in the family, by the father.
In practical ways, then, how do I adopt this authority of Christ?
Christ himself says, “He who loves me will keep my commands, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him”.
The first step in receiving Christ’s authority is to keep His commands: love God and love your neighbour. That is, commit to availing yourself of the graces of prayer and the Sacraments and then commit to loving your wife, your children, your fellow parishioners and your worldly neighbours. Commitment is another foundational masculine duty, by the way.
However, you can’t give away what you don’t already have. The second, unavoidable step, if men want the authority that comes from laying down their lives in love and truth, is the dual task of attaining self-knowledge and self-mastery. To know thyself is a fundamental philosophical principle. In knowing oneself, one can better master strengths and ameliorate weaknesses to give greater sacrificial help to others.
This means, for instance:
overcoming apathy to develop daily routines, whereby personal administrative and spiritual tasks are carried out so that one’s time can be laid down for others;
overcoming inertia to establish a fitness routine (where health allows) so that one’s strength can be laid down for others;
overcoming physical desires so that one’s body can be laid down for others;
overcoming imprudence so that one’s wealth can be laid down for others;
overcoming ignorance so that one’s knowledge, particularly of the Faith and of human nature, can be laid down for others.
Above all, it means overcoming divisions, frustrations and resentments regarding others, so that one’s life can be laid down in complete love.
Any other self-indulgences must, through coming to understanding oneself, be kept in check so that one’s personal desires do not overwhelm the requirement underpinning real authority, which is to lay down one’s own life in love.
Ultimately, a knowledge of oneself is a knowledge of the Father who created us in His image, to reveal something of who He is to others.
This brings us right back to the beginning: that our mission is to reveal and relive on earth the very Fatherhood of God.
If we do not understand who we are in the light of our the Creator and our createdness, we cannot carry out this mission.
Jesus’ words sum this up, “[T]he Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep”.