A Chore for Everyday

A Chore for Everyday

Friday, January 29, 2010

Familiar friend, comforter, the holy spirit

In all places and at all times, we can have that familiar friendship, we can have Him with us; and there may be through the day a constant interchange of private words, of little offerings, too small to have any name attached to them—by which the bonds of that familiar friendship grow closer and more real, until it comes to that special personal intimacy which we call sanctity.

(Janet Erskine Stuart, 1857-1914)

Fish fillet with ginger sauce

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Women in the history of the church - service of mind and pen

Learned and Holy - but not Pastors

B. Service of Mind and Pen

Although the opportunity to exercise their literary and intellectual abilities could vary considerably given historical circumstances, Christian women nonetheless have bequeathed to the church a respectable literary and intellectual legacy.

From the beginning, Christian women have been interested in the study of the Scripture and Christian theology. Already in the second century we hear of a young woman named Charito who was martyred with Justin Martyr, most probably because she was associated with Justin’s school in Rome (Martyrdom of Justin 4).

(see The martyrdom of the holy martyrs Justin, Chariton, Charites, Pæon and Liberianus, who suffered at Rome)

We know also that the lectures of Origen were well attended by women, the most famous being Mammaea, the mother of Emperor Alexander Severus, who had a military escort bring Origen to Antioch so she could test his understanding of the divine things (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.21.3ff.).

Yet, it was the great Roman matrons of the fourth century whose combination of the ascetic life and the study of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers became, through the influence of Jerome, the ideal image of women dedicated to the religious life. Two of these highborn ladies, Marcella and Paula, founded circles of ascetic women in their homes whose central purpose was the intensive study of the Bible. Jerome became their mentor and introduced them to the study of the Old Testament in Hebrew. Paula learned Hebrew so well that she could chant the Psalms without a trace of Latin accent. Marcella is called by Jerome his "task-mistress" because she incessantly demanded of him complete explanations of Hebrew words and phrases.25 "With her probing mind Marcella wished to have all the obscurities, especially the linguistic ones, of the text cleared up; and although their meetings were frequent, she often insisted on his setting down his solutions on paper.”26 Paula and Jerome eventually established monastic communities for women and for men in Bethlehem.

(see Letters of St. Jerome and download it in pdf from CCEL)

Another Roman ascetic matron who conjoined learning and monastic life was Melania the Elder. She, along with Rufinus of Aquileia, formed monasteries in Jerusalem. Palladius speaks of Melania’s deep learning: Being very learned and loving literature, she turned night into day perusing every writing of the ancient commentators, including the three million (lines) of Origen and the two hundred and fifty thousand of Gregory, Stephen, Pierius, Basil and other standard writers. Nor did she read them once only and casually, but she laboriously went through each book seven or eight times. (Lausiac History 55)

(see Melania the Younger )

A similar circle of studious women gathered in Constantinople around Theodosia, the sister of Amphilocius of Iconium. Olympias, deaconess and friend of John Chrysostom, was educated in this circle.

In this context we should mention also Macrina, whose strength as a woman ascetic and a theological mind is glorified by her brother, Gregory of Nyssa, in his Life of Macrina. Gregory’s On the Soul and the Resurrection is presented as a Socratic dialogue between Gregory and Macrina in which Macrina is depicted as the protagonist and teacher.

(see Macrine the Elder)

The tradition of learned monastic women continued into the medieval period. Lioba (eighth century), sister of St. Boniface, "had been trained from infancy in the rudiments of grammar and the study of the other liberal arts." "So great was her zeal for reading that she discontinued it only for prayer or for the refreshment of her body with food or sleep: the Scriptures were never out of her hands." "She read with attention all the books of the Old and New Testaments and learned by heart all the commandments of God. To these she added by way of completion the writings of the Church Fathers, the decrees of the Councils and the whole of ecclesiastical law.”27 Princes and bishops, we are told, "often discussed spiritual matters and ecclesiastical discipline with her” because of her knowledge of the Scripture and her prudent counsel.28

The Venerable Bede (eighth century) reports that Abbess Hilda of Whitby required those under her direction "to make a thorough study of the Scriptures" and that she did this to such good effect "that many were found fitted for Holy Orders and the service of God’s altar."29 Indeed, five bishops trained at Whitby under Hilda’s direction.

The love of reading the Scriptures and the Church Fathers led convents also to the copying of manuscripts. In c. 735, St. Boniface wrote to Abbess Eadburga requesting that she have a copy of the epistles of Peter made in letters of gold. "For many times by your useful gifts of books and vestments you have consoled and relieved me in my distress.”30 Among other things, these words of Boniface reveal how logistically important and supportive English convents were to the Anglo-Saxon missionaries on the Continent.

Although the volume of theological and spiritual literature composed by Christian women is less than that written by Christian men, throughout the history of the church there have been capable women who have been productive with the pen. We have mentioned already women like Marcella and Olympias, who engaged in correspondence with Jerome and John Chrysostom. Their letters, unfortunately, no longer exist.

However, a not inconsiderable body of writing by Christian women is extant. Perhaps the earliest writing we have from a Christian woman is the account of Vibia Perpetua of her sufferings and visions as a Christian martyr. Martyred under Septimius Severus (c. 202 a.d.), Perpetua’s personal account was included by an unknown redactor in the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, which became a model for later Acts of the martyrs, especially in North Africa.31

One of the most fascinating documents of the early church is the travel diary of Egeria (late fourth century). Egeria, a noble woman from southern France, spent several years as a pilgrim in the East, traveling to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor. Taking notes along the way, she later wrote them up as her Travels. It is clear from her narrative that Egeria was steeped in the classics of the church, and “her language often echoes that of the Bible or of formal prayer.”32 Her account contains some of the most helpful and informative detail we possess of early monasticism and liturgy.

(see Itineraria)

A rather unique contribution to Christian literature is the Virgilian cento by Proba. Born a pagan in fourth-century Rome, Proba was educated in the classical writers of Latin literature, especially in Virgil, whom she especially loved. In the fourth century it was fashionable to write cento poetry. A cento is a poem produced by piecing together lines from the works of another poet, resulting in a new poem with a new theme. After becoming a Christian, Proba wrote a cento, borrowing from the works of Virgil, in which she intended to present the whole of the Biblical history.33 About one-half of the 694 lines relates the beginning of the Old Testament (creation, fall, flood, the exodus), but then Proba moves to the gospel story of Jesus. Although Jerome harshly criticized it, and the Gelasian Decretal "On Books to be Received and not to be Received" (496 a.d.) placed it among the apocryphal writings, Proba’s Cento became a popular school text in the Middle Ages.34 Its frequent use is attested by the number of manuscripts containing it and the catalogues of monastic libraries.

Eudoxia is another Christian woman who produced a respectable literary output. The daughter of a pagan philosopher, Eudoxia was instructed "in every kind of learning" (Socrates, Hist. eccl. 7.21). She was later baptized a Christian and became the wife of Emperor Theodosius II (408-450). The greater part of her writing has been lost.35 However, much of a cento drawn from the works of Homer is extant, as is the so-called Martyrdom of St. Cyprian. The Martyrdom tells of a certain Antiochian magician named Cyprian who fails in his effort to tempt a young Christian virgin and is rather himself led to become a Christian. The story ends with the martyr death of Cyprian and of the young maiden under the Emperor Diocletian.36

The tradition of literary Christian women continued into the Middle Ages. Abbess Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179) was an extremely influential visionary and prophetess whose correspondence included “four popes, two emperors, several kings and queens, dukes, counts, abbesses, the masters of the University of Paris, and prelates including Saint Bernard and Thomas à Becket.”37 Commanded by a heavenly voice to write down her visions, Hildegarde wrote two major works, Know the Ways of the Lord (Scivias)and Book of Divine Works. Both works belong to the medieval genre that “combined science, theology, and philosophy in a description of the universe, internal (the human body) and external (the earth and the heavens).”38 Her works evince a familiarity with Augustine and Boethius as well as with contemporary scientific writers. Portions of her Scivias were read by Pope Eugenius III and St. Bernard and elicited from the pope a letter of praise and approval.39 In addition to her two major works and her extensive correspondence, Hildegarde wrote lives of St. Disibod and St. Rupert, hymns, books on medicine and natural history, fifty allegorical homilies, and a morality play.

In Spain, the Catholic Reformation had a major female voice in St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). As a young woman she entered the Carmelite convent at Avila. There, later in life, she began to experience visions and ecstasies, and these in turn led her to propose a reform of the Carmelite order according to its original, more austere rule. Although there was powerful opposition to Teresa, support from Pope Paul IV and from King Philip II enabled her to establish many convents for her “discalced” (barefoot) Carmelite nuns. Of her most important writings, two are autobiographical. The Life describes her visions and discusses the centrality of prayer, and Foundations describe the establishment of her convents. Teresa wrote her most important mystical writings for her nuns. The Way of Perfection teaches the virtues of the religious (monastic) life and uses the Lord’s Prayer as the vehicle for teaching prayer. The Interior Castle presents mature Teresian thought on the spiritual life. Growth in prayer enables a person to enter into deeper intimacy with God, who dwells in the soul or “interior castle” of the person. Some thirty one poems and 458 letters of Teresa are extant.

Not all significant writing by women, however, issued from the religious orders. Marguerite Porete (c. 1300) was an important leader in the Beguine movement. The Beguines were pious laywomen who practiced poverty, chastity, and charity but belonged to no monastic order and took no vows. Their independence from church authority sometimes brought them into suspicion of heresy, and this was the fate of Marguerite as well. Nevertheless, her book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, enjoyed considerable popularity in France, Italy, and England.40

Another such woman was Mme. Jeanne Guyon, who - with Fenelon - was a spiritual leader in the Quietist movement in late seventeenth-century France. Her literary production amounted to some forty books, including a multi-volume commentary on the Bible.

In the nineteenth century, hymn writing by women came into its own.41 Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) wrote Hymns in Prose for Children, which was popular for many years and was translated into French, Spanish, and Italian. "Praise to God, Immortal Praise"is one of her best-known hymns. Charlotte Elliot (1789-1871) wrote around 150 hymns, including "Just As I Am." Sarah Adams (1805-1848) wrote "Nearer, My God, to Thee." But in addition to her hymns Adams wrote also Vivia Perpetua, a dramatic poem about the conflict between paganism and Christianity, and The Flock at the Fountain, a catechism and hymnbook for children. Cecil Frances Alexander (1823-1895) wrote around four hundred hymns, mostly for children. Among her most beloved hymns are "There Is a Green Hill Far Away," "Once in Royal David’s City," and "Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult.” Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879), well trained in the classics and mistress of several foreign languages, composed over fifty hymns. These include "Take My Life and Let It Be," "I Am Trusting You, Lord Jesus," and "Now the Light Has Gone Away." From the twentieth century we may mention Dorothy F. Gurney (1858-1932), who wrote "O Perfect Love," and Julia C. Cory (1882-1963), who wrote "We Praise You, O God." And it is hard to imagine how anyone can top Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915), author of over three thousand hymns, including the well-known "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior," "Rescue the Perishing," and "Sweet Hour of Prayer."

Two women have been significant as translators of hymns. The foremost translator of German hymnody has been Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878), whose renderings are the most widely used of any from the German language. Her translations are contained chiefly in her Lyra Germanica: Hymns for the Sundays and Chief Festivals of the Church Year and Christian Singers of Germany. Winkworth was sympathetic with any practical efforts for the benefit of women, and from that interest wrote the Life of Pastor Fliedner, about the chief architect of the German deaconess movement. Second only to Winkworth as a translator of German hymns is Jane Borthwick (1813-1897). Her Hymns from the Land of Luther contains "Be Still, My Soul" (itself composed by a woman, Catharina von Schlegel, b. 1697).

(see Finlandia Hymn)

The literary contribution of women to the faith and life of the church has continued into our own century. Of great influence was Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941). Born into an agnostic home, she converted to Roman Catholicism through a religious experience that led her to investigate spiritual experience. Underhill became an internationally recognized authority in mystical theology, and her book Mysticism (1911) became a standard text in that discipline. In Worship (1936), Underhill studied the nature and forms of Christian worship. Eventually Underhill was led into the Anglican communion by Baron Friedrich von Hügel, with whom she shared a long and fruitful spiritual relationship. Underhill herself served as a spiritual director for many, and she conducted many retreats in spirituality. Underhill’s distinction is indicated by the fact that she was the first woman invited to give a series of theological lectures at Oxford University (1921). She became a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Aberdeen.

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) is another example of an influential woman thinker and writer. The daughter of an Anglican minister, Sayers studied medieval literature at Oxford. While her initial success was as a writer of detective novels, her renown come from her work as an expositor of orthodox Christian faith through translations, plays, and books. Her play The Man Born to Be King (written for BBC) was a dignified presentation of the life of Christ. Her background in medieval literature bore fruit in her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is perhaps the most-used English translation of that classic. Sayers was a lay theologian of some merit. Her treatment of God and the creative process, The Mind of the Maker (1942), argues that the creative process is analogous to the government of the world by the Trinity wherein both the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man are preserved. Sayers was a prolific writer, whose works, both popular and scholarly, require their own book to catalogue.42

Women also have written popular and devotional literature. As a representative of this writing we mention Corrie ten Boom, whose popular books - The Hiding Place, Tramp for the Lord, In My Father’s House - detail her courageous love to Jew and Christian during and after World War II.

C. Service of Spiritual Power and Administration


26. J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York: Harper & Row, 1975) p. 94. Jerome says that some, including priests, inquired of Marcella concerning “doubtful and obscure points” (Letter 127).

27. For these quotes, see the Life of St. Lioba, in The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany, ed. C. H. Talbot (London: Sheed and Ward, 1954, 1981), p. 215.

28. Life of St. Lioba, p. 223.

29. Bede, History of the English Church and People, 4.23. Whitby was a double monastery of both women and men. In Celtic and Anglo-Saxon monasticism, such monasteries were usually under the direction of an abbess.

30. Boniface’s letter may be found in Christianity and Paganism, 350-750: The Conversion of Western Europe, ed. J. N. Hillgarth (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), p. 175.

31. In the present form of the Martyrdom of Perpetua, chapters 3-10 constitute the prison diary of Perpetua. The Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius and the Martyrdom of Marian and James (both c. 250 a.d.) are patterned after the Martyrdom of Perpetua.

32. John Wilkinson, ed., Egeria’s Travels (London: SPCK, 1971), p. 5.

33. Virgilian cento poetry existed already at the time of Tertullian. In her Cento, Proba used especially Virgil’s Aeneid, Eclogues, and Georgics.

34. For Jerome’s criticism, see Letter 53.7, where he calls Christian cento literature “puerile” (also Letter 130). The most easily accessible English translation of Proba’s Cento is in Patricia Wilson-Kastner, G. Ronald Kastner, et al., A Lost Tradition: Women Writers of the Early Church (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1981), pp. 45-68. The Cento was not Proba’s only writing. The beginning lines indicate that while still a pagan she had written of civil war, probably referring to the uprising of Magnus Magnentius against the Emperor Constantius (351-353 a.d.).

35. Socrates (Hist. eccl. 7.21) speaks of a “poem in heroic verse” that Eudoxia composed on the occasion of Theodosius’ victory over the Persians (422 a.d.). Evagrius Scholasticus (Hist. eccl. 1.20) has preserved one verse of a poetic address to the people of Antioch. Photius, ninth-century Patriarch of Constantinople, mentions a poetic paraphrase of the first eight books of the Bible (Bibliotheca 183) and also a poetic paraphrase of the prophetic books of Daniel and Zechariah.

36. For an English translation of Eudoxia’s Martyrdom of Cyprian, see Wilson Kastner, et al., Lost Tradition, pp. 149-171.

37. Frances and Joseph Gies, Women in the Middle Ages (New York: Harper & Row, 1978), p. 84.

38. Ibid., p. 78.

39. Ibid., p. 81. Other nuns of the twelfth century who followed Hildegarde as intellectual mystics and writers were Herrad of Landesberg, Elizabeth of Schönau, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Mechtild of Hackeborn, and Gertrude the Great (ibid., pp. 85-86).

40. See Robert E. Lerner, The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 68-78. For a theological description of The Mirror of Simple Souls, see Lerner, pp. 200-208.

41. Examples of pre-nineteenth-century female hymn writers are Emilie Juliane (1637-1706), to whom some six hundred hymns are attributed, and Henriette Luise von Hayn (1724-1782), who wrote over four hundred hymns, the most famous of which is perhaps "I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb." For this topic, cf. Tucker and Liefield, Daughters, pp. 256-257.

42. See Colleen B. Gilbert, A Bibliography of the Works of Dorothy L. Sayers (Hamden, CN: Archon Books, 1978).


(William Weinrich, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

Broccoli mushroom stir-fry

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Women in the history of the church - service of prayer and charity

Learned and Holy - but not Pastors

If it was once true that women were a neglected factor in church history, that imbalance is quickly being rectified. There is a spate of recent books on the history of women in the church that chronicle their institutions, their influence, and their contributions. As typical examples one may mention the three-volume collection of scholarly essays, Women & Religion in America, edited by Rosemary Ruether and Rosemary Keller, and the monograph Holy Women in Twelfth-Century England, by Sharon K. Elkins.1 There is little doubt that such scholarship is making a significant contribution to our understanding of the church’s past and, specifically, of the place and importance of women in it.

From within evangelical circles, the most important contribution to the history of women in the church is Daughters of the Church, by Ruth A. Tucker and Walter Liefeld.2 This book offers historical vignettes about women who have in one way or another exercised active, public leadership roles in the centuries of the church’s past. While striving to be objective, Tucker and Liefeld nevertheless exhibit a predilection for feminist interpretations of the evidence. Yet, that aside, they have amassed a considerable amount of material so that their book can nicely serve as a kind of women’s “Who’s Who in Church History.”3

In a short article we cannot encompass the full breadth of women’s contributions to the church’s life and faith through the centuries. We do wish, however, briefly to indicate some of the ways women have contributed to the church as well as the unbroken teaching and practice of the church that the recognized teaching and sacramental ministry of the church is to be reserved for men.

I. Daughters of the Church: in Word and Deed

A. Service of Prayer and Charity

It is, I suppose, impossible to escape the trap of describing the contributions of women, or of men, to the church primarily in terms of leadership and influence. After all, historical sources tend to focus on persons who did something or said something of extraordinary importance and therefore have been remembered and recorded. Yet we ought not be oblivious to one-sided activistic assumptions. The life of faith can be “active” in prayer, contemplation, and charity, and there have been myriad women, and men, who have excelled in these “silent works.”

In fact, the early church had a distinct group of women called “widows” who were dedicated to prayer and intercession.4 The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (c. 210 a.d.) speaks of widows as “appointed for prayer” (chap. 11), and the Didaskalia Apostolorum (Syria, c. 230 a.d.) similarly speaks of the widows as having prayer as their primary duty: “for a widow should have no other care save to be praying for those who give and for the whole Church.”5 Other early Christian writers make clear that widows as a group held a place of considerable honor and dignity. Often they are listed along with the bishop, elders, and deacons (e.g., Origen, Hom. in Luc. 17), and Tertullian calls them an “order” and says that widows were assigned a place of honor within the assembled congregation (On Modesty 13.4).6

Although prayer and intercession were the primary tasks of the widow, the Didaskalia indicates that by the  3rd century the widows in some churches were engaged in charitable work. Such charity would consist in hospitality, working at wool to assist those in distress, and visiting and laying hands on the sick.7 The Apostolic Church Order (Egypt, fourth century) evinces a similar two-fold division of prayer and service. Three widows are to be appointed: “Two of them are to dedicate themselves to prayer for all those in trial and to be ready for revelations. . . . The one is to be ready to serve, attending upon those women who are ill” (chap. 21).8

Especially in eastern Christianity (Syria, Chaldea, Persia), social mores that severely limited social access to women required the creation of a distinctly female diaconal ministry for the evangelization and care of women. The order of deaconess first takes concrete form in the Didaskalia.9 The first duty of the deaconess was to assist the bishop in the baptism of women by anointing their bodies and ensuring that their nudity was not seen. Beyond this duty, the Didaskalia says that the deaconess had the responsibility of teaching and instructing the newly baptized women, apparently serving as a spiritual mother exhorting them to chastity. In addition, the deaconess was to visit Christian women in the homes of the heathen, to visit women who were ill, to bathe those women who were recovering from illness, and to minister to women in need.10

Subsequent ecclesiastical legislation in eastern Christianity reiterates these functions of the deaconess, but they add other responsibilities. The Apostolic Constitutions (Syria, fourth century) indicate that the deaconess supervised the seating and behavior of the female part of the worshiping community. She was a keeper of the doors to prevent men from mingling in the women’s section of the church, and she served as intermediary between the male clergy and the women of the congregation (Apost. Const. 2.57ff.; 2.26; 3.15ff., 19).11 The Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Syria, fifth century), which gives to the widow what other legislation gives to the deaconess, does give the deaconess one duty, to bring communion to pregnant women unable to attend Easter mass (Test. II 20.7). Such legislation reveals a feminine ministry of considerable significance and responsibility. Indeed, the importance of the deaconess is indicated by the fact that she was an ordained member of the clergy.12 

In other regions, where the separation of the sexes was not so strict, such a female diaconate was not required, but the title of deaconess was introduced as a degree of honor to enhance the dignity of a woman religious called upon to oversee a convent. Such a deaconess abbess not only would administer the life of the convent and oversee its charitable activities, but also could perform certain liturgical services in the absence of a priest.13

Typical of this kind of deaconess was Olympias. Born into wealth in fourth-century Constantinople, she used her wealth to found a convent that included a hostel for priests as well as a number of hospitals. Her fame was enhanced by her friendship with John Chrysostom, with whom she corresponded while he was in exile.14 According to Palladius, Olympias “catechized many women.”15 Perhaps another such deaconess-abbess was a certain Mary who is known only from her tombstone (found in Cappadocia): “according to the text of the apostle, raised children, practiced hospitality, washed the feet of the saints and distributed her bread to those in need.”16

In the East where convents frequently were located in isolated places and priests might not be present, a deaconess abbess could perform certain liturgical services: distribute communion to the nuns, read the Gospels and the holy books in a worship assembly, etc.17 Although the West never had a developed female diaconate18 and the deaconess disappeared also in the East by the twelfth century, the deaconess ideal of charity and teaching for the sick and poor experienced a significant renewal in the nineteenth century.

Indeed, Kathleen Bliss would write that in terms of its subsequent influence, the revival of deaconess in Germany in the early nineteenth century was “the greatest event in the life of women in the Church since the Reformation.”19 In Germany the deaconess trained primarily as a nurse and only secondarily as a teacher. The model for this nursedeaconess was the deaconess home at Kaiserwerth begun in the 1830s by a Lutheran pastor, Theodore Fliedner. Its focus was the care of the sick poor, the orphan, discharged women prisoners, and the mentally ill.20 Other deaconess training schools on the Kaiserwerth model began all over Germany, such as that in Neuendettelsau in 1854, but the success of Fliedner’s enterprise was measured in international terms. By the midnineteenth century, Kaiserwerth nurses and teachers were staffing hospitals and schools in America, Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Bucharest, and Florence.21

A different type was the Anglican deaconess, whose training was mostly theological and pastoral. The inspiration for this female diaconate came from Elizabeth Ferard, who with six other women-founded the London Deaconess Institution in 1862. Unlike the German deaconess, who worked largely independently of the church, the Anglican deaconess was responsible to the bishop of the diocese in which she worked. Well trained theologically, the Anglican deaconess worked in the parish or taught in school.22

In her 1952 report on the function and status of women in the member churches of the World Council of Churches, Kathleen Bliss listed in addition to the deaconess these types of women parish workers: (1) the trained lay parish worker whose duties might include Sunday school and youth work, Bible study, home visitation, hospital visiting, preparation for confirmation, and social case work; (2) parish helpers; (3) directors of religious education; (4) trained youth leaders; (5) church social workers; (6) Sunday school organizers.23

Throughout the history of the church thousands of dedicated women have carried on the tradition of prayer, Christian charity, and care begun in the early church by the widow and deaconess. Happily, the stories of some of these women are being told. An example of this is a recent book by Barbara Misner, who chronicles the history and work of eight different groups of Catholic women religious in America between 1790 and 1850.24 Among their “charitable exercises” she mentions especially the care of the sick, work during cholera epidemics, and care of orphans.

B. Service of Mind and Pen


1. Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rosemary Skinner Keller, eds., Women & Religion in America, three vols. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982-1986); Sharon K. Elkins, Holy Women of Twelfth-Century England (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988). The importance of women in the history of the church was never a totally neglected theme. Before it was fashionable to do so, Roland H. Bainton wrote his three-volume Women of the Reformation (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1971- 1977). See also Edith Deen, Great Women of the Christian Faith (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), and her bibliography, pp. 411-415.

2. Ruth A. Tucker and Walter Liefeld, Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry From New Testament Times to the Present (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).

3. More recently Ruth A. Tucker has produced a similar but more focused book on women in modern missions: Guardians of the Great Commission: The Story of Women in Modern Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988).

4. See 1 Timothy 5:3-10. Ignatius of Antioch speaks of “virgins called widows” (Smyrna 13:1), a phrase that indicates that widow designated a specific group of women within the church. Polycarp of Smyrna calls the widow an “altar of God” (Philippians 4:3), probably because widows were recipients of Christian charity.

5. R. Hugh Connolly, Didaskalia Apostolorum (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1929), p. 132.

6. See also Tertullian, Exhortation to Chastity 13:4; On Modesty 13:7; To His Wife 1.7.4. This does not imply that widows were “ordained” or considered part of the clergy.  Indeed, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus expressly forbids the laying of hands on the widow. She is to be appointed “by the word alone” and is distinct from the clergy (Apost. Trad. 11).

7. Connolly, pp. 136, 138, 140.

8. The Apostolic Constitutions (Syria, fourth century), the Canons of Hippolytus (Egypt, fourth century), and the Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ (Syria, fifth century) continue to depict the widow as given to prayer and charity. The Testament gives the widow a place of considerable prominence and even appears to place her among the clergy. One should note that the ministry of the widow was exclusively toward other women.

For general discussion of the widow, see Mary McKenna, Women of the Church: Role and Renewal (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1967), pp. 35-63; Bonnie Bowman Thurston, The Widows: A Women’s Ministry in the Early Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989); Roger Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church (Collegeville, MD: The Liturgical Press, 1976, 1980) passim.

9. That social conditions demanded an order of deaconess is evident from the Didaskalia itself: “for there are houses to which you (the bishop) cannot send a (male) deacon to the women, on account of the heathen, but you may send a deaconess” (Connolly, p. 146). The best study on the deaconess is Aimé Georges Martimort, Deaconesses: An Historical Study (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986); see also Gryson, Ministry of Women.

10. Connolly, pp. 146-148.

11. See also the fifth- through seventh-century legislation from Chaldea and Persia adduced by Martimort, Deaconesses, pp. 52-58.

12. For discussion see Gryson, Ministry of Women, pp. 62-64; Kyriaki Fitzgerald, The Characteristics and Nature of the Order of the Deaconess, Women and the Priesthood, ed. Thomas Hopko (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983), pp. 84-89. Apost. Const. 8.20 gives an ordination prayer for the deaconess. It is necessary to make clear that ordination placed one into a specific service. It did not mean that one could perform any and all churchly acts. The deaconess performed by ordination the functions of deaconess. Her ordination did not authorize her to perform the tasks of elder or bishop. No office was simply interchangeable with another office.

13. For discussion of the deaconess-abbess, see Martimort, Deaconesses, pp. 134-143, 205-206; Gryson, Ministry of Women, p. 90.

14. See Martimort, Deaconesses, pp. 136-137.

15. Palladius, Lausiac History, 56.

16. Martimort, Deaconesses, pp. 125-126. Most likely “the text of the apostle” is 1Timothy 5:10.

17. See especially Martimort, Deaconesses, pp. 138-143.

18. Martimort, Deaconesses, pp. 187-216.

19. Kathleen Bliss, The Service and Status of Women in the Church (London: SCM Press, 1952), pp. 80-81.

20. Perhaps the most famous of Kaiserwerth’s nurses was Florence Nightingale, who went there after she could find no similar training in England.

21. For a brief account of the history and influence of the German type of deaconess, see Bliss, Service and Status of Women, pp. 80-89.

22. For the Anglican deaconess, see ibid., pp. 89-91. Bliss noted a third type of deaconess as well, one common to Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches. Their work ranged “from parish work to institutional work in orphanages, homes for the aged, and other church-supported institutions” (pp. 92-94).

23. Ibid., pp. 94-103. This informative report, now almost forty years old, deserves an update, if it has not already received one.

24. Barbara Misner, “Highly Respectable and Accomplished Ladies”: Catholic Women Religious in America 1790-1850 (New York/London: Garland, 1988). The eight groups Misner discusses are the Carmelites, Visitation Sisters, Sisters of Charity- Emmitsburg, Sisters of Loretto, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine Kentucky, Oblate Sisters of Providence, and Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.


(William Weinrich, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

Salmon grilled with salsa and basil sauce

Monday, January 25, 2010

Secret imaginations; secret from self

All Christians have their secret sins. Secret not only from other men - but from himself! It is but natural for every man to err, and then to be ignorant of his errors. Every man's sins are beyond his understanding. There is not the best, the wisest, nor the holiest man in the world - who can give a full and entire list of his sins.

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults." Psalm 19:12

Who can understand his errors? This interrogation has the force of an affirmation: Who can? No man! No, not the most perfect and innocent man in the world!

O friends! who can reckon up...
the secret sinful imaginations,
the secret sinful inclinations,
the secret pride,
the secret blasphemies,
the secret hypocrisies,
the secret atheistical risings,
the secret murmurings,
the secret repinings,
the secret discontents,
the secret insolencies,
the secret filthinesses,
the secret unbelievings,
which God might every day charge upon his soul?

Should the best and holiest man on earth have but his secret sins written on his forehead, it would not only put him to a crimson blush - but it would make him pull his hat over his eyes, or cover his face with a double scarf!

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults." Psalm 19:12

(Thomas Brooks, The Privy Key to Heaven)

Soya sauce chicken with spring onion

Friday, January 22, 2010

Secret meals; secret kisses

Secret duties are the most soul-enriching duties. Look! as secret meals make fat bodies—so secret duties make fat souls. And as secret trades brings in great earthly riches, so secret prayers makes many rich in spiritual blessings and in heavenly riches. Private prayer is that secret key of heaven which unlocks all the treasures of glory to the soul. The best riches and the sweetest mercies, God usually gives to His people—when they are in their closets upon their knees.

All the graces of the saints are enlivened, and nourished, and strengthened by the sweet secret influences which their souls fall under, when they are in their closet-communion with God. Certainly there are none so rich in gracious experiences, as those who are most exercised in closet duties.

As the tender dew which falls in the silent night makes the grass and herbs and flowers to flourish and grow more abundantly than great showers of rain which fall in the day; so secret prayer will more abundantly cause the sweet herbs of grace and holiness to grow and flourish in the soul, than all those more open, public, and visible duties of religion, which too, too often, are mingled and mixed with the sun and wind of pride and hypocrisy.


When a Christian is in a wilderness, which is a very solitary place, then God delights to speak friendly and comfortably to him: Hosea 2:14, "Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak friendly or comfortably to her," or as the Hebrew has it, "I will speak to her heart."

"When I have her alone," says God, "in a solitary wilderness, I will speak such things to her heart, as shall exceedingly cheer her, and comfort her, and even make her heart leap and dance within her." Certainly the soul usually enjoys most communion with God in secret.

A husband imparts his mind most freely and fully to his wife when she is alone; and so does Christ to the believing soul.

the secret kisses,
the secret embraces,
the secret visits,
the secret whispers,
the secret cheerings,
the secret sealings,
the secret discoveries,
which God gives to His people when in secret prayer.

(Thomas Brooks, The Privy Key of Heaven)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lær meg å kjenne dine veie

Melodi og tekst: Jakob Paulli

Lær meg å kjenne dine veie
og gå dem trøstig skritt for skritt!
Jeg vet at hva jeg fikk i eie,
er borget gods, og alt er ditt.
Men vil din sterke hånd meg lede,
jeg aldri feil på målet ser,
og for hvert håp som dør her nede,
får jeg et håp i himlen mer.

Lær meg å kjenne dine tanker
og øves i å tenke dem!
Og når i angst mitt hjerte banker,
da må du kalle motet frem.
Når jeg har tenkt meg trett til døden,
så si hva du har tenkt, o Gud!
Da kan jeg se at morgenrøden
bak tvil og vånde veller ut.

Men lær meg fremfor alt å kjenne
din grenseløse kjærlighet,
den som kan tusen stjerner tenne
når lykkens sol for meg går ned.
Den tørrer tåren som den skapte
og leger såret som den slo.
Dens vei går gjennom det vi tapte,
den gir oss mere enn den tok.

Youtube link

Soya sauce and garlic chicken liver

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dress and fashion

ON THE IMPORTANT SUBJECT OF DRESS AND FASHION we cannot do better than quote an opinion from the eighth volume of the “Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.” The writer there says, “Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that, whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will never look as ridiculous as another, or as any other, which, however convenient, comfortable, or even becoming, is totally opposite in style to that generally worn.”

IN PURCHASING ARTICLES OF WEARING APPAREL, whether it be a silk dress, a bonnet, shawl, or riband, it is well for the buyer to consider three things:
I. That it be not too expensive for her purse.
II. That its colour harmonize with her complexion, and its size and pattern with her figure.
III. That its tint allow of its being worn with the other garments she possesses.

The quaint Fuller observes, that the good wife is none of our dainty dames, who love to appear in a variety of suits every day new, as if a gown, like a stratagem in war, were to be used but once. But our good wife sets up a sail according to the keel of her husband’s estate; and, if of high parentage, she doth not so remember what she was by birth, that she forgets what she is by match.

To Brunettes, or those ladies having dark complexions, silks of a grave hue are adapted. For Blondes, or those having fair complexions, lighter colours are preferable, as the richer, deeper hues are too overpowering for the latter.

The colours which go best together are green with violet; gold-colour with dark crimson or lilac; pale blue with scarlet; pink with black or white; and gray with scarlet or pink. A cold colour generally requires a warm tint to give life to it. Gray and pale blue, for instance, do not combine well, both being cold colours.

THE DRESS OF THE MISTRESS should always be adapted to her circumstances, and be varied with different occasions. Thus, at breakfast she should be attired in a very neat and simple manner, wearing no ornaments. If this dress should decidedly pertain only to the breakfast-hour, and be specially suited for such domestic occupations as usually follow that meal, then it would be well to exchange it before the time for receiving visitors, if the mistress be in the habit of doing so. It is still to be remembered, however, that, in changing the dress, jewellery and ornaments are not to be worn until the full dress for dinner is assumed. Further information and hints on the subject of the toilet will appear under the department of the “LADY’S-MAID.”

The advice of Polonius to his son Laertes, in Shakspeare’s tragedy of “Hamlet,” is most excellent; and although given to one of the male sex, will equally apply to a “fayre ladye:”

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

(Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The essence of femininity

Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity---a reality of God's design and God's making, His gift to me and to every woman---and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.

What I have to say is not validated by my having a graduate degree or a position on the faculty or administration of an institution of higher learning. It comes not from any set of personal tastes and preferences. It is not a deduction from my own genetic leanings or temperament. Instead, it is what I see as the arrangement of the universe and the full harmony and tone of Scripture. This arrangement is a glorious hierarchical order of graduated splendor, beginning with the Trinity, descending through seraphim, cherubim, archangels, angels, men, and all lesser creatures, a mighty universal dance, choreographed for the perfection and fulfillment of each participant.

For years I have watched with growing dismay, even anguish, what has been happening in our society, in our educational system, in our churches, in our homes, and on the deepest level of personality, as a result of a movement called feminism, a movement that gives a great deal of consideration to something called personhood but very little to womanhood, and hardly a nod to femininity. Words like manhood and masculinity have been expunged from our vocabulary, and we have been told in no uncertain terms that we ought to forget about such things, which amount to nothing more than biology, and concentrate on what it means to be "persons."

Throughout the millennia of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted that the differences between men and women were so obvious as to need no comment. They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused, we have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabor to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant.

And here I must make a confession. Almost everything that constitutes an issue in modern American life I view from the vantage point of "peasants" in a Stone-Age culture where I once lived. I'm always asking myself, "What would those people make of all this? Where would I begin to try to explain it to them?" This exotic perspective does, in a way, throw a clearer light on the basics that helps me assess the issues.

For a number of years I lived with jungle Indians of South America who expressed their masculinity and femininity in a variety of ways, never pretended that the differences were negligible, and had no word for role. The femininity of woman was a deep-rooted consciousness of what she was made for. It was expressed in everything she did differently from men, from her hairstyle and clothes (if she wore any) to the way she sat and the work she did. Any child knew that women wove hammocks and made pots and caught fish with their hands, cleared underbrush, planted crops, and carried by far the heaviest loads, while men chopped down trees and hunted, caught fish with nets and spears, and carried no loads at all if there was a woman around. Nobody had any complaints. These responsibilities were not up for grabs, not interchangeable, not equal. Nobody thought of power or prestige or competition. Nobody talked about roles. This was the way things were.

Once, in the bungling way of foreigners, I "brought down the house," as it were, by picking up a man's eight-foot spear and pretending to be about to hurl it. They died laughing. If they had not taken it as a joke, I would have been in serious trouble. Women had nothing to do with spears. Their power did not lie in being equal with men but in being women. Men were men and women were glad of it. They understood that this was how things were arranged originally, and they liked it that way.

That perspective, among other things, convinced me that this civilized business of "roles" is nearly always, to put it bluntly, a power struggle. Coming back to this country and listening to a good many solemn dialogues on the roles of women in this or that or the other thing, I noticed that "this or that or the other thing" was never anything to do with fishing or farming or writing a book or giving birth to a baby, but always something that touched in some way on questions of authority or power or competition or money rather than on the vastly prior issue of the meaning of sexuality. In politics, in big business, in higher education, feminism is frequently discussed. But femininity? Never. Perhaps it should not surprise us that secular higher education has long since discarded the image of femininity as utterly irrelevant to anything that really matters, but it is calamitous when Christian higher education follows suit. This is what is happening. Shortly before he died, Francis Schaeffer said, "Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now."

It is my observation---and, I may add, my experience---that Christian higher education, trotting happily along in the train of feminist crusaders, is willing and eager to treat the subject of feminism, but gags on the word femininity. Maybe it regards the subject as trivial or unworthy of academic inquiry. Maybe the real reason is that its basic premise is feminism. Therefore it simply cannot cope with femininity.

Secular philosophy comes at us daily with terrible force, and we need Paul's admonition to the Roman Christians, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed" (Romans 12:2, Phillips). Feminist philosophy, which sounds reasonable enough on the surface, is a subtle and pervasive poison, infecting the minds of Christians and non-Christians alike. I was amazed to find in The Intercollegiate Review (Fall 1987), a secular journal, a sharp critique entitled "The Barbarism of Feminist Scholarship," in which the author, Carol Iononne, laid bare its political motivation, suppression of data in the service of feminist politics, special pleading, and built-in contradictions.

The author cited the suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Sears, Roebuck and Company, the largest employer of women in the country, charging discrimination against women because of the higher number of men promoted to commission sales. After eleven years of compiling evidence for their case, the EEOC found not one witness to testify that she had personally been the victim of discrimination. For the first time in the history of this kind of suit, Sears chose to fight back, countering that not enough women could be found willing to take the commission jobs, and that therefore factors other than discrimination must be the explanation. Trying to find an expert in women's history, they were turned down by one woman who declared that she would never testify against the EEOC and one man who refused out of fear of losing his feminist credentials. Only one woman, Rosalind Rosenberg of Barnard College, agreed to testify.

Rosenberg argued on the basis of the historical record: women and men have different interests, goals, and aspirations. Women are not quite so interested as men are, for example, in tires, furnaces, and aluminum siding. Rosenberg was vilified not because of the content of her testimony, but because she testified at all. This was an "immoral act," and she was called a traitor.

That any sensible person would find it necessary to argue in court that men and women have different interests only shows how far we have slid into absurdities. To speak even of scientifically verified differences in the structure of male and female brains, or endocrinological differences that affect the social behavior of men and women, is to risk charges of sexism, chauvinism, stupidity, or, as in Dr. Rosenberg's case, immorality.

The feminist theology of Christians (I cannot call it "Christian feminist theology") is a Procrustean bed on which doctrine and the plain facts of human nature and history, not to mention the Bible itself, are arbitrarily stretched or chopped off to fit. Why, I ask, does feminist theology start with the answers? One who spoke on "A Biblical Approach to Feminism" defined her task (a formidable one, I should say!) as the attempt to interpret the Bible in a fashion favorable to the cause of equality (Virginia Ramey Mollenkott at the Evangelical Women's Caucus, Washington, D.C., November 1975). The "interpretation" called for amounts to a thorough revision of the doctrines of creation, man, Trinity, and the inspiration of Scripture, and a reconstruction of religious history, with the intent of purging each of these of what is called a patriarchal conspiracy against women. Why must feminists substitute for the glorious hierarchical vision of blessedness a ramshackle and incoherent ideal that flattens all human beings to a single level---a faceless, colorless, sexless wasteland where rule and submission are regarded as a curse, where the roles of men and women are treated like machine parts that are interchangeable, replaceable, and adjustable, and where fulfillment is a matter of pure politics, things like equality and rights?

This is a world that the poets have never aspired to, the literature of the ages has somehow missed, a world that takes no account of mystery. The church claims to be the bearer of revelation. If her claim is true, as C. S. Lewis points out, we should expect to find in the church "an element that unbelievers will call irrational and believers will call supra-rational. There ought to be something in it opaque to our reason though not contrary to it. . . . If we abandon that, if we retain only what can be justified by standards of prudence and convenience at the bar of enlightened common sense, then we exchange revelation for that old wraith Natural Religion."{1}

Christian vision springs from mystery. Every major tenet of our creed is a mystery---revealed, not explained---affirmed and apprehended only by the faculty we call faith. Sexuality is a mystery representing the deepest mystery we know anything about: the relationship of Christ and His church. When we deal with masculinity and femininity we are dealing with the "live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge," as Lewis puts it.{2} We cannot at the same time swallow the feminist doctrine that femininity is a mere matter of cultural conditioning, of stereotypes perpetuated by tradition, or even the product of some nefarious plot hatched by males in some prehistoric committee meeting.

Please do not misunderstand me. We must and we do deplore the stereotypes that caricature the divine distinctions. We deplore the abuses perpetrated by men against women---and, let us not forget, by women against men, for all have sinned---but have we forgotten the archetypes?

Stereotype is a word generally used disparagingly to denote a fixed or conventional notion or pattern. An archetype is the original pattern or model, embodying the essence of things and reflecting in some way the internal structure of the world. I am not here to defend stereotypes of femininity, but to try to focus on the Original Pattern.

The first woman was made specifically for the first man, a helper, to meet, respond to, surrender to, and complement him. God made her from the man, out of his very bone, and then He brought her to the man. When Adam named Eve, he accepted responsibility to "husband" her---to provide for her, to cherish her, to protect her. These two people together represent the image of God---one of them in a special way the initiator, the other the responder. Neither the one nor the other was adequate alone to bear the divine image.

God put these two in a perfect place and---you know the rest of the story. They rejected their humanity and used their God-bestowed freedom to defy Him, decided they'd rather not be a mere man and woman, but gods, arrogating to themselves the knowledge of good and evil, a burden too heavy for human beings to bear. Eve, in her refusal to accept the will of God, refused her femininity. Adam, in his capitulation to her suggestion, abdicated his masculine responsibility for her. It was the first instance of what we would recognize now as "role reversal." This defiant disobedience ruined the original pattern and things have been in an awful mess ever since.

But God did not abandon His self-willed creatures. In His inexorable love He demonstrated exactly what He had had in mind by calling Himself a Bridegroom---the Initiator, Protector, Provider, Lover---and Israel His bride, His beloved. He rescued her, called her by name, wooed and won her, grieved when she went whoring after other gods. In the New Testament we find the mystery of marriage again expressing the inexpressible relationship between the Lord and His people, the husband standing for Christ in his headship, the wife standing for the church in her submission. This Spirit-inspired imagery is not to be shuffled about and rearranged according to our whims and preferences. Mystery must be handled not only with care but also with reverence and awe.

The gospel story begins with the Mystery of Charity. A young woman is visited by an angel, given a stunning piece of news about becoming the mother of the Son of God. Unlike Eve, whose response to God was calculating and self-serving, the virgin Mary's answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans. It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: "I am the Lord's servant. . . . May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity. It means surrender.{3}

Think of a bride. She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage. This is a public ceremony, before God and witnesses. Then, in the marriage chamber, she surrenders her body, her priceless gift of virginity, all that has been hidden. As a mother she makes a new surrender---it is her life for the life of the child. This is most profoundly what women were made for, married or single (and the special vocation of the virgin is to surrender herself for service to her Lord and for the life of the world).

The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it "of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:4), is the true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary, the willingness to be only a vessel, hidden, unknown, except as Somebody's mother. This is the true mother-spirit, true maternity, so absent, it seems to me, in all the annals of feminism. "The holier a woman is," wrote Leon Bloy, "the more she is a woman."

Femininity receives. It says, "May it be to me as you have said." It takes what God gives---a special place, a special honor, a special function and glory, different from that of masculinity, meant to be a help. In other words, it is for us women to receive the given as Mary did, not to insist on the not-given, as Eve did.

Perhaps the exceptional women in history have been given a special gift---a charism---because they made themselves nothing. I think of Amy Carmichael, for example, another Mary, because she had no ambition for anything but the will of God. Therefore her obedience, her "May it be to me," has had an incalculably deep impact in the twentieth century. She was given power, as was her Master, because she made herself nothing.

I would be the last to deny that women are given gifts that they are meant to exercise. But we must not be greedy in insisting on having all of them, in usurping the place of men. We are women, and my plea is Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is. No arguments would ever be needed if we all shared the spirit of the "most blessed among women."

The world looks for happiness through self-assertion. The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment. "If a man will let himself be lost for My sake," Jesus said, "he will find his true self." A Christian woman's true freedom lies on the other side of a very small gate---humble obedience---but that gate leads out into a largeness of life undreamed of by the liberators of the world, to a place where the God-given differentiation between the sexes is not obfuscated but celebrated, where our inequalities are seen as essential to the image of God, for it is in male and female, in male as male and female as female, not as two identical and interchangeable halves, that the image is manifested.

To gloss over these profundities is to deprive women of the central answer to the cry of their hearts, "Who am I?" No one but the Author of the Story can answer that cry.

{1}C. S. Lewis, "Priestesses in the Church?" in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 238.
{2}Ibid., p. 239.
{3}I do not want to be understood as recommending a woman's surrender to evils such as coercion or violent conquest.

(Elisabeth Elliot)

Mary Somerville (Scottish, 1780-1872)

During her marriage she made the acquaintance of the most eminent scientific men of the time, among whom her talents had attracted attention before she had acquired general fame, Laplace told her “There have been only three women who have understood me. These are yourself, Mrs Somerville, Caroline Herschel and a Mrs Grieg of whom I know nothing.” (Of course, Somerville was first and third of these three.)

Having been requested by Lord Brougham to translate the Mécanique Céleste of Laplace, she greatly popularized its form, and its publication in 1831, under the title of The Mechanism of the Heavens, at once made her famous. She stated “I translated Laplace’s work from algebra into common language”.

Marketing, housekeeping account book

IN MARKETING, THAT THE BEST ARTICLES ARE THE CHEAPEST, may be laid down as a rule; and it is desirable, unless an experienced and confidential housekeeper be kept, that the mistress should herself purchase all provisions and stores needed for the house. If the mistress be a young wife, and not accustomed to order “things for the house,” a little practice and experience will soon teach her who are the best tradespeople to deal with, and what are the best provisions to buy. Under each particular head of FISH, MEAT, POULTRY, GAME, &c., will be described the proper means of ascertaining the quality of these comestibles.

A HOUSEKEEPING ACCOUNT-BOOK should invariably be kept, and kept punctually and precisely. The plan for keeping household accounts, which we should recommend, would be to make an entry, that is, write down into a daily diary every amount paid on that particular day, be it ever so small; then, at the end of the month, let these various payments be ranged under their specific heads of Butcher, Baker, &c.; and thus will be seen the proportions paid to each tradesman, and any one month’s expenses may be contrasted with another. The housekeeping accounts should be balanced not less than once a month; so that you may see that the money you have in hand tallies with your account of it in your diary. Judge Haliburton never wrote truer words than when he said, “No man is rich whose expenditure exceeds his means, and no one is poor whose incomings exceed his outgoings.”

When, in a large establishment, a housekeeper is kept, it will be advisable for the mistress to examine her accounts regularly. Then any increase of expenditure which may be apparent, can easily be explained, and the housekeeper will have the satisfaction of knowing whether her efforts to manage her department well and economically, have been successful.

(Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management)

Modernism's uniformity

There is no uniformity among men, but endless multiformity. In creation itself the difference has been established between woman and man. Physical and spiritual gifts and talents cause one person to differ from the other. Past generations and our own personal life create distinctions. The social position of the rich and poor differs widely.

Now, these differences are in a special way weakened or accentuated by every consistent life system, . . .

. . . Modernism, which denies and abolishes every difference, cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman, and, putting every distinction on a common level, kills life by placing it under the ban of uniformity. One type must answer for all, one uniform, one position and one and the same development of life; and whatever goes beyond and above it, is looked upon as an insult to the common consciousness.

(Abraham Kuyper)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Acquaitances, friendships and hospitality

THE CHOICE OF ACQUAINTANCES is very important to the happiness of a mistress and her family. A gossiping acquaintance, who indulges in the scandal and ridicule of her neighbours, should be avoided as a pestilence. It is likewise all-necessary to beware, as Thomson sings,

“The whisper’d tale,
That, like the fabling Nile, no fountain knows;—
Fair-laced Deceit, whose wily, conscious aye
Ne’er looks direct; the tongue that licks the dust
But, when it safely dares, as prompt to sting.”

If the duties of a family do not sufficiently occupy the time of a mistress, society should be formed of such a kind as will tend to the mutual interchange of general and interesting information.

FRIENDSHIPS SHOULD NOT BE HASTILY FORMED, nor the heart given, at once, to every new-comer. There are ladies who uniformly smile at, and approve everything and everybody, and who possess neither the courage to reprehend vice, nor the generous warmth to defend virtue. The friendship of such persons is without attachment, and their love without affection or even preference. They imagine that every one who has any penetration is ill-natured, and look coldly on a discriminating judgment. It should be remembered, however, that this discernment does not always proceed from an uncharitable temper, but that those who possess a long experience and thorough knowledge of the world, scrutinize the conduct and dispositions of people before they trust themselves to the first fair appearances.

Addison, who was not deficient in a knowledge of mankind, observes that “a friendship, which makes the least noise, is very often the most genuine and the most useful; for which reason, I should prefer a prudent friend to a zealous one.

And Joanna Baillie tells us that,

“Friendship is no plant of hasty growth,
Though planted in esteem’s deep-fixed soil,
The gradual culture of kind intercourse
Must bring it to perfection.”

HOSPITALITY IS A MOST EXCELLENT VIRTUE; but care must be taken that the love of company, for its own sake, does not become a prevailing passion; for then the habit is no longer hospitality, but dissipation. Reality and truthfulness in this, as in all other duties of life, are the points to be studied; for, as Washington Irving well says, “There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality, which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease.” With respect to the continuance of friendships, however, it may be found necessary, in some cases, for a mistress to relinquish, on assuming the responsibility of a household, many of those commenced in the earlier part of her life. This will be the more requisite, if the number still retained be quite equal to her means and opportunities.

(Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Early rising, cleanliness, frugality

EARLY RISING IS ONE OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL QUALITIES which enter into good Household Management, as it is not only the parent of health, but of innumerable other advantages. Indeed, when a mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well-managed. On the contrary, if she remain in bed till a late hour, then the domestics, who, as we have before observed, invariably partake somewhat of their mistress’s character, will surely become sluggards. To self-indulgence all are more or less disposed, and it is not to be expected that servants are freer from this fault than the heads of houses. The great Lord Chatham thus gave his advice in reference to this subject:—“I would have inscribed on the curtains of your bed, and the walls of your chamber, ‘If you do not rise early, you can make progress in nothing.’”

CLEANLINESS IS ALSO INDISPENSABLE TO HEALTH, and must be studied both in regard to the person and the house, and all that it contains. Cold or tepid baths should be employed every morning, unless, on account of illness or other circumstances, they should be deemed objectionable. [The bathing of children will be treated of under the head of “MANAGEMENT OF CHILDREN.”]

FRUGALITY AND ECONOMY ARE HOME VIRTUES, without which no household can prosper. Dr. Johnson says: “Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the parent of Liberty. He that is extravagant will quickly become poor, and poverty will enforce dependence and invite corruption.” The necessity of practising economy should be evident to every one, whether in the possession of an income no more than sufficient for a family’s requirements, or of a large fortune, which puts financial adversity out of the question. We must always remember that it is a great merit in housekeeping to manage a little well. “He is a good waggoner,” says Bishop Hall, “that can turn in a little room. To live well in abundance is the praise of the estate, not of the person. I will study more how to give a good account of my little, than how to make it more.” In this there is true wisdom, and it may be added, that those who can manage a little well, are most likely to succeed in their management of larger matters. Economy and frugality must never, however, be allowed to degenerate into parsimony and meanness.

(Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management)

Blackpepper pork and squash

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How shall I know that the Lord loves me, despite my sin?

If the Lord loves thee for his name's sake, it will draw thee to that fellowship with itself, that whatever thou lackest thou wilt seek for it hence, by presenting that name of God, that for his own sake he would supply. I know the Lord loves for Christ's sake; but why should Christ help for his name's sake?

For thus many hypocrites think, when they see God's anger against them for their sin, they seek to remove sin, and when that is done, think God is at peace, and now all is well. They see the Lord is delighted with the obedience of his people; hence fall to that work, and now think the Lord is pleased with them. But if ever the Lord loves any man, he will first stop his mouth, whether Jew or Gentile, (Rom. 3:19,) and make him, on his knees, know there is no reason for it, nay, all reason against it. Now, has not the Lord brought thee to this?

And hence, having nothing to quench God's anger but Christ, hast held up him before God; and having nothing to move Christ, hast held up his name before him, and here hast rested thy wearied heart looking to him, if any grace be begun in thee, that he would perfect it; if none, that he would begin it; if unfit and unworthy, to prepare thee for it, only for his own good pleasure. This is one evidence of it. As it is in some seals, you can hardly perceive in the seal what is engraven there, but set it on wax, you may see it evidently. So here, hardly can you see the Lord's love for his own sake; if thou cleavest with dearest affection to this love for its own sake, there thou art safe. Prov. 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," etc.; and this is not only at first conversion, but ever after all duties, all enlargements. Ezek. 16:ult. And this does evidence love.

1. Because, if thou hadst the righteousness of angels, thou wouldst think it a good evidence; but this of Christ is a thousand times dearer.

2. This is a setting of God against himself, i.e., to answer himself; and hence saints, in all their straits and sorrows, hither had recourse. I speak not now of temporal blessings, but of everlasting love, and all the fruits of it, that here it hangs. Now, I say, you are built in a rock higher than all powers of darkness; now a key is put into thy hand to unlock all God's treasure; now thou art in the very lap of love, wrapped up in it, when here thy heart rests; and therefore, if this be thus, see it, and wonder his name has moved him to love me.

3. You shall find this, if the Lord for his name's sake loves thee, there is not any carriage or passage of providence of him to thee, but he gets himself a name first or last by it; for if this be God's purpose, every passage of providence is but a means to this end. Hence he will attain this end by every act of his providence toward thee. Hence you shall find that those very sins that dishonor his name, he will even by them (and if by them, by all things else) get himself a name; he will be so far from casting thee out of his love, that he will do thee good by them. Those very sins that God damns others for, he will make to humble thee, empty thee.

Pharisees persecuted Christ, and lost all for it; Paul was so, and it humbled him all his life - "Not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God; "and it made him lay up all his wealth in mercy - "I was received to mercy." 1 Tim. 1. Mary sins much, and God forgives much, and she loves much; others sinned much, and God hardened much. Judas betrays Christ and repents, and hangs himself, and flies from him; Peter denies him and weeps, and hence he is the first that preaches him. And this is certain, in the best hypocrite, sins left in him either never make him better, but blind and harden him, and he has his distinctions of infirmity, etc., that he slights them day by day, till all his days are run out; or if any good, it is no more than Judas or Cain, some legal terrors, or other light flashes of comfort; but to be more humble indeed, etc., this he finds not.

Now, is it not so with thee? Doth not thy weakness strengthen thee, with Paul? Doth not thy blindness make thee cry for light? And those cries have been heard; out of darkness God has brought light. Thou hast felt venom and risings of heart against Christ; and do they not make thee loathe thyself more, that thou thinkest never any so beholding to grace? Do not thy falls into sin make thee more weary of it, watchful against it, long to be rid of it? And so sin abounds, but grace abounds. Why should this be so?

For his name's sake, because he will love thee; hence it is so great and unmatchable, that he will make thy poison thy food, thy death thy life, thy damnation salvation, thy very greatest enemies thy greatest friends. And hence Mr. Fox said he thanked God for his sins more than his good works.

I have marveled at God's dealings with his people; they depart, and stay long, and care not for returning again; in that time a mighty power teaches, humbles, brings back, when they never thought of it. O, the reason is, God will have his name. Now, if thus, your assurance will be strong and constant; but, if you build thus, I have done this, etc., I have that, your assurance will not stand; therefore look and see if it be not thus with you.

(Thomas Shephard)