One of the beautiful things about Catholic theology is that it sees story as one of its main interpretive filters. Protestantism, on the other hand, focuses much more on historical context and the text itself.
To modern ears, the Protestant ways sounds great, but there’s one big problem: this is not how most of the biblical writers, Jesus, the apostles, the early church, nor most of church history have ever treated the Bible. They were and have been much “freer” with the text (yes, often to a fault). Catholicism’s rootedness in ancient ways of reading invites them into new dimensions and interpretations.
Take Mary, for example. Catholics see her foretold in the Old Testament just as much as Jesus is. They see her in prophecies and allegorically represented in other women. They see parallels between her and the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, and the Temple, saying they all carried the Holy of Holies within them, and were revered for it.
There are three biblical offices of authority among God’s people: Prophet, Priest, and King. Christians see Jesus as the fulfillment and highest expression of each of these, but in the Advent event, you can see Mary serving these functions as well. So today, as a Protestant, I want to sit with this and revel in some beauty and divine mystery.
This Advent, we’re seeing how this season affects parts of our lives we usually don’t associate with it. Follow the series here. This post is also filed in the series “Catholics Aren’t Crazy” and “Women Leading Stuff in Churches“.
If a woman is revered by the church for giving the faithful their savior, then surely women are good enough for leadership roles in the church to save it. –Vishwanath Ayengar
I ran across that quote in some letters to the editor of Newsweek a couple of years back in response to a cover story arguing that if women were ordained as priests in the Catholic Church, there wouldn’t have been any sex abuse scandal. I don’t know if that’s true, but the quote is insightful and (hopefully) thought-provoking.
I can hear conservatives now: Well, God used a donkey to speak! He used Caiaphas the high priest to unknowingly prophesy about Jesus before sentencing him to death! He used Judas to bring about Christ’s crucifixion and therefore our salvation! It doesn’t mean that they were fit to be ordained pastors!
Yeah, yeah, I get it. This post isn’t necessarily meant as a “proof” or “defense” of women’s place in ministry (though it’s a part of my on-going series on the topic). I just want to revel a bit in some divine mystery. Can we all just put our swords down and marvel?
UPDATE: Part 2 of this post is now up.
I have a quick confession. I technically ascribe to the “flavor” of Protestantism called “Reformed” that takes the roots of its doctrinal tradition all the way back to the leaders of the Reformation. The first church I really learned much of anything about Christianity and theology is Reformed…ish. The seminary I went to prides itself in being the bastion of orthodoxy for “Reformed” theology. My church is a member of the Reformed Church in America family of churches.
But, I’m not a good Reformed man.
I haven’t written a post in this series in a while, but I’ve been reading William Cavanaugh’s amazing book Being Consumed: Economics & Christian Desire as a counter to Jack Cashill’s Popes & Bankers, which I just finished. It’s pretty remarkable. Every Christian–nay, every person–should read this book.
Cavanaugh is a Catholic and this influences his thought greatly and wonderfully. I’ve only made it through the Introduction and I already feel like I’ve been taken for a ride, with my economic thought swirling. Once I’m done I’ll surely be posting a review here for all of you to enjoy. He has this amazing paragraph in the Introduction I wanted to share here with all of you: