Feminine Spirituality

I am reading the book Radical Wisdom by Beverly Lanxetta. It is a history and study of spirituality of women in the Middle Ages. She mentions several noted women but focuses mainly on two: Julian of Norwich and Teresa Avila. I’ve never really been able to grasp the difference between masculine and feminine spirituality. But Lanzetta really spends quite a bit of wordage to explaining what these women were experiencing as opposed to what the patriarchal Church was proposing as a path to God. Teresa writes: “Let all the learned men in the world rise up against me…but you do not fail me, my Lord, for I already have experience of the great deliverance you offer to the soul who places its trust in You.” She believed that her contemplative way of prayer was better, quicker, and more authentic than “the sacraments, confessions, and meditation of the academic theologians.” Her way, Lanzetta said, was “attacked, ridiculed, and dismissed by clerical authorities; she was accused of arrogance, chicanery, consorting with the devil, and lack of humility becoming to a woman.”

The Church of the Middle Ages and in some aspects still today, considered itself to be the way to salvation and to God. The idea of having a personal relationship with God without the Church was preposterous…and dangerous. Today, thankfully, Christianity is more accepting and even encourages Christians to develop a personal relationship with God.

But the idea of feminine spirituality being personal is not the only thing that distinguishes it. Lanzetta writes that in the minds of Julian and Teresa, “every suffering has a purpose; every pain is measured against the horizon of Divine Love; every sorrow healed by the Beloved’s own touch. The soul is so close to its God, so intimate to the shimmering, sensitive, rapturous divinity at its center, that all life is witnessed through the lens of a different consciousness. Pain and joy are not opposed…but are two aspects of one process of drawing closer to God. We are wounded by events in our world, pained by our own and others’ folly, and felled by the magnificence of gifts we cannot ever repay. All of this – every breath of air we take, every heart we touch – represents the joy and sorrow of life’s unending majesty.”

This has been my experience. I have never been able to compartmentalize my life so that one thing is spiritual, another not. It is all spiritual. As I watch the news I don’t feel anger the way I once did. Rather, I feel the wounds that people and nations inflict on one another. Irritations and hurts between myself and others all need prayerful attention if my soul is to feel free. Every place I go is holy ground and every person I meet has God within. If I do not see this, then I have to do something about my eye sight.

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