Woman restores the physical image, but it is the spiritual image that must be restored, both for man and woman. This can be done by the Eternal Feminine: the Woman who is blessed above all women. Through the centuries woman has been saying: “My Hour is not yet come,” but now, “The Hour is come.” Mankind will find its way back again to God through the Woman who will gather up and restore the broken fragments of the image. This she will do in three ways.
By restoring constancy in love. Love today is fickle, although it was meant to be permanent. Love has only two words in its vocabulary: “You” and “Always.” “You,” because love is unique. “Always,” because love is enduring. Love never says, “I will love you for two years and six days.” Divorce is inconstancy, infidelity, temporality, the very fragmentation of the heart. But how shall constancy return except through a woman? A woman’s love is less egotistic, less ephemeral than a man’s. Man has to struggle to be monogamous; a woman takes this for granted. Because every woman promises only what God can give, man is prone to seek the Infinite in a multiplication of the finite. The woman, on the contrary, is more devoted and faithful to the one she loves on human terms. But modern woman too often fails to give an example of this constancy; she either lets her love degenerate into a jealous possessiveness, or she learns infidelity from law courts and psychiatrists. There is need of The Woman, whose love was so constant that the Fiat to physical union with love in the Annunciation became celestial union with it in the Assumption. The Woman, who leads all souls to Christ, and who attracts only to “betray” them to her Divine Son, will teach lovers that “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”
By restoring respect for personality. Man generally speaks of things: woman generally speaks of persons. Since man is made to control nature and to rule over it, his principal concern is with some thing. Woman is closer to life, and its prolongation; her life centers more on personality. Even when falling from feminine heights, her gossip is about people. Since the whole present political and economic world is gauged to the destruction of personality, God in His Mercy is trumpeting once more to The Woman to “make a man,” to remake personality. The twentieth-century resurgence of devotion to Mary is God’s way of pulling the world away from the primacy of the economic to the primacy of the human, from the things to life and machines to men. The praise of the woman in the crowd who heard Our Lord preaching and exclaimed: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that nursed Thee” (Luke 11:27), was typically feminine. And the answer of Our Lord was equally significant: “Yea! Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28) This, then, is what devotion to Mary does in this troubled hour: it restores personality by inspiring it to keep the Word of God.
By infusing the virtue of Purity into souls. A man teaches a woman pleasure; a woman teaches a man continence. Man is the raging torrent of the cascading river; woman is the bank which keeps it within limits. Pleasure is the bait God uses to induce creatures to fulfill their heavenly infused instincts–pleasure in eating, fro the sake of the preservation of the individual–pleasure in mating, fro the sake of the preservation of the species. But God puts a limit to each to prevent the riotous overflow. One is satiety, which comes from nature itself and limits the pleasure of eating; the other is the woman who rarely confuses the pleasure of mating with the sanctity of marriage. During the weakness of human nature, the liberty of man can degenrate into license, infidelity, and promiscuity–as the love of woman can decay into tyranny, possessiveness, and insane jealousy.
Since the abandonment of the Christian concept of marriage, both man and woman have forgotten their mission. Purity has become identified with repression, instead of being seen as it really is–the reverence for preserving a mystery of creativeness until God sanctions the use of that power. While man is outgoing in his pleasure, womanly purity keeps hers inward, channeled or even self-possessed, as if a great secret had to be hugged to the heart. There is no conflict between purity and carnal pleasure in blessed unions, for desire, pleasure, and purity each has its place.
Since woman today has failed to restrain man, we must look to the Woman to restore purity. The Church proclaims two dogmas of purity for the Woman: one, the purity of soul in the Immaculate Conception, the other, the purity of body in the Assumption. Purity is not glorified as ignorance; for when the Virgin Birth was announced to Mary, she said, “I know not man.” This meant not only that she was untaught by pleasures; it also implied that she had so brought her soul to focus on inwardness that she was a Virgin, not only through the absence of man, but through the Presence of God. No greater inspiration to purity has the world ever known than The Woman, whose own life was so pure that God chose her as His Mother. But she also understands human frailty and so is prepared to life souls out of the mire into peace, as at the Cross she chose as her companion the converted sinner Magdalene. Through all the centuries, to those who marry to be loved, Mary teaches that they should marry to love. To the unwed, she bids them all keep the secret of purity until an Annunciation, when God will send them a partner; to those who, in carnal love, allow the body to swallow the soul, she bids that the soul envelop the body. To the twentieth century, with its Freud and sex, she bids man to be made again to the God-like image through herself as The Woman while she, in turn, with “traitorous trueness and loyal deceits” betrays us to Christ–Who in His turn delivers us to the Father, that God may be all in all.
[From The World’s First Love, by the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen]