International Women’s Day – 8th March 2022

Nu bleu IV, 1952 by Henri Matisse

Why International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day should cause us all to pause for a moment to ask ourselves why it is that we single out a day to celebrate women, particularly when we don’t have an equivalent day on which to celebrate men. Perhaps a way into reflecting on this day as a Theological College of the University of Divinity, is to ask some important questions about the theology that we study here in order to ascertain if it is indeed appropriate for there to be such need to specifically celebrate women.

Perhaps we might ask ourselves about the Scripture units that we study at Yarra Theological Union? Can we name and explain the significance of the women of the Old Testament? How do we name them? Are they women of agency in their own right or do we know them as ancillary figures beside the great men of our founding stories? Who are the women prophets of the Old Testament, the matriarchs and queens, and all those unsung women who shape our path to the coming of the Christ?

What of the women of the New Testament? Can you name more than 10 of them? Why are so many of them unnamed in the Gospel stories? What role do they play in the salvific story of Christ and the early missionary Church? Does the language of the translations we use encourage the visibility of women in the teachings and stories of the New Testament writings? Does this language permeate our liturgical and sacramental celebrations?

What of the history units that you study? Do you understand the early centuries of Christianity as shaped by the lives of women in any meaningful sense or do they lie only in the shadows of, and overpowering emphasis on, the works of the monumental Fathers of the Church? What Mothers of the Church are you able to identify as integral to the shaping of this important era of our history, or any era of Church history for that matter.

As you are shaped by your study of Systematic and Moral Theology, have you come to celebrate the voices of women who have helped deepen our understanding of the faith, or do you lament their silence?

Is it mainly in that rare elective unit that we insert into our studies that we learn about the contribution of women to our faith. Or is this contribution merely from the occasional lip-service given to women or a woman, slotted into a unit as an aside? Perhaps we satisfy ourselves with a unit on Mary, Mother of God?  Or has the so-called “feminine genius”, been thoroughly integrated into our curriculum?

All these questions, and the way we answer them should help us see why it is understandable that we single out the necessity of celebrating International Women’s Day. While women remain, forgotten, unnamed, absent, silent, voiceless, irrelevant, sidelined or even belittled in our theological studies we will always need this reminder. Perhaps in the years to come there will come a day when our answers to these questions will make it obvious why we no longer need a special day marked out specifically for women. Our oneness in Christ Jesus will then be a reality achieved, rather than a constant struggle to work towards.

Carmel Posa SGS

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