Tuesday 31 August 2010

Are women more beautiful than men?

In ancient thought, it was often assumed that the male of our species is more beautiful than the female. Certainly this was the assumption in Greece, and Plato’s dialogues reflect a virtual cult of male beauty. However, I think I have theological proof to confirm my longstanding suspicion that woman are more beautiful than men. See what you make of it.

According to John Paul II’s theology of the body, discussed in the latest issue of Second Spring, the real source and meaning of gender lies in the Trinity. The Trinity is love, which means self-gift. Love includes within it both activity and receptivity, and it is an act that necessarily involves three Persons. We might say the Father is the divine nature as Giver, the Son is that same divine nature as Receiver (and then, as Receiver, in turn a Giver, since he is the perfect image of the Father), and the Holy Spirit is the divine nature as Gift. (John Paul II names the Holy Spirit in his encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem “Person-Gift”.) Thus the Spirit is Gift, both given and received, and unites Father and Son in the act of giving.

In the creation, Woman is brought to Man precisely as “gift”, crowning the gift of creation in general, which has been made for him. Woman is brought to man not just as wife but as friend, sister and eventually mother as well, all rolled into one in a way that will never again be the case until the advent of the Virgin Mary, who will form with her Son the new beginning of the human race. (In fact the original gift of Woman could be said to include – obscurely and distantly – the gift of Christ himself, who will descend from her in the fullness of time.) Here in this moment of creation Adam represents the Son, the Receiver of the Father’s Gift, and Eve the Holy Spirit, or that which the Father gives. (Perhaps this is why St Maximilian Kolbe describes Mary, the Second Eve, as a "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit.) She is the breath of life, the living essence of the man, taken out of him and returned in the one form in which he can find himself in his own solitude – that is, in the form of another person to whom he can give himself.

The nature of Woman, then, the deepest meaning of her gender, is to be Gift for Man, to manifest the Spirit, just as the deepest nature of Man is to be the Receiver of the Gift, and to manifest the Son to her. Thus femininity in its totality, at its deepest level, is the essence of humanity made visible to itself as the definitive beauty and glory of creation. (Similarly the essence of masculinity consists in the loving response to this gift which awakens Woman to her own self.)

Adam and Eve fresco by Masolino da Panicale, 1424.


  1. Couldn't one make the case that the Greek position was more that women were not the spiritual equals of men, and hence could not be the proper object of love in its highest sense? And what about Helen?

    Your formulation that woman as gift "obscurely and distantly" contains the Gift who will "descend from her in the fullness of time" is quite beautiful. Rings true.

  2. This was a beautiful reflection. Thank you so much! I am curious how this connects with the Theology of the Body's body language of man as giver and woman as receiver? I know this and that meaning do not contradict each other, as both men and women are called to give of themselves and receive the other, but I would love to see more written on it in light of what you just said. :)

    Also, somewhere, I do not know where, I read something describing Mary as an "icon" of the Holy Spirit. :)

  3. In the blog I say "the Father is the divine nature as Giver, the Son is that same divine nature as Receiver (and then, as Receiver, in turn a Giver, since he is the perfect image of the Father), and the Holy Spirit is the divine nature as Gift." So in the image of God, once Adam has received his existence and also the gift of the Woman, he himself becomes in turn a Giver (to the Woman, and to others). The child who is the offspring of both Man and Woman is his gift to her as well as hers to him.

    I have also heard Mary described as an Icon of the Holy Spirit (which in my theory refers partly to her role as Gift to Man from God). She is also traditionally called the "spouse" of the Holy Spirit. But St Maximimilan Kolbe goes further and calls her the "quasi-incarnation" of the Spirit - though of course he did not mean that she was not a human person.

  4. So good topic really i like any post talking about Ancient Greece but i want to say thing to u Ancient Greece not that only ... you can see in Ancient Greece The Trial of Socrates (399 BC) and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... thanks a gain ,,,