Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jesus, Jeffrey John, and women

- The Touch by Ron DiCianni

My latest book from the library is The Meaning in the Miracles by Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John. I've only read a bit so far, but I thought I'd post a little from his chapter The Raising of Jairus' Daughter and the Healing of the Woman with a Haemorrhage .....


As evidence of Jesus' attitude to women, the healing of the haemorrhaging woman can hardly be overstated. In very many cultures and religions menstruation is still superstitiously understood as a cause of defilement, and as an excuse for the denigration, subjugation or exclusion of women. In the Jewish and Christian religions the pernicious understanding of menstruation as the curse of Eve has been used to justify the worst excesses and abuses of patriarchy, and worse still has contributed to lodging in the minds of countless women a belief in the badness of their own body and the moral inferiority of their sex. In some parts of the Christian Church women are still kept separate from men during worship, and denied Holy Communion during their period. The rite for the 'Churching of Women' in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer bears witness to the continuation of the taboo in our own country until relatively recent times. Nor has it disappeared. Astonishingly, it re-emerged in the debate over the ordination of women in bizarre suggestions that at a certain time of the month a woman priest might 'defile' the sanctuary or the sacrament.

It is a grim example of the Church's long ability to discount or neutralize the implications of Jesus' teachings. The healing of the haemorrhaging woman is one of many healing stories that demonstrate his will to welcome, embrace and include all the 'non-kosher' categories of people who were officially excluded by the prejudices and taboos of his own society: Samaritans, tax-collectors, lepers, persons with various deformities and sicknesses that rendered them 'unclean' -- and women. These were people who, according to Leviticus, were supposed to be literally hateful in God's sight. Instead Jesus declares them to be in God's special care. Just as the healing of the Gerasene demoniac shows Jesus cleansing the 'defilement' attached to the Gentiles and his will to include them in the community of God's children, so this healing shows Jesus throwing aside the irrational fears and inhibitions of his own culture, touching the supposedly untouchable, and welcoming her as God's beloved child. The cruel, irrational taboo about menstruation, with all its dark, destructive implications for women down the centuries, was cancelled in one warm and loving word. Alas, it has taken the Church twenty centuries to notice ....



Anonymous Sonja said...

Hey Crystal, have you seen this article in the Fall 2010 issue of Journal of Biblical Literature?

Candida R. Moss, β€œThe Man with the Flow of Power: Porous Bodies in Mark 5:25–34,” 507–19

It's really a fantastic, fresh take on that story. If you can't find it, I have a PDF of it that I can email you.

Also (off topic), have you ever read anything by Joseph Selling of KU Leuven? I just heard a talk by him last night, and it was fantastic. Todd Salzman (_The Sexual Person_) was one of his students.

7:09 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Sonja,

No, I hadn't seen the article by Moss, but managed to find it online - thanks.

Also hadn't heard of Selling, but found his faculty page - wow, he's written a lot of interesting stuff. At least one of his articles is online - The Polarity of Ethical Discourse.

Thanks for the recommendations - can't wait to read them :)

1:25 PM  

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