Hope is a classically trained musician, trumpet, a reader, a mother. She insists on having her own voice, making her own live music. When we married thirty-five years ago, she discovered my taste in music was dodgy and she began my lessons. This has been good, if sometimes hard, and now band, orchestral, and other forms of music I did not love before marriage are loved now.
She is a good and patient teacher.
One of her most difficult lessons was to pull me out of one sort of narrow feminism and teach me to love the patriarchy and matriarchy while fully affirming the equality of men and women. She agreed with Carol Gilligan that there were different voices, male and female, and that both needed to be heard as they were. She did not agree that roles, particularly artistic, iconic roles, needed to be the same. As a Christian, she embraced the patriarchy and matriarchy, fundamental categories with beautiful differences, that any careful reader finds in the Bible and in sacred history. She gloried in the role of the fathers and the mothers of the Church.
Hope refused to flatten the voices, simplify the music, to meet my philosophic demands. She anticipated twelve male patriarchs and apostles found in Saint John’s revelation sitting with the High Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God. Like any thoughtful musician, she knew there were exceptions, glorious crush notes, to any rule, but expected mostly harmony between male religious leaders and female religious leaders. Our priests would take us to the altar, imagining the Christ, and our sisters would proclaim the truth as the women did on Holy Pascha.
She had room for Nina, an equal to the apostles, who was not an apostle, but who faced down rulers, saved a nation, and worked miracles. She refused to make Nina’s voice “equal” or the “same.”
This was irritating to me, very difficult to understand. Of course, anyone reading the texts of Scripture without prior bias, or special pleading, must either sit in judgment on them from the perspective of our times since they are not egalitarian or admit the differences in roles can be just.* The pagan world of the New Testament gloried in women religious leaders, the early Church was not surprisingly more like God’s Chosen people than the pagans: priests were men. Religious roles varied between the sexes. Tradition and Scripture, as read by almost all Christians in almost all places at almost all times, agree with her wisdom.
Hope pointed to the variety of powerful roles, teaching, ruling, speaking that should and must hear both voices and how truncated and terrible anything becomes without openness to those voices. Imagine a church without the wisdom of the Magnificat or the example of holy women such as Elizabeth, new martyr, Saint Theodora, Empress, or Saint Damaris! Hope refused any simple solution and kept pressing forward toward the good God and this example inspired (and inspires!) me.
I was wrong and she was right.
We keep dialoguing, reading, growing. Happy Anniversary Hope!
*As an exercise go to a list of all the women mentioned in the New Testament. Note how many are named or even speak on religious topics as a leader. Read any basic account of religious roles (not family, not politics) in the Greek and Roman world for women. Compare. QED.