Thursday, 30 April 2015

Robert Parks: Augustine and Proba on the Renewed Union of Man and Woman in Christ's Humanity and the Church

In her Virgilian Cento, Proba (c. 322-370) agrees with what seems Augustine's (354-430) negative view of women. For her, Eve is "especially unlucky" (line 200) and "head and cause" of sin's results (264), including the break in original human unity. Augustine once writes of women as helpful to men only in procreation (On the Literal Meaning of Genesis 9, 3.5-9). After Christ's resurrection, Proba finds "companions" (661) who "joined hand in hand," united by Christ (679). Set in a humanity renewed, from her position now in Christ-that is, in the Church-she can admonish other members of the Church, her "companions," and her husband, to keep "the holy rites" (689-94). Augustine addresses the necessity of the Church's women for his role as bishop. He cannot be a good bishop without them and the support they offer, especially in prayer (Sermon 340.4). Original equality between men and women is now renewed. Augustine sees himself as one with women in Christ/Church: "For you, I am a bishop, with you, ... I am a Christian." That he was "bought together with you gives me more pleasure than my having been placed at your head" (Sermon 340.1). He needs women in order to be himself. For both authors, Christ/Church empowers women in the humanity Christ assumed: His humanity (not merely maleness) unites men and women in a new humanity at play even in the Church's messiness as its members, men and women, grow together in love and service to each other.

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