Sunday, 20 September 2009

Virtue, Manliness and Femininity

Father Blake published an interesting post recently on the subject of Christ as the role model for manly virtue:

It can be illuminating to stand back from a word and think about its etymological origins. Most of us can see that, while the word virtue is generally understood to mean strength, and specifically moral strength, its root is vir, meaning a male man rather than a generic human being. The first meaning of the Latin word virtus is manliness. I like that!

Did the ancient world associate the concept of virtue only with masculinity? Others will know more about the subject than I do.

This train of thought led me on to the idea of masculinity and femininity in relation to God. We are accustomed to the linguistic convention whereby the masculine expression encompasses both male and female. But it is interesting to reflect on certain words, and the concepts behind them, which apply to both sexes but are expressed in the feminine. Most relevantly here, I am thinking of the soul.

I love the following, spoken by Ransom in C S Lewis’s That Hideous Strength:

“What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”


gemoftheocean said...

Hi Dorothy (thanks for the visit to my blog, I did answer you back on the thread you posted on).

You might find this post of mine on this topic of interest, regards the root word "vir" and use as applied to women.

Dorothy said...

Yes, Gem, that was a very interesting passage. I have never had any problem about applying the traditional masculine imagery to my own life, and it doesn't seem to have hindered the great female saints. A big thing was made from - I assume - the 1960s, about women feeling excluded by the use of these terms; but I suspect their motivation was political rather than spiritual.

berenike said...

I've always wondered about men feeling excluded by the use of Christ-spouse-of-the-soul imagery ...