By Monica Migliorino Miller
Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller is a professor at Madonna College. She has written extensively on the subject of women in the Church, including in her book The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church.
Christ executed His first miracle because someone requested it. But this someone is not just anyone—it is His mother. It is precisely because Mary is Christ’s mother, the source of His presence in the world, that she has the authority to request a miracle that would lead her Son to His Passion. Mary possesses this authority because it is tied to her maternal role in the economy of salvation. As the Mother of God she has been entrusted with aiding Christ in His salvific work. She can send Christ to the Cross because she is the source of His priesthood and thus she has a maternal right to nourish its fulfillment. Indeed, Mary has not only the right, but the responsibility to do so.
When Mary leads Christ to the Cross, she undoes the knot of Eve’s disobedience. Eve led Adam away from what it meant for him to be a man and to be the head. Eve brought Adam under the power of her own whim. She misused her feminine power which, as St. John Chrysostom in Homily IX stated, led Adam astray from the will of God. The New Eve uses her authority to lead the New Adam, not to do her will, but to accomplish the will of the Father who sent Him.
This is a key element of feminine authority. Feminine authority is meant to lead men to fulfill what it means for them to be masculine and to fulfill the specific tasks and responsibilities with which they are entrusted in the order of creation and redemption. At Cana, Christ subjects Himself to Mary in the accomplishment of His Father’s business. Or perhaps we should say that Christ, through the mediation of Mary’s maternal authority, discerned and then subjected Himself to the will of the Father. She is the New Eve, the true and effective helpmate of the New Adam.
The essence of woman is to have authority over the divine gift of life. Because of this, Mary is the source of the New Covenant. The Protogospel tells us that this is the meaning of woman. Woman as “mother of all living” was indispensable to the beginning of creation, so too she is indispensable as the source of the new beginning.
The woman of the Protogospel is the woman who will stand at the foot of the Cross on Golgotha and be a true “mother of all living” through the sacrificial offering she makes as the second Eve. The suffering of the woman is an essential part of the work of salvation: “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen 3:16). These words apply not only to Eve but also to the New Eve who became the Mother of the Church and of all Christians.
At Cana, Mary is entrusted with the task of ushering her Son to His hour. But the hour is also hers. The pain of Genesis 3:16 that belongs to the woman is scripturally linked to the pain of the Cross. In the farewell discourse of John’s gospel Jesus states:
When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. (John 16:21)
Salvation’s drama is linked to the work of the woman. The woman who instigates Christ’s first miracle is the same woman present at the hour of His death. Unfortunately, many bibles translate Christ’s words to His mother as “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4–5). Such a translation seems to indicate that Jesus places a separation between her seemingly minor concern and His salvific mission. However, the original Greek text literally reads, “What is this to me and to you, woman? My hour has not yet come.” Here we see that Jesus, rather than treating Mary as an outsider or someone removed from His hour, actually includes her in it. The hour is not just the hour of the Son. It is theirs. Mary is a partner with Christ in His work of redemption.
The feminine, life-giving power permeates salvation history, bringing it about from the very Beginning. When Christ describes His death in terms of a woman engaged in the painful labor of childbirth, the Protogospel is placed at the center of His Passion. Here on Calvary the woman gives birth to the offspring that will crush the head of Satan. Thus the hour of Cana is the woman’s hour as well as Christ’s. Mary’s “fiat” has brought herself and her Son to the Cross. Both of them have accepted the meaning of the Incarnation. At the Cross Mary’s maternity is ultimately fulfilled. There she becomes the mother of all those reborn through the blood of the New Adam.
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Examining one of the most divisive issues today, The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church details the role of women in the covenant of salvation. Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller defines authentic feminine authority with the support of Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, contemporary theological insights, and historical witnesses to the role of women in the Catholic Church.