Marcus Aurelius could never…

Even the greatest theologians proceed with trepidation when contemplating those deepest and obscurest mysteries of the faith. Finite men already struggle to understand the infinite God, and mortals quake when considering that the immortal God died. So then, with trembling and humility, with racing heart and sweaty hands, I will attempt to meditate on one of the greatest mysteries (somewhat) known to mortal man: mortal woman. Despite being confronted with the reality of women for twenty-three years, I find that I am only capable of making three conclusions confidently. I have also found that this meditation is quite difficult without theological training (which is, after all, rightly called the queen science).

Firstly, men must be apophatic theologians when contemplating these mysteries. God is mysterious to man, not because He is illogical, but because man is finite. Likewise, women are mysterious to men, not because they are illogical, but because men are finite. So then, the apophatic theologian approaches God’s grandeur with humility, willing only to say such few things as “God is not subject to the passions as I am,” or “God thinks, but in a different manner than I do.” The apophatic man may come to the same conclusions. Though it may be dissatisfying to know so little, this method has proven far safer than the empirical approach. After all, it was the great Aristotle who believed that men possessed more teeth than women (see History of Animals 501b).

Secondly, a son’s relationship with his mother is ripe for contemplation. Despite the mother’s role as giver of life and first nurturer, there nonetheless comes a time in every son’s life when he grows distant from his mother, finding her strange and difficult to understand.  And yet (with Hans Urs von Balthasar) I dare to hope that every son will come to realize that he has never experienced a more selfless love than the maternal kind. Every mother confronts her son with the reality that he came from nothing but was given life, that he has been loved but has turned away, and that he deserves justice but is given mercy. The natural order imitates the divine. (This being said, there are many things about mothers which the sages do not yet understand. The impulse to scrapbook, for one … Perhaps God can be said to scrapbook?)

Finally, how might we begin to understand that fundamental paradox of human nature, that the two sexes share one nature, but, especially in that Wild West of adolescence, nothing feels more alien and otherworldly to a middle-school boy than a middle-school girl? I can say only that these two truths mysteriously coexist: 1) We find the absence of certain virtues in the sexes especially unnatural; we are especially dismayed by the man who lacks courage or the woman who lacks meek and tender love. And yet, 2) history’s perfect man was not only courageous in facing his death, but radically meek and tender in living his life; and history’s perfect woman was not only meek and tender in raising her son, but radically courageous in offering her fiat.

Twenty-three years of meditation, and I can only come up with 400 words. Perhaps this is above my pay grade—I’ll go back to thinking about ducks…

James Whitaker is a graduate student in the Theology department and the proud son of a mother. Although he is the Humor editor, he wanted to write something especially earnest this issue in light of this week’s events. If you feel that you are still owed something more humorous, every reader is entitled to 1 (one) punny dad-joke. Request yours at

Photo Credit: Matthew Rice

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