Saintly Feminism & Martyrdom

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”  (Genesis 1:27-28)

“… there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28 )

The Martyr Julitta at Cesarea (ca 304AD) is remembered on July 31.

Julitta was a wealthy woman and because of the on going persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, secretly a Christian.  Her life and martyrdom were written by St Basil the Great who offered this account of her martyrdom:

A wealthy man trying to take advantage of the fact that she was a woman wrongfully seized a good deal of her property.  When Julitta took  him to court to regain rightful possession of her property, the man exposed to the court that Julitta was a Christian.  The judge told her if she wanted to regain her property she would have to deny Christ and offer incense to an idol.  Julitta refused and was sentenced to be burned to death.  According to St Basil the Great, the Martry offered her final words to some other women standing nearby: “We are made of the same stuff as men.  We are made in the likeness of God just as they are.  The woman is made by the Creator to be just as capable of virtue as men.  How is this so?  Are we not related in every way?  For not only was the woman made by taking flesh from the man, but also bone from his bone.  Do we not then have the same obligation to the Lord as men, to be as constant in courage and patience?

St Basil concludes with this exhortation:  “I say to you men: Do not fall short of the example of this woman in your piety!  And women: Do not prove yourselves weaker than her example, but hold fast to your piety without excuses, through hearing her story.  Do not permit a soft nature to hinder anyone from doing good.”

(St Basil the Great, ON FASTING AND FEASTS, pp 110-111)

A Theology of Woman

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From one of Cyril [of Jerusalem]’s statements, we might cull a starting point for a theology of woman:

At first, the feminine sex was obligated to give thanks to men, because Eve, born of Adam but not conceived by a mother, was in a certain sense born of man. Mary, instead, paid off the debt of gratitude: she did not give birth by means of a man, but by herself, virginally, through the working of the Holy Spirit and the power of God.

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Cyril seems to want to say that the Blessed Virgin restored woman’s dignity, reestablishing her position of equality with regard to man and ennobling her role as mother. Mary’s response to God, who spoke to her through the mouth of an angel, reminds women that they, too, are partners, not only of men, but of God himself.

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The prestigious catechist of the Jerusalem Church, through his simple, spontaneous, and lively style, tries to make his disciples understand that the figure of Mary is essential to understanding the mystery of Christ. God, incarnate and made man, appears in all his mysterious divine-human reality and in his glory as the Savior of men only if he is presented alongside his Mother, from whom he received the body that made him Emmanuel, God-with-us.”

(Luigi Gamero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 139)