Priestesses in the Church, C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis took this subject head on, long ago in his essay entitled “Priestesses in the Church”. Just because the sharp old Anglican said it doesn’t make it right, but as far as his assertions about the Church of England, the route they desired to go, and the ultimate outcome, he was smack on. In fact, the wider Anglican Communion has been thoroughly impacted by this, and continues to be.

I find these statements near the end to be very intriguing…

This is what common sense will call “mystical”. Exactly. The Church claims to be the bearer of a revelation. If that claim is false then we want not to make priestesses but to abolish priests. If it is true, then we should expect to find in the Church an element which unbelievers will call irrational and which believers will call supra-rational. There ought to be something in it opaque to our reason though not contrary to it-as the facts of sex and sense on the natural level are opaque. And that is the real issue. The Church of England can remain a church only if she retains this opaque element. If we abandon that, if we retain only what can be justified by standards of prudence and convenience at the bar of enlightened common sense, then we exchange revelation for that old wraith Natural Religion.

It is painful to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer. Only one wearing the masculine uniform can (provisionally, and till the Parousia) represent the Lord to the Church: for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him. We men may often make very bad priests. That is because we are insufficiently masculine. It is no cure to call in those who are not masculine at all. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse tile roles. He may make a bad male partner in a dance. The cure for that is that men should more diligently attend dancing classes; not that the ballroom should henceforward ignore distinctions of sex and treat all dancers as neuter. That would, of course, be eminently sensible, civilized, and enlightened, but, once more, ‘not near so much like a Ball’.

That perhaps the reason men were identified, and chosen as representative of Christ to the church and in marriage, was exactly because in the natural we are not. Cannot be. That in our Adamic, unregenerate state we fail miserably. And that for a man to successfully model Christ, minister to God’s people, as Husband, Minister, or Priest, is a true manifestation of a living relationship and changed life. A new nature.

Mystery and Revelation, like seeing through a glass darkly.

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