Through Spiritual Sisterhood, the New Eve Consoles the First Eve and Her Daughters
We as women all have a some of Eve in us, but the Lord also wants to make us full of grace like the New Eve.
My gaze strayed from the tabernacle of the third-floor dorm chapel toward the view out the window of the campus below. I recalled the autumn half my life ago when I moved onto this campus as a freshman in college, eager and ready to encounter the Lord — to commit my life fully to him as I began my liberal arts education.
I know that my college experience was unique, one in which I spent hours in prayer, attended daily Mass and formed friendships in Christ that will last a lifetime. And as I prayed this past summer in the dorm chapel during a summer conference I attended at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I thanked the Lord for the gift of spiritual sisterhood he has given me in my life. There is something unique in the gift of sisters, united in helping each other, ready to heal each other’s wounds, that makes present the reality of the Blessed Mother as the New Eve.
St. Anselm wrote about Eve’s fallenness needing the obedience of the Blessed Mother in his work Why God Became Man:
For, as death came upon the human race by the disobedience of man, it was fitting that by man's obedience life should be restored. And, as sin, the cause of our condemnation, had its origin from a woman, so ought the author of our righteousness and salvation to be born of a woman.
There is something unique for women in having healing brought to them by a woman.
Several years ago, my older sister gave me an image of the Blessed Mother and our First Mother, Eve. The women are framed by a vine of fruit. Eve’s head is bent in sorrow as she holds the fruit, her long hair covering her body with a serpent coiled around her leg, while the pregnant Mary, the God-bearer, reaches out in consolation with her foot crushing the head of the serpent. The one who rejected the help of grace is redeemed through the intercession of the one who is full of grace.
As I reflect on the moments of sisterhood in my life, I realize that so many times I have been Eve in that image. I have fallen. My shame surrounds me. Temptation ties me down. I have been hurt by sin, and I do not know how to accept the Lord’s healing grace. But then a sister in Christ, be it my biological sister or a friend, comes to me, bringing Christ’s presence. They are God-bearers in my life. They make the sisterly love of the Blessed Mother real to me. They are full of grace like her. They say their fiats to the Lord to allow Christ to be made present in their lives, to bring him to others.
I have experienced this in the late-night conversations with my sisters as teenagers, in healing prayer sessions with my college household “sisters,” through playdate conversations with other moms, during women’s prayer group meetings, in various book clubs, in coffee dates with friends, through meals after a miscarriage, in encouraging texts and from spiritual bouquets. These women have all been like the Blessed Mother to the sorrowing Eve for me. And on the contrary, I see how the Lord has allowed me to be full of grace for other women.
Christina Rossetti (who penned the lyrics for the Christmas Carol In the Bleak Midwinter) wrote in her poem Goblin Market:
For there is no friend like a sister In calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, To fetch one if one goes astray," To lift one if one totters down, To strengthen whilst one stands.
Perhaps these experiences ring true in your life or perhaps you long for them to be so. As women, we need to turn to the Blessed Mother and ask her to help us be open to the grace of the Lord’s presence through other women. We have something unique to offer each other, a common experience of fallen womanhood, but in our Blessed Mother we can also experience the healing power of obedience to God’s will in our lives.
This is my encouragement to women: Go out and seek a place of genuine Christian community with other women. Join a women’s group at your parish, seek out a Well-Read Mom book club, jump into a WINE group or Endow study, host a Blessed Brunch in your area or arrange for a coffee date with a friend. There are so many ways for us to support each other as women, so let us look to the Blessed Mother and Eve and model our sisterly support off them. We all need the healing power of the Blessed Mother’s fiat, which gives us hope to our daily reality of the disobedience of Eve.