A number of women were seen nudging their husbands in the ribs during the first reading at Mass yesterday, the 33rd Sunday of the year.
A perfect wife – who can find her?
She is far beyond the price of pearls.
Her husband’s heart has confidence in her,
from her he will derive no little profit.
Advantage and not hurt she brings him
all the days of her life.
She is always busy with wool and with flax,
she does her work with eager hands.
She sets her hands to the distaff,
her fingers grasp the spindle.
She holds out her hand to the poor,
she opens her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty;
the woman who is wise is the one to praise.
Give her a share in what her hands have worked for,
and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.
Why is it that ‘woman’ is the image of wisdom in the Writings of the Old Testament? Why the perfect wife that is singled out here?
Is it because socially, politically and economically women were marginalised in Semitic culture? And thus the ‘surprise’ quality of their at least equal virtue was a help in teasing even men’s minds to a fresh appreciation of what the metaphor proposed?
Or is it that in the areas of life that women were ‘sentenced’ to there were more opportunities to realise the virtues of the community and the family that men sought to defend (or were they defending the potential vices of these?) through politics, manufacture and trade, and military might?
- Who are the poor among your neighbours? What makes them poor?
- Who are the needy among your family? What is it they have need of?
Plaque commemorating the UCM in St Johns Wood (c) 2013, Allen Morris.