Receptivity to God, embodied in the form of woman, is humanity’s ultimate purpose. This is the telos of our existence—saying yes to divine grace and welcoming the inner metamorphosis it brings. Woman, then, is the representative human being before God; she carries the image of this receptivity to which all are beckoned, whether male or female.

Because we are unused to thinking about sex in symbolic terms, it is easy to misunderstand the argument. I am not here suggesting that all women must be mothers in the literal sense, or that women are more spiritual than men, or that men are more proximate to God. These objections forget that we are dealing with symbols—more specifically, a metaphor of the relation, not of God or humanity in isolation. Each sex is telling the same story of divine-human communion through the language of the body, albeit from two distinct angles.

Abigail Favale, citing Gertrude von le Fort. I would demur from Favale’s claim that only the Roman Catholic church can foster this symbolic, sacramental imagination (though I would be far from denying that they currently do so better than other churches).