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The “privilege of being a woman” that the 1st Easter shows us


Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 04/08/23

These inspiring women show their extraordinary closeness to Christ during his Passion and, as Alice von Hildebrand notes, the "privilege of being a woman."

The story of the first Easter can become so familiar that it no longer brings the sense of awe, shock, wonder, and amazement that it brought to the first Christians.

One thing that can help is to picture ourselves in the scenes of the Gospel story. We can envision the people and settings of the Bible and imagine that we are there, beside them, watching it all take place, contemplating each figure in turn.  

I’ve reflected at times on the men in the Easter story. St. Simon of Cyrene, St. Joseph of Arimathea, and St. John, among others, showed admirable support for Jesus during and after his Passion.

Now I’d like to turn some thought to the women in the story too. Their role is so important and thought-provoking for all Christians.

In fact, the role that women play in the Easter story highlights what philosopher Alice von Hildebrand called “the privilege of being a woman” in her book of that name. She wrote, 

As soon as we abandon a secularistic interpretation of the Bible, we can perceive that, from a supernatural point of view, women are actually granted a privileged position in the economy of redemption.

These women’s roles in the Easter story show their extraordinary closeness to Christ during his Passion.

St. Mary of Magdala

St. Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the Risen Lord. Von Hildebrand writes,

The first witness of the resurrection was a woman: Mary Magdalene. Typically enough, the apostles refused to believe her testimony … She knew that she had been privileged to see the risen Lord and did not try to justify herself. She knew the One she loved would defend her by appearing to those whose faith had faltered … She knew He was the conqueror of death, now a triumphant victor. Mary Magdalene believed more strongly because she loved more.

The women who had followed him from Galilee 

Several women (“the other Mary,” Salome, Joanna, and others) traveled with Jesus and supported his ministry. They did not flee his Passion, as most of his disciples did, but followed the Way of the Cross and were present when he died. Von Hildebrand writes,

Simon of Cyrene did indeed help carry Christ’s cross, but St. Luke tells us explicitly that “he was forced” to do so. The holy women certainly envied Him: How they would have welcomed the possibility of partaking physically in the sufferings of the one they loved so ardently. 

The mourning women

“The women of Jerusalem weep over the fate of the Holy One unjustly condemned to death while the soldiers brutally mistreat Him,” von Hildebrand writes. Their weeping highlights a holy compassion and concern for others.

St. Veronica

One of the few people to offer a gesture of kindness during Christ’s Passion, St. Veronica is a powerful example of how even the smallest act of love is always worth it.

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Of course, Our Lady played an all-important role. She stood with Jesus as he died, and it was into her arms that they laid his broken and lifeless body. Von Hildebrand writes,

The fourth station pictures the Savior meeting His beloved mother; not a word is said about this heartbreaking encounter, but the faithful are challenged to meditate reverently upon this scene of ultimate love and ultimate sorrow which renders words meaningless. 

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