Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is deity, we find it again in woman’s destiny as “Mother of the Living.” The Spirit goes out of itself and enters into the creature as the begetting and perfecting fruitfulness of God; just so does woman bring forth new life from her life and helps the child to a most perfect development when he or she attains an autonomous existence.
So do we also find the Holy Spirit in all works of womanly love and compassion, inasmuch as it is the Holy Spirit, as Father of the poor, consoler and helper, who heals the wounded, warms the numb, refreshes the thirsty, and bestows all good gifts.
In womanly purity and gentleness, we find mirrored the spirit which cleanses the defiled and makes pliant the unbending; it abounds not only in those who may be already pure and gentle but also in those women who want to spread purity and gentleness about themselves.
This “gracious spirit” wants nothing else than to be a divine light streaming out as a serving love; nothing is more contrary to it than vanity that looks out for itself, and desire that likes to amass for itself. That is why the foremost sin of pride, in which vanity and desire coincide, is a falling-off from the spirit of love and a defection from feminine nature itself.
Every woman who wants to fulfill her destiny must look to Mary as ideal. The most pure virgin is the only one safeguarded from every stain of sin. Except for her, no one embodies feminine nature in its original purity. Every other woman has something in herself inherited from Eve, and she must search for the way from Eve to Mary.
Saint Edith Stein
Spirituality of the Christian Woman (excerpt)
Lectures to the Organization of Catholic Women, Zurich (1932)
Stein, E 2017, Essays On Woman, The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Book 2, translated from the German by Oben, F, ICS Publications, Washington D.C.
Featured image: The Soul of the Virgin Mary by an unknown 18th-century artist from Cuzco, Peru was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018 by a family from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The museum’s gallery label explains the painting’s rich symbolism:
The popular devotional subject known as the “Soul of Mary” visualizes the inner presence of the Holy Spirit and emphasizes the Virgin’s participation in the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary is represented half-length, holding the infant Christ in her arms, with the dove of the Holy Spirit over her heart. Surrounded by luminous clouds and haloed by cherubim, Mary’s upturned gaze is that of a soul in ecstasy. Her head is encircled by an inscription that includes the Christogram, IHS, and an intercessory invocation: For Mary, with Mary, and in Mary. In the foreground, a pair of winged putti present a cartouche inscribed with the prayer: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless his holy name. The painting would have functioned as an aid to individual prayer and contemplation.