Male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:27 Jerusalem Bible
The mystery of gender. Yes, the mystery, because it is in mystírion that we encounter the living God. What makes a mystery, I should rather ask, what or who makes a sacred mystery? For ‘mystery’ is the Greek equivalent of the more common term ‘sacrament,’ which comes from Latin.
The Church tells us what the mysteries, or the sacraments, are, but that is just a starting point, one entrance into the Eternal. The mystery of gender is the root of the mystery of marriage, ‘why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body’ (Genesis 2:24).
In the Orthodox marriage service there are no vows. Why not? Because what the Church does in the person of the priest, who is himself in the person of Christ, is bless the union of a man and a woman whose shared being has already and secretly been attained in another mystery, that of love.
In the sacred mysteries we encounter God Himself, the Divine and Holy Triad, Father, Son, and Spirit. How can this be? There is no explanation of how, only that it is true, and proven true by participation. Outside of that, it is impossible to know what a sacred mystery is, only to believe it as a doctrine.
In the mystery of gender we encounter the living God who, though one in essence, does not remain alone, because His essence is love, which by its very nature and eternally exists as Lover and Beloved, and in time and space manifests as the universe, all that is, seen and unseen, and as man and woman.
In the mystery of marriage we encounter on a smaller scale and up close to us, in fact as us, the living God who has become one of His creatures in Christ Jesus, and we experience His love for us, His eros, and partaking of it, our eros, our love for our spouse, is revealed as holy, and is perfected and fulfilled.
Within this shared experience, the joining, the becoming ‘one body’ is no mere metaphor, but the reality, and all the good that comes from it is only a foretaste of théosis, the union of the soul with God, while whatever disrupts this joining on earth is called ‘adultery,’ no matter what form it may assume.
‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate’ (Genesis 2:18). Not chronologically, but existentially, the male precedes.
At this point, every modern, even Christian, objects firmly, having been taught the equality of the sexes. But it is not because the Bible story makes the male precede the female that it is true, but rather that the visible creation, evolving over eons in the palms of God’s hands, unfolds in exactly this way.
In other words, those who think it is progressive to reject the Biblical accounts, mythic though they be, actually rebel not against words crafted to enforce male dominance, but against the truth of all natures inanimate, animate and human, which evolution itself proves despite our philosophical wishful thinking.
Orthodox tradition in presenting newly-weds with the ikons of the Christ and the Theotokos can be interpreted: The man receives the ikon of the Christ holding the Book. The woman receives the ikon of the Theotokos holding the Child. Man begets children in woman, and woman begets wisdom in man.
Again, ‘idealism’ is the complaint against this mystery by those who wish to refashion mankind in their image, taking the place boldfacedly of the living God. Yet, they cannot fight against evolution which most claim to believe in, which the Creator unleashed and by which the nature of all things unfolds.
Again, we are not being dragged along behind a train of man-made laws and customs designed to benefit one gender over another. Most males and most females exhibit male and female natures, but not all. We cannot use the Bible to inhibit or imprison people. It tells us what is, not what must be.
There are some men who have female natures, and some women who have male natures. This too is part of the evolutionary process by which the Creator unfolds all natures in time and space, and we have seen examples of it all through history, some glorified, some punished, whether wrongly or rightly.
‘There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can’ (Matthew 19:12).
He who spoke these words knows everything about us, and He alone is the Word of God. His mercy to us and all humans is generous, and He waits patiently for us to catch up with His mercy. And though He runs on ahead, always, He wants us to catch up with Him, to catch Him, so He can embrace us and say,
‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ (Matthew 25:21).