By Patricia Ranft (auth.)
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Extra info for A Woman’s Way: The Forgotten History of Women Spiritual Directors
The difference between the two conclusions is the acknowledgment of the influence the women’s spiritual direction had on Gregory. If he were the sole figure we could turn to for proof, the argument would indeed be weak. Such is not the case, however, for the other two Cappadocian fathers, Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, provide similar evidence. Both received spiritual guidance from women, and both believe that salvation transcends divisions of gender and class. We have already heard Gregory of Nyssa’s testimony about how the spiritual direction Macrina gave Basil at that key moment of young adulthood radically affected his life.
She discussed the future life, as if inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that it seemed as if my soul were lifted by the help of her words away from mortal nature and placed within the heavenly sanctuary. And just as we learn in the story of Job that the saint was tormented in every part of his body with discharges owing to the corruption of his wounds, yet did not allow the pain to affect his reasoning power . . similarly did I see in the case of this great woman. Fever was drying up her strength and driving her to death, yet she refreshed her body as if it were dew, and thus kept her mind unimpeded in the contemplation of heavenly things, in no way injured by her terrible weakness.
75 Rarely do we associate such a balanced approach to life with the spirituality of the period, and we cannot help but wonder whether this failure to do so is due to our concentration on male spirituality. Fortunately, their contemporaries were more open-minded. Granted, all these reports are narrated from male voices who were personally influenced by strong women spiritual directors, but this merely reinforces our thesis that women exercised significant influence on the shape of their society and on certain men in their society who, in turn, were very influential.
A Woman’s Way: The Forgotten History of Women Spiritual Directors by Patricia Ranft (auth.)