I’ve been thinking a lot about the advice singles often hear: guard your heart. Good advice, and I will write about it later, but that advice has got me thinking about receptivity. Reading Alice von Hildebrand, Edith Stein, Pope St. John Paul II and others, receptivity is mentioned as a feminine gift. If it is a gift, it must be good, right? If it is good, then I’m glad to have it… but I realized I haven’t really thought about what the gift actually is. I’d like to share a few thoughts about the gift of receptivity – unfinished, still seeking thoughts, and hope to hear from you what this gift means to you.
Receptivity is a feminine quality. I think it is so, because physiologically, a woman is receptive, and the soul mirrors the body. Caryll Houselander writes of this so beautifully in The Reed of God. “It is the purpose for which something is made that decides the material which is used.” And, “Whatever we are gives form to the emptiness in us which can only be filled by God and which God is even now waiting to fill.” Our bodies are receptive, made to take into ourselves that which is given us. It is true physically, and because we are body and soul together, also true spiritually. This is not to say that men are not receptive – they are in their relationship with God, for instance – but when they are, they are using a feminine quality according to their masculine design.
Receptivity is active in that it is taking into ourselves something given by another. It is a deliberate action. It also requires assent – I must consent to it and allow it, or else refuse it. We are not receptive to a thing forced upon us – that is violation.
Receptivity is also passive in that we allow something to be given to us – we surrender to it. Somehow it means resting in God. The perfect example of this, of course, is Mary’s Fiat: Be it done unto me according to your word. Being receptive requires trust!
It is being open and available to something or someone. It is to be a vessel (taking from The Reed of God, again) or a bearer, and so to receive something there must first be a corresponding emptiness to contain it.
To open yourself to another is a loving act. God is love. He made man and woman in His image, so we are made in, and for, love. What we receive from God, then, is love. God initiates that love, and we receive it, then give it back again. (We cannot give what we have not already received.)
Whenever I think about gifts of femininity, I tend to try to see how they are only feminine. If men do it too, then it can’t be feminine, surely? Or if it is indeed feminine, then I should probably walk around all day thinking, “I am receptive… I am receptive… See how receptive I am? That was a very receptive moment.” I’m starting to see that the gifts we all have are feminine or masculine in nature, not that they are the strongholds of one gender or another, and each of us expresses them in our own unique way. I’m trying to relax into the gift itself and appreciate the fruit it bears in my life. Alice von Hildebrand writes of early feminists being “totally blind to the beauty of receptivity – a metaphysical attitude which gives birth to gratitude, a key virtue so often forgotten in decadent societies.”
Thank you, loving Father, for the gift of receptivity and the virtue of gratitude.