Saturday, March 17, 2012

God and Gender

God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature...God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman; he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard... In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband. -CCC 239, 370
"Yet it is kind of hard for us to conceive of a Being Who is both Father and Mother, since we are used to having two separate parents: a woman as a "mother" and a man as a "father". Also, the image of a Father/Mother deity is androgynous, and not everyone is comfortable with that. So God has chosen to reveal Himself primarily as "Father" and to reveal the "divine maternity" primarily through Mother Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary" (from the Mystical Rose website.)

 The above explanation reflects my previous writings on the subject of God and gender, the Father and Mother metaphors, and Mary's place in understanding the feminine face of God. This description makes sense to me, but I have still sometimes lamented that there is no explicit name given to the Divine Feminine. Holy Wisdom, or Sophia in Greek, certainly is depicted in many Biblical references as a mother and co-creator with God, who was with him and created by him before the creation of all else, and is his delight. She is infused within all of creation, a sort of "Mother Nature", if you will. But I don't know if she can be considered divine. As I have expressed before, she is not a member of the Trinity, but she is a feminine spirit who seems to emanate from the Holy Spirit. I realize I still have much more Bible reading and research to do on the subject of Sophia!

Sophia under the Arm of the Father

I have also suggested before that the Holy Spirit seems to me to be primarily feminine, just as the Mystical Rose page explains that God has chosen to reveal himself primarily as Father. I want to be careful not to contradict any Church teachings on this matter. In the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit is called "Lord", and both the Church and the Bible use "he" and "him" when referring to the Holy Spirit. So I will not refer to the Holy Spirit as "she" or "her" myself. It seems that most often the Spirit of the Lord is referred to directly by his name in the Bible, without the use of any pronouns at all. God is imaged many times using motherly language yet is always called "him", so it makes sense that references to the Holy Spirit as "he" are consistent.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost

My fear is that the very use of exclusively masculine terms for God can have the effect of many people thinking that God is male only, especially those not familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and those Christians who do not venerate the sacred feminine in the person of Mary, or even recognize "Church", or Ecclesia, in the feminine way that Catholics do. This uneasiness with terminology may be residual, habitual Protestant thinking on my part, something that will hopefully work itself out as I continue my journey to the Catholic Church.

It is perhaps incorrect for me to understand the Holy Spirit as primarily feminine as I have done, as God is pure spirit, and the persons of the Trinity can't really be split into fractions of masculine and feminine. Jesus is a male person obviously, yet he represents all of the perfections of both man and woman, though not all of the functions of woman, of course. He was a perfectly balanced human being who did not value either the masculine or the feminine over the other. And it seems that his intention was to give his human mother to us, to be as immanent a representation of the motherhood of God as possible, rather than revealing to us a divine Mother along with the divine Father.

Nevertheless, I think it is fitting to reflect on the motherly images of the Holy Spirit, and to conceptualize this person of the Trinity in equally masculine and feminine terms, perhaps giving more consideration to one aspect or the other depending upon the Bible story or specific situation, whichever contributes best to one's spiritual growth at any particular time. So I hope that clarifies what I have said, and where I am at, regarding these mysteries of the nature of God.

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