Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ruah Elohim

"Again (v., 27), how could Adam (and Eve) be made in the image of the Elohim, male and female, unless the Elohim were male and female also? The word Elohim is a plural formed from the feminine singular ALH, Eloh, by adding IM to the word. But inasmuch as IM is usually the termination of the masculine plural, and is here added to a feminine noun, it gives to the word Elohim the sense of a female potency united to a masculine idea, and thereby capable of producing an offspring. Now we hear much of the Father and the Son, but we hear nothing of the Mother in the ordinary religions of the day. But in the Kabbalah we find that the Ancient of Days conforms himself simultaneously into the Father and the Mother, and thus begets the Son. Now this Mother is Elohim." (

When I met my husband, I asked him if he had a religion (big question for a first date!). He told me that he practiced Kabbalah, which I had never heard of, so of course I was intrigued. Kabbalah is basically Jewish mysticism. I found a book about this religion so that I could understand what my new boyfriend was into. In Kabbalah, the Tree of Life provides the framework for understanding spiritual levels of being and the nature of God. It's very complex, but the idea that captured my imagination was the explanation of the Hebrew word Elohim, which in English is translated as God. God is obviously a singular word, but when God speaks the words, "Let us" in the creation story of Genesis, we get a glimpse of the trinitarian nature of God, God in three persons. In Catholic tradition, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both as the Love generated between them. But this begetting and proceeding is a simultaneous process, not a temporal one-after-the-other. I see the Spirit as the "Mother Love" of the Trinity.

 Mary and the Holy Spirit

As the initial, quoted paragraph above states, Elohim is comprised of a masculine plural added to a feminine noun. When I contemplate Catholic writer Thomas Merton's theology that Holy Wisdom (Sophia) is the Ousia of God, God's primordial essence of being, and that Sophia is inherent to (contained in) all three persons of the Trinity, the meaning of the word Elohim is perfectly crystallized. The Spirit of God is pictured in the creation story, hovering over the waters like a mother bird over her eggs, as the divine power of generation. In Hebrew, this person of the Trinity is named Ruah Elohim. As I have discussed before, Ruah is a feminine word. We find in Ruah Elohim, who is the Holy Spirit (Ruah Ha-Kodesh), the manifestation of the maternal aspect of God. The Holy Spirit is Lord, as the Nicene Creed states, not because the Spirit is particularly male or masculine, but because the Spirit is a divinely equal member of the Trinity along with the Father and the Son, both of whom Sacred Scripture calls "Lord".

It has become increasingly apparent to me that the Lady Wisdom of the Bible fleshes out, so to speak, the nature of the third person of the Trinity. Rather than remaining a kind of impersonal, ambiguous entity running the risk of becoming the marginalized member of the Godhead, we see clearly in Sophia the bridal-maternal character of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if we consider the profound indwelling of Mary by the Spirit of Wisdom, especially as articulated by St. Maximilian Kolbe, we can comprehend the basis of Marian devotion as a reflection of the intuitive understanding that the mission of the Holy Spirit is accomplished particularly through the Mother of God.

Kolbe goes so far as to say that Mary is a "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit, while being clear that this relationship is not the same in nature as the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures of Jesus, who is fully God and fully man. Mary is purely human, but Kolbe sees Mary as the ultimate sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, in as close a relationship as is possible of the strictly human with the divine. Mary does nothing apart from the Holy Spirit. Kolbe teaches that Mary's soul is completely permeated with the Holy Spirit, so her being is in perfect harmony with the mission of this Spirit of Wisdom. According to the saint, this is why Mary could call herself the Immaculate Conception at Lourdes. Because the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception, Mary is the created Immaculate Conception. Therefore, veneration of Mary reflects adoration of the Holy Spirit.

It is also important to note that this inseparable union between Mary and the Holy Spirit does not obliterate Mary's unique personality and essential qualities as a human being. Because she was from her conception free from sin, Mary could most completely experience God's grace and achieve the holiness that the Spirit worked, and continues to work, in her. Precisely because she is not bogged down and separated from God by a sinful nature, Mary can be that much more Mary. I think that one reason people are so drawn to the Blessed Mother is that we quest for the "authentic self", in pop psychology terms. We see in Mary a fully actualized human being. This is the goal of all mystics who desire unity with God. The more we have Christ in us, the more our true selves we become. By losing ourselves we find ourselves, as Jesus taught his disciples about Life. 

At RCIA on Sunday, the teacher talked about prayer and its nature as a personal relationship with God. She said that we can focus prayer to any of the members of the Trinity, in whatever way brings us closer to God. She spoke of being initially confused about the Holy Spirit, but that she is now a "Holy Spirit person".  I shared my use of the Hebrew name Ruah for Spirit in my prayers. I find it very beautiful, and for me at this time in my journey, Ruah Elohim, such an eloquently poetic name, is my preferred call to God. It fills my imagination with an image of God that is both Father and Mother, with a focus on the immanent, maternal Presence (Shekinah) of our Holy Creator.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Simple Marian Devotions #2

At our local Family Dollar I can buy Catholic, glass jar candles for a couple of dollars. I have one with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. The prayer reads, Merciful Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, show clemency, love and compassion to those who love you and search for your protection. May the sweet fragrance of roses reach your divine son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that he may hear our prayers. Wipe our tears and give us comfort and assistance. (concentrate on your desires). Amen. 

As a simple devotion, you can light the candle and say the prayer, adding your special needs and petitions. I have the candle burning right beside me as I write this. I am also listening to "An English Ladymass" on CD, which contains 13th- and 14th-century chant and polyphony in honor of the Virgin Mary. The lyrics are in Latin, so I don't understand them, but the women's voices are glorious, and the music is calming. I borrowed the CD from my library system and have others on the way. You can play music such as this and meditate upon the love and intercession of our heavenly Mother while making dinner, folding laundry, writing in your journal, or practicing yoga.

Today I went for a walk in the woods with my 8-year-old daughter. Luckily I had my Rosary in my purse, and I recalled how John Paul II had a regular practice of walking in nature while praying the Rosary. I got through most of the Luminous Mysteries before we had to go. There is something about a moving meditation that is especially gratifying.

 Pope John Paul II

I usually pray for a particular intention at the start of my Rosary recitations. Sharing our smallest worries and our deepest needs and sorrows, as well as our joys, hopes, and dreams, truly honors our Holy Queen. And we can trust that she will present them as the most fragrant and lovely bouquet of roses to her divine Son. In honoring her, we honor our Lord.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why God Is Called Father

"A good book to read concerning power, authority and the politics of language is The Church and the Culture War by Joyce A. Little (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1995).
On page 148 of her book, Joyce Little discusses God as Father.  'Now the God of Israel is Holy (Psalm 99). The word "holy" is rooted in the word "separated" (1 Chron. 23:13). God, being pure Spirit, has a certain "separation" or otherness to His material creation. This otherness of God is further revealed when He sent His only Son to the world instead of Himself. Even though we are created in His image, God the Father keeps His distance from matter to a certain extent. For this reason, the title "Mother" is not appropriate for God, since the words: "mother" and "matter", are etymologically related (Latin root: mater-). God is not Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Also mothers during pregnancy are biologically joined to their child, but fathers are physically separated. Even though fathers love their children, there is still a certain degree of distance as compared to mothers. Once again this "separation" of father from child is related to the "separation" (Holiness) of God from creation. The God of Israel is called Father not because He is male, but because He is Holy' " (from the online article, "Mother God" @

The above excerpt is one of the best explanations I have encountered regarding why God is specifically called Father. Though the Bible often uses maternal images to impart understanding of the nature of God, it never calls him "Mother".  Little's theology echoes that of George S. Montague in Our Father, Our Mother, with the idea that the male image of fatherhood reflects God's transcendence. While God is equally our Divine Mother, his official title, Father, is connotative of his separateness from creation; that is, we humans are not divine and neither is anything else in the material world. However, God does dwell among us in the 3rd Person of the Trinity, known as the Holy Spirit, who is often especially understood in bridal-maternal terms. But it is Mary, in her complete union with this Spirit of Wisdom, who best reflects the immanence of God's motherly nature. It is she who has been revealed, by Church Tradition through the Holy Spirit, with the titles Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to manifest for us an image of the sacred feminine by which we can most adequately experience God as daughter, bride, and mother.

 Madonna of the Rosary - Murillo

Using the traditional language, Jesus' incarnation as the God-man can be understood most simply by virtue of his having a divine Father in heaven and a human Mother on earth, making him both fully human and fully divine. His existence as a human being illustrates that we can literally see our Father God in him, and also glimpse God as Mother through his own Mother, Mary, for she is the Mother of God. The way Mary loves Jesus is the way God loves all of his children like a mother. And she also represents the divinized state of being to which we aspire, when we too will inherit a glorified body and live eternally with God as his children. Mary reigns as our Mother, our Sister, our Queen, our Intercessor and Advocate. She is the Mediatrix of All Graces, working in complete harmony with the Holy Spirit of Wisdom who dwells within her to bring about our salvation, not in an equal way to her Son, but uniquely with him.

It still hurts sometimes, this overwhelmingly masculine language ascribed to God. Why is the motherhood of God so hidden? I believe it is because Wisdom, the Sophia at the heart of God, who is equally part and parcel of all Persons of the Trinity, is the Holy of Holies. Without Mary, we just can't get at this mystery at all. Without Mary, the Christian story is truly impoverished and lacking in the fullness of our beautiful faith. Brothers and sisters in Christ, fully embrace God as your Father, for it is a privilege granted to us by our Savior, and also fully embrace Mary as your Mother, for she is Jesus' sweet and holy Gift of Love. With Mary, our family is complete.