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.

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