Our Mother Who Art In Heaven
(First some Excerpts from an article by Richard Owen in The Times, London September 10, 1999 )
THE Pope, who this year said that God was not "an old man with a white beard", went a step further yesterday and referred to "God the Mother".
The Pope praised the "vital role" of women in the Roman Catholic Church, and talks with reverence of his own mother, Emilia, who died when he was nine in Poland. The Pope is also a devotee of the cult of the Virgin Mary, although she is
referred to as the Mother of God, and not as a God Mother, since she does not share the divinity of God and Christ.
Speaking to pilgrims in St Peter's Square, the Pope said God had both a male and female nature.
Reflecting on the forgiveness of sins, he said: "The hands of God hold us up, they hold us tight, they give us strength. But at the same time they give us comfort, they console and caress us. They are the hands of a father and a mother at the same time". The Pope said the parable of the prodigal son reflected this dual nature, with the father in the story disciplining his son and even throwing him out, but later welcoming him back. The pontiff said the capacity to forgive those who repented was, if anything, more a female trait than a male one.
Theologians said that in admitting that God had a "feminine side" the Pope was conscious of a remark made by his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who in 1978 astonished pilgrims by remarking that God; was "the Father, but is also the Mother".
(End of excerpts)
Perhaps, but the Pope could have been thinking of the prophetic passage where God speaks of rescuing Israel as an orphan of a battle and giving suck to him or Is 66:22: "Like a son comforted by his mother / will I comfort you."
For Zion was saying, Yhwh has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me'. Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Is: 49:14-15:
It has been said that from the Point Of View of most of the Christian world, any attribution of femininity to the Godhead would be regarded as heretical. Many extremely conservative Roman Catholics and others of similar views are furious at Pope John Paul II for stating that God isn't an old man with a white beard."
These trends were always battled by the theologians, but living in a persistently antimystical society their ideas have always been denigrated by the popular media. Indeed, I've read many monastic teachers who anticipated Jung in
insisting that until the monks could become aware of their feminine side (or "anima" in Jung's words) they couldn't approach the ecstatic union with the deity. Indeed, many representations of the Deity by the Hermetic Christians are quite deliberately androgynous -- as any perusal of an illustrated alchemy text will demonstrate.
Another point which has been proposed to me (and I don't intend to defend it for a second, it's not my idea and in my researches I haven't found but a few scraps of evidence forit, okay?) is that the opposition to the image of "Goddess" was initially in order to distinguish the cultus of our Deity from those which required temple prostitution and attendant incest. Once culturally established, as many experiments with other creatures have shown, such behaviors originally adopted for exigency's sake become very difficult to eradicate and even hazardous (as the opposition to John Paul II
shows) for others to challenge.
This does not in anyway affect popular belief of course. Most Christians here aren't orthodox, and even most of the orthodox are hardly so deeply involved in their faith to use it adequately to critique the culture. So along comes a leader and points out something uncomfortable, and gets trashed for it! Many of you probably don't remember Rev. King in the days before Johnson et al. He got much the same kind of abuse due to his stand on his chosen moral agendas. Most Christian Churches of the affected area were as prejudiced as their culture. Indeed there were riots when the Bishop of New Orleans insisted on integrating churches and schools then. Even a local schism!Same old, same old -- the church culture is as prejudiced now about women, but from a historian's viewpoint, those ramparts seem to be about as stable
Don't worry, I'm sure that popular media will be as adamant about how badly John Paul II hates women anyway.
However, the debate existing at the level of such traditional offices as the Papacy itself would indicate that those of us who think of the Christian God as a masculine construct and entity have missed some serious points. For those of us who are committed to joining with the Anima Mundi in nurturing the environment (which is a fancy way of saying to engage in nature based spirituality) this becomes a major concern. How would God, Our Mother, feel about the things we've done with Her garden?
As long as the dialogue about God was dominated by males, then many of the scriptural hints were overlooked and in modern (remember, for me, anything since Francis Bacon in the 1200's is "modern") translations, that oversight has been compounded. Now I don't have my interlinear texts and textually expanded Bible anymore, so often I won't be able to quote specific verses for you, but there are some major considerations to be posted.
"Elohim" which is one of the oldest "names" for God is a plural female form. It is this form, for instance which is the antecedent of the famous and important passage in Genesis 1:26: "Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves ...." Quite bluntly, this clearly implies that God the Trinity, for instance, is as readily Matron, Maid, and Crone as it is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Another major consideration in the discussion of the feminity of the Deity must be found in the many, many references to the "Spirit" of God. In Hebrew, the word is actually "Breath" and similar roots are present in both the Latin and Greek words used to translate it. In Hebrew, this "Breath" is most often mentioned using the feminine form of the word. Now there are those who proclaim that the Holy Ghost is the focus of feminity in the Trinity. The orthodox would argue that all members of the Trinity are equally male and female indeed that they radically transcend the whole dynamic.
Ms. Holy Ghost, however, receives further reinforcement from the "Wisdom" literature in the Old Testament. There, "Wisdom" is portrayed as lover and spouse of humanity. In Proverbs 5:17&f she is presented as: "the wife you married in your youth, fair as a hind, graceful as a fawn,Let hers be the company you keep,hers the breasts that ever fill you with delight,hers the love that ever holds you captive."Indeed, the next verse reveals a very, very frequent theme of the prophets too, that turning from proper worship to false gods is adultery. Now if the "son" commits adultery when committing idolatry, then it stands to reason that God is the true wife!!Isaiah 54:6: "Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit, / YHVH calls you back."
This kind of rhetoric has led to the building of churches like Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom now the great mosque of Istanbul). It has also led to the cult of Sophia as the Bride of God which is popular among neo Gnostic strains of Christian Esotericism. Further, much of the poetical rhetoric of the scripture about Sophia was applied quite early to Mother Mary. Ironically, on the Tree of Life of QBL, Wisdom is given as the Sephiroth of the primal Father. Also, there was much speculation among patristic writers that Sophia was incarnate in the Logos, and the Logos was Jesus! For instance, in Proverbs 8:22 & F, Wisdom is pictured as the creator yet also the oldest and first created and also as the first born of God's begotten. Still here, she is woman.
"I was by his side, a master artisan,
delighting him day after day,
ever at play in his presence,
at play everywhere in his world,
delighting to be with the sons of men." (Pr 8:30-31).
Once again, the Deity transcends our gender concepts!
There is an ancient prayer of the Latin Rite called the Minor Doxology or the
"Gloria Patri, et Fili, et Spiritu Sancti.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
per omnia saecula saeculorum.
Or (loosely) in the vulgar:
"Glory is Thine, O Father; and Thine, His Son; and Thine, Their Holy Spirit:
For as Thou wert in the beginning, Thou art now and ever shall be;
Unto all the ages of ages.
So Mote it Be!"
I've often proposed a rewrite which runs something like this:
Glory is Thine, Eternal Parent;
and Thine, Ever-begotten Child;
and Thine, Their Sacred Breath:
For as Thou wert in the Beginning,
Thou art now,
and ever shall be:
Unto all the Ages of Ages.
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