- In our modern context it is of some interest to recover that awareness - today all too often lost - of the feminine aspect of the Godhead, and it is here that the early Syriac tradition is of particular interest; here we find an openness to the use of female imagery in connection with the Godhead which is rare at other times and in other traditions. It is important to realise that this imagery is equally used of the Father and the Son, even though in the following pages our attention will be focused solely on the Holy Spirit, in whose case the feminine grammtical gender of ruha, "spirit"no doubt encouraged the use of such imagery.
In a certain number of writings from the general area of north Mesopotamia, in both Greek and Syriac, we have specific references to the Holy Spirit as a 'mother. Two such passages, one from the mid fourth century Syriac writer Aphrahat, 'the Persian Sage". and the other from the unknown Greek author of the 'Macarian Homilies' (on the spiritual life), take as their basis the interpretation of Genesis 2:24, 'a man shall leave his father and his mother'. Thus Aphrahat writes:
- Who is it who leaves father and mother to take a wife? The meaning is as follows: as long as a man has not taken a wife, he loves and reveres God his Father and the Holy Spirit his Mother, and he has no other love. But when a man takes a wife then he leaves his (true) Father and Mother.
- It is right and fitting, my children, for you to have left behind all that is temporal, and to have set off for God: instead of an earhtly father, you are seeking the hevenly Father, and instead of a mother who is subject to decay, you have a Mother, the excellent Spirit of God, and the heavenly Jerusalem. Instead of the brothers whom you have left, you now have the Lord who has allowed himself to be called 'brother' of the faithful.
Not only is the trinity of mixed metaphorical gender, but there is a pair of Father and Mother, parallel terms, although one could argue that the Father is supreme. However, the Son is mentioned in a seemingly subordinate position to Father and Mother. If there is hierarchy, or perhaps one should say order, in the trinity, clearly this tradition views this order in quite different terms than the Greek tradition.
It seems that if there is hierarchy in the trinity it is related to the values of the metaphorical components of the imagery used to relate to God, and it does not necessarily communicate anything about actual relations in the Godhead.
That is, the Godhead is in reality neither gendered nor hierarchical, but we use these images to communicate something about God. The trinity can be talked about both as an all masculine cohort of Father, Son and Spirit; and as Father, Mother and Son. The image is not the reality.
Fire from Heaven, page 251