Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Compassionate Mother: part 6

I have been exploring the use of gendered pronouns for the word, the spirit, the exemplary Christian, and so on. In spite of the fact that the spirit is grammatically feminine in Hebrew, Aramaic and early Syriac, I am not suggesting that the spirit is essentially feminine, but rather that the spirit is not essentially masculine.

God, the creator, and God, the spirit are without sex; but in a gendered language they must be referred to as either masculine, feminine or neuter. The spirit is all three in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. As Doug writes,
    I think we need to address the tendency that creeps into some prayer forms (especially) to make the Spirit the feminine side of God. Doing so seems to me to not only introduce the concept of gender into the Godhead (which is beyond gender), but to have the unfortunate side effect of reinforcing Father and Son as essentially masculine terms. I think that a careful use of feminine language about God has its place, who like a mother feeds us with the milk of the word. I just think that we should not confine such language to the Spirit.
Here is the very next segment from Fire from Heaven by Sebastien Brock, page 255,
    As was observed earlier, female imagery is by no means restricted to the Holy Spirit, and on occasion the term 'Mother' is applied to the Godhead, without further specification, as in the following beautiful passage from Jacob of Serugh.

      (God) created creation, and like a compassionate mother (yaledta)
      he carries it, his hidden power acting with strength;
      just as a mother does not grow weary of her son, so God never gets weary,
      for a mother's compassion is bound up in love for her child.
      The Godhead is indeed a compassionate mother (emma),
      and he carries the world like a child, in great love.
Update: Damien contributes to the discussion here linking to Rachel Barenblat on this topic.

1 comment:

Damian said...

Suzanne - I missed this post. Very interesting (although Fires of Heaven is a bit expensive for me to afford a copy of to peruse ;-). I really appreciated Doug's posts on the divine Mother in Anglican tradition.