Friday, September 9, 2016

Inclusive Language Welcomes All as Spiritual Equals ; Bible and Christian Tradition Affirm Feminine Face of God by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community, Sarasota, Florida
Our community in Sarasota, Florida, Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community uses inclusive language so that all feel welcome and included in a community of equals. Each of us is created in the divine image so we employ both masculine and feminine metaphors to describe Divine Presence.

God is love. Each person is the beloved of God so in our language we use words and metaphors that embrace a fuller and richer understanding of the Holy One in our midst. We know that God is not two guys in the sky and a bird!  God is pure spirit, not a male being.   Yet, in our Catholic worship and hymns, we often refer to God as exclusively male.  

While God is beyond all names and images,  every image we use is limited including father and mother. The Aramaic word that Jesus used, often translated as “Abba,” or “Daddy,” can also be translated as “Birther of Life.”

We try to avoid use of dominator or militaristic/war terms that reflect oppression of one group or by one person – including God – such as King, Master, and Lord.

Since women and men are created in the Divine image, we can use words and images from women’s experiences to express God’s compassion, love, and justice.  In the Bible and Christian tradition, there are female images of God. We utilize these metaphors in our liturgies.

Biblical metaphors including mother, midwife, womb of God, mother hen, baker woman, washer woman describe divine activity and help us experience the mystery of God in deeper ways as well as reflect the beauty, power and strength of the feminine face in God and in ourselves.  For example, saints like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, and Hildegard of Bingen wrote about the Wisdom of God as our Mother.

 Inclusive language fosters justice and aids in the  transformation of patriarchal structures that that have oppressed, and discriminated against women for centuries. The steady diet of exclusive masculine images for God and (for people) in the institutional Roman Catholic Church's liturgies contributes to a theology that views women as inferior. Official teaching claims that a priest must bear a physical resemblance to Christ.  Therefore women are excluded from  ordained ministry and decision making by the Vatican. 

In the Jewish tradition, the Spirit of God was described by the feminine image, “Shekinah,” which means “dwelling.”   Shekinah designates God’s presence dwelling among the people and is spoken in a number of texts.   (Exodus 25:8, 29:45-46).   The Shekinah, God’s powerful feminine presence, appears in light, cloud, and fire, accompanying the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness.  

The Greek word for Wisdom is “Sophia.”   The books of Proverbs and Wisdom in the Biblr personify the feminine aspect of God as a woman.   The Bible describes Wisdom as female portraying her as a mother, sister, female lover, hostess, preacher, a woman of strength, knowledge and justice.   She is part of the ongoing creative process.   “She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things for good.”  (Wisdom 8:1) (Proverbs 4:1,2,5,6).

According to a number of New Testament texts, Jesus is Sophia, the Wisdom of God.   In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus speaks words similar to Sophia.   Paul speaks of Jesus as the Christ, then identifies Christ with Sophia.  

“We are preaching a crucified Christ who is the wisdom (Sophia) of God.” (1Cor. 24-25).   The description of Logos in John is similar to the description of Sophia in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Sister Sandra Schneiders, a theologian, reminds us that “Christ is not exclusively the glorified Jesus, but the glorified Jesus animating his body which is the Church.   Christ said to Paul, ‘Why do you persecute me?’ (Acts 9:40) because the literal fact is that the Christ is composed of all the baptized.

This meant that Christ, in contrast to Jesus, is not male or, more exactly, not exclusively male.   Christ is accurately portrayed as black, old, Gentile, female, Asian or Polish.   Christ is inclusively all the baptized.”   (Schneiders, Women of the Word, chapter 2, p.54)

In a community that welcomes all as spiritual equals and promotes justice, our language reflects our belief and experience that each of us is the beloved of God and a reflection of the face of God in our world.  While no image or metaphor can  adequately express Divine Mystery, a variety of images for the Holy One will present a fuller and deeper reflection of the face of God in all. As Catholics committed to gender justice and equality in our church and world, it is imperative that we contemplate the feminine face of God and celebrate it in our inclusive liturgies. 

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP
www.bridgetmarysblogspot (http://w.bridgetmarysblogspot)
author of Delighting in the Feminine Divine, Heart Talks with Mother God and Exploring the feminine Face of God.

1 comment:

Jim Lauder said...

Lovely Bridget Mary, and a great reminder of why I never attend or can stand an Institutional Roman Catholic Mass!

Blessings and much love,