Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Divine Feminine

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 -- Week of 5 Easter, Year One
Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, 1870
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 962)
Psalms 61, 62 (morning)       68:1-20(21-23)24-36 (evening)
Wisdom of Solomon* 10:1-4(5-12)13-21
Romans 12:1-21
Luke 8:1-15
            * found in the Apocrypha

I am struck again today at the divine feminine imagery that the author of Wisdom uses so lyrically to express the presence of God in the lives of so many of Israel's notable ancestors.  Today's chapter speaks of Sophia's role in guiding Israel through history, protecting and separating God's people from wickedness and peril.  In each story mentioned -- of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Joseph and Moses -- it is Sophia who is present and active.

Adam -- "She protected the first-formed father of the world, ...she delivered him from his transgression and gave him strength to rule all things."

Noah -- "When the earth was flooded because of (Cain), wisdom again saved it, stirring the righteous man by a paltry piece of wood."

Abraham -- "She... recognized the righteous man and preserved him blameless before God, and kept him strong in the face of his compassion for his child."

Lot -- "She rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities."

Jacob -- "When a righteous man fled from his brother's wrath, she guided him on straight paths; she showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him knowledge of holy things; she prospered him in his labors, and increased the fruit of his toil...  She protected him from his enemies, and kept him safe from those who lay in wait for him; in his arduous contest she gave him the victory."

Joseph -- "She descended with him into the dungeon, and when he was in prison she did not leave him, until she brought him the scepter of a kingdom and authority over his masters.  Those who accused him she showed to be false, and she gave him everlasting honor."

Moses -- "She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, and withstood dread kings with wonders and signs.  She gave to holy people the reward of their labors; she guided them along a marvelous way, and became a shelter to them by day, and a starry flame through the night.  She brought them over the Red Sea, and led them through the deep waters;  ...for wisdom opened the mouths of those who were mute and made the tongues of infants speak clearly."

The Wisdom of Solomon is written in Greek and is strongly influenced by Hellenistic thought.  Sophia is the Greek personification of wisdom, both as a philosophical category and as referring to the wisdom of God.  In this book, the work of Sophia/Wisdom is not unlike the work of the Holy Spirit as Christians have developed our own Trinitarian doctrine. 

The word for "spirit" in Hebrew is "ruach" -- a feminine noun.  The Greek word for "spirit" is "pneuma" -- a neuter word, that also means breath or wind.  The Latin word "spiritus" is masculine.  The spirit is the life giving spirit or soul, the rational principle and wisdom, the breath of life, and source of power.

There is something appealing about using the Hebrew feminine word "ruach" and the Greek feminine personification "Sophia" to imagine the life-giving presence of God.  Some Christian devotion to Mary as the Mother of God has similar qualities to the praise of Sophia that we find in the Wisdom literature. 

There is something about feminine energy that is nurturing and embracing, fierce and powerful.  Many parts of Christian tradition have suffered from the lack of the feminine aspect of the divine.  Since the twentieth century there has been a rich tradition of reclaiming our ancient roots in the divine feminine, and Sophia imagery has been part of that.  I find that I rarely use the pronoun "he" anymore when speaking of God. 

When I think of the Holy Spirit, I generally imagine a a feminine quality to God's presence.  Flowing, nurturing, enlivening, inspiring, breathing, energizing, guarding, guiding, teaching, strengthening, loving -- deeply loving.  



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 12:23 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Lovely thoughts - I like the word fierce in your list of adjectives/attributes.

There is a sacred feminine image of Kali, the Hindu goddess, dancing the life/death story that always reminds me of Jesus, though her sculpted image is far from his..

It may all be about harmony - in the divine image as well as in the human image.



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