Feminine Symbols for God

One of my favorite spiritual writers, Richard Rohr wrote this. I understand his language, but I don’t speak it. Probably because I sat at the feet of an intellectual father who tried to pass down his understandings of life, science, history, literature etc. This article is about important things for all of us to understand and appreciate, but it is written in a language that probably at the most 25 % of our population could or would even try to read.  What we need in our democracy is translators. It’s vitally important right now. At 85, I’m getting mentally erratic, so I doubt that I qualify, but I feel like that may be why I am still here, so I am going to try harder.

I also, have experienced praying and sharing with groups of women together who were of all denominations.  We focused on the love of God expressed in Jesus and in the challenge to grow able to love as Jesus did.  We can bond across our differences.

Feminine Symbols for God

“Both Scripture and Tradition offer metaphors of God as female, having feminine qualities, or fulfilling traditionally female roles. This week, we consider the implications that the Divine Feminine has in our lives. Father Richard describes Mary as a feminine symbol for the divine presence:

Although Jesus was a man, the Christ is beyond gender, so it should be expected that the Big Tradition would have found feminine ways, consciously or unconsciously, to symbolize the full Divine Incarnation and to give God a more feminine character—as the Bible itself often does.

Why did Christianity, in both the East and West, fall head over heels in love with this seemingly ordinary woman Mary, who is a minor figure in the New Testament? We gave her names like Theotokos, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Notre Dame, La Virgen of this or that, Nuestra Señora, Our Mother of Sorrows, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Our Lady of just about every village or shrine in Europe. We are clearly dealing not just with a single woman here but a foundational symbol—or, to borrow the language of Carl Jung (1875–1961), an “archetype”—an image that constellates a whole host of meanings that cannot be communicated logically but is grounded in our collective unconscious.

In the mythic imagination, I think Mary intuitively symbolizes the first Incarnation—or Mother Earth, if you will allow me. (I am not saying that Mary is the first Incarnation, only that she became the natural archetype and symbol for it, particularly in art.) I believe that Mary is the major feminine archetype for the Christ Mystery. This archetype had already shown herself as Sophia or Holy Wisdom (see Proverbs 8:1–3; Wisdom 7:7–14), and again in the Book of Revelation (12:1–17) in the cosmic symbol of “a woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.” Neither Sophia nor the woman of Revelation is precisely Mary of Nazareth, yet in so many ways, both are—and each broadens our understanding of the Divine Feminine.

Jung believed that humans produce in art the inner images the soul needs in order to see itself and to allow its own transformation. Try to count how many paintings in art museums, churches, and homes show a wonderfully dressed woman offering for your admiration—and hers—an often naked baby boy. What is the very ubiquity of this image saying on the soul level? I think it looks something like this:

The first Incarnation (creation) is symbolized by Sophia-Incarnate, a beautiful, feminine, multicolored, graceful Mary. She is invariably offering us Jesus, God incarnated into vulnerability and nakedness. Mary became the symbol of the First Universal Incarnation. She then hands the Second Incarnation on to us, while remaining in the background; the focus is always on the child. Earth Mother presenting Spiritual Son, the two first stages of the Incarnation. Feminine Receptivity, handing on the fruit of her yes. “

Eileen: I am terribly afraid that women of today in our desire for the freedom and power to use our gifts and be our personal selves in our current American culture may be losing the gifts of the Feminine. But perhaps that will free men to accept the feminine in themselves and even for our culture to accept that the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual feminine and masculine can come in either bodily incarnation.

About Eileen

Mother of five, grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of five. 1955 -1959 Rice University in Houston, TX. Taught primary grades; Was Associate Post Director of Religious Education at Ft. Campbell, KY; Consultant on the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator, Was married for 60 years to an Architect in Middle Tennessee.

Posted on August 11, 2022, in The feminine spiritual gifts. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This rings so true, and is beautifully expressed. Eileen, I share your fears – in the effort to emancipate ourselves, in many cases we have emasculated men and defeminised women.

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  2. berghane@optonline.net

    I agree with everything you say. I receive a meditation from Richard Rohr each day, but I’ve given up reading it. At 85, I don’t need archetypes and Jungian wisdom, even though I studied Jung when I was “Junger”. But as exciting as that was, today I don’t want to think about God and my role as woman. Today I need to be held in God’s arms, filled with love, cuddled like an infant, feeling cared for and able to face tomorrow because God is in charge and I trust I will never be abandoned.

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  3. Catterel, My family as far as I’ve been able to tell has four generations of gays. I can trace them back on both sides of my family. It’s not dominant, so I’m guessing it’s a trait that is recessive. I now have a trans grandchild. When I was reflecting on Rohr’s article, it hit me that maybe humanity is actually evolving to a time when gender gifts will be widespread and not identifiable as connected to only one gender!!! Often change comes with birthing pains and some violence. I weep for my trans grandchild who is suffering. But maybe it is a Jesus kind of suffering calling us to not only change, but love.

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