A recent invitation to address a lovely spiritual community on Mother's day this year led me to remember an article I wrote for a local RC newspaper as a 28 year old teacher of adult religious education and graduate student at Colgate/Rochester Divinity School. I was passionately involved in the Women's Ordination movement and I'd been asked to write an article for Mother's day.
I enjoyed typing my own words off the yellowed newsprint copy I've kept all these years. It was like talking with a younger version of myself who liked formal biblical exegesis and was fiercely committed to the spiritual Feminine, who for me, since I was 21 and dreamed of Her before I knew Her, is called Howling Mary. I am very thankful to that lovely young woman part of me for caring so passionately about changing the Male only paradigm of recent but bloody history. It was fun remembering how steeped in Scriptural studies I was and letting those passages echo for me again.
This is what I wrote:
Wednesday, May 4, 1977
Article in Courier Journal
Adelita Menges, (Chirino again now, Menges was my first husband's surname)
(Ms. Menges is coordinator for Adult Religious Education at Blessed Sacrement Parish and a member of the Rochester Regional Task Force on Women in the Church.)
God as Mother? A Biblical Reflection
How appropriate it is to talk about God on Mother’s Day is not immediately clear. Yet should we not examine in the light of Biblical faith our worship of God? Have we made for ourselves a graven image God, all masculine, all male?
The Scriptures teach that God is not a glorified human being, male or female. “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:9) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Is 55:8) It is this understanding that governs the use of either masculine or feminine metaphor in Scripture.
In Israel’s patriarchal culture, the masculine pronoun was used regularly to denote God. In Scripture, however, there are many qualities of God that are reflected with decidedly feminine imagery. Feminine imagery illustrates the nature of God’s relationship to Israel in the Exodus and Wanderings. God is like a mother to Israel who provides food and drink for pilgrim Israel in the desert.
Moses poses this rhetorical question of the Lord; “Did I conceive all these people? Did I bring them forth, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries the suckling child to the land which thou didst swear to give their fathers?” (Num 11:12) No, it was God that conceived Israel.
Second Isaiah also depicts God liberating Israel from Babylon as a woman giving birth to a child. “How I will cry out like a woman in travail. I will gasp and pant…” (42:14). Third Isaiah further employs the maternal metaphor for God: “Shall I who causes to bring forth shut the womb? Says your God.” (66:9).
“As one whom his mother comforts so I will comfort you.” also is in Third Isaiah (66:13) It is within this tradition of God as the mother of Israel that Jesus in the Gospel of Luke depicts himself calling to his unheeding people; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I longed to gather your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused.” (13:34).
The biblical witness with its rich mixture of masculine and feminine symbol, exhorts us to obey the commandment to make no graven images. (Ex. 20:4). We witness in Scripture god acting as Mother and Father, creating and redeeming, giving birth to and protecting Israel. Yet God is not male or female. These are all symbols, metaphors that we can use to describe the way God acts towards us.
On Mother’s Day, then, it is fitting that we should pause to reflect on the Scriptural revelation of God as Mother. God taught Israel to walk, lavished love on this people and fed them . (Hos 11: 1-4). In our human experience, it is often our mothers who perform such caring acts for us. Why should we exclude this maternal quality from our own understanding of God?
Surely there are those of us who long to know a loving and tender God who delights in our joys and comforts us in our sufferings.
I no longer choose to address the Goddess; the Feminine Divine, within the Christian religious paradigm, but I am so very grateful to my 28 year old self for laying the foundation in me that she has. It is really nice to feel her around again.