Specialized in the area of searching and finding Holy Spirit as God,the Mother
Developing a theology of the Holy Spirit as Mother
As Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza believes, to call God as father is to use a metaphor. God is not masculine, anymore than God is feminine! Jesus called God "father," but this in no way means that God the Father is a masculine being. God transcends such categories altogether. God transcends all our human perceptions and language expressions. On the one hand Scriptures testify to the freedom and transcendence of God beyond the adequacy of any human expression; on the other hand, God can be well expressed by both, masculine and feminine images.
In the Bible, the role of the Spirit is found in activities more usually associated with maternity and femininity in general: inspiring, helping, supporting, enveloping, and giving life. The way the Spirit acts is described in terms of feminine ways of acting. Of course, God is genderless, but the words we use to speak of God are words applied to humanity. The Bible uses both masculine and feminine terms to refer to God. The Spirit represents God’s maternal love and so acts like a woman. Jung Young Lee says that the personality of the Holy Spirit can be grasped more precisely with the image of the mother than with the other images. The unique fellowship of the Trinity can be understood better with the image of the Mother than with any other ideas of the Spirit.
The conception of the Goddess as Mother is as natural and vital as the conception of God as Father. To treat one’s mother as Goddess and Goddess as Mother is an Indian religious tradition. S.J.Samartha argues that in the Trinity it is the Holy Spirit who both relates and distinguishes the Father and the Son. He writes,
In as much as both the terms Father and Son are anthropomorphic symbols, to accept the Spirit as Mother is not so outrageous. Without the Mother, the symbols of the Father and Son remain meaningless because without the Mother the paternity of the Father and the legitimacy of the Son cannot be established. The Hindu tradition accepts the feminine aspect of the Divine as natural.
To reconstruct the theology of the Holy Spirit as Mother we have critically analyzed the traditional theology of the Holy Spirit and we found that the Patristic theology has limitations of their age and context. Their age demanded solving heresies particularly Pneumatomachism or Macedonism by which the divinity, equality and the personality of the Holy Spirit were denied. As the early Church faced the crisis, the Church leaders’ main intention was to theologically solve the heresies and save the Trinitarian faith of the Church. The Church leaders tried hard to make the Spirit a Divine and an equal member of the Trinity, but in their attempt, they failed to do justice to the gender of the Holy Spirit, besides the fact that the early Church was aware that the Spirit is feminine in Hebrew, Aramaic and also in Syriac.
Moreover the Church’s experience of the Holy Spirit as Mother was not considered. As the Church leaders did not include the experience of the Spirit in the traditional theology, their theology missed the female image of the Spirit. This negligence has further made them to fail to provide a relational metaphor, “the Mother” to the Spirit. There have been enough evidences to prove the Spirit as a female member of the Trinity. Augustine and Aquinas’ ideas of Spirit as Love in person or as a uniting link between God goes well with the appropriateness of the female imagery of the Spirit.
We have also discovered that the idea Holy Spirit as feminine have been accepted by some early theologians both the non-Syriac and Syriac leaders who stayed within canonical and Church perimeters. We have also found that there were two traditions in the early Church such as ‘the Spirit as feminine’ and also ‘the Wisdom as feminine’ to enable the idea that the Spirit is Mother. The identification of the Spirit of God with Lady Wisdom has at times in the Christian tradition led to the imaging of the Holy Spirit as feminine. An alternative interpretation of the divine Spirit as Mother was very much alive in early Syriac Church tradition, Syriac literature and also in the extra Biblical Nag Hamadi sources. It is so sad to note that there was also a deliberate attempt to change the feminine gender of the Spirit to either masculine or neuter because of the Latin and Greek influences on the Syriac Churches. Such history proves the universal truth that the group in power (male) does not depict God in terms of the group they are oppressing (female).
We have rediscovered and reappropriated by ‘reading between the lines’ of the writings of the Church leaders and the Niceo-Constantinople Creed in which we found the image of the Spirit as the Mother. But to our surprise the strong tradition, which speaks of the Spirit as Mother is completely ignored in the council at Constantinople while solving the heresy Pneumatomachism. In fact it would have been more easy and simple to solve the heresy if such voices and traditions were taken into consideration for the Spirit’s personality and equal divinity are readily available and explicitly assured by the recognition of the Spirit as Mother an equal term to that of the Father and the Son.
Against such patriarchal traditions that made the Spirit a male member of the Trinity for two thousand years, we have recovered the lost/forgotten truth that the Spirit is female and is our Mother as she was mother to Jesus Christ. We could find the continuation of such truth in the post Reformation theology in Count Nicholas Ludwig Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravian Church.
Since the traditional theology has been very much influenced by the male bias and built one sided by the male leaders to the extent of making the Spirit to lose her female identity, we have corrected it with all the wisdom of Feminist methodologies, and hermeneutics.
As every theology is contextual, we cannot look to the past and to the Church leaders for a relevant theology for us. Our time and context demand a theology that evolves from the present Indian Christian theologians as we struggle through the various problems of our time. Since God language has been all about human language and human description of God, our God language with regard to the Holy Spirit has been revised. As a result, we have reconstructed the theology of the Spirit as Mother on the basis of what we have recovered and the way by which women and the Dalits experience the Spirit a theology of the Spirit as an empowering Mother in the oppressive context of India.
While reconstructing we have taken into consideration both the Asian and Indian heritages. As Carol G.Young comments, the Spirit according to Asian Trinitarian thinking is known as “She”, the Mother as a female member of the Trinity. As the Church leaders’ tradition crucially played an important role to develop and shape their theology, our contemporary religious source of Sakti/Amman, which is liberative plays crucial role in developing the contemporary and relevant theology of the Holy Spirit.
In the Indian oppressed context, both women and the Dalits have been made powerless and further denied of their very human dignity by the Brahmanism, which is reinforcing patriarchy and casteism. Both the groups are convinced that the Dravidian Sakti tradition, which does not reinforce patriarchy and casteism, is helping them to reconstruct their full human dignity. Moreover this tradition has co related power with the female gender, the Goddess as Sakti/Amman in whom the women as well as the Dalits find their strength and their image. Sakti/Amman as the Spirit is meaningful and relevant to both the groups. The Sakti tradition that we discuss has exalted Sakti and personified her as the great Mother, the Amman.
P. Arockiadoss relates the Spirit as the Sakti of God and rightly says,
The religious consciousness of the Dalits is now challenging the Church to rectify its one-sided male orientation, as the Dalit culture is basically matriarchal. They have naturally tended to experience the divine as a maternal force, giving life, nourishing it, protecting it in situations of danger and death, and enabling it to grow and prosper. Their indigenous deities are primarily female deities. Because of their maternal orientation, the Dalits are closer to the sources of life: earth, air, fire, water, space, the fields, the trees, the body, etc. For them this is the realm of activity. The concept of an abstract spiritual realm is alien to them.
We must agree with Arockiadoss that the Dalit orientation condemns the male domination of the western Christian theology.
It certainly makes an opening to acknowledge the Holy Spirit once again as a feminine power and person. From Dalits’ perspective we can see the Holy Spirit as the Magna Mater, the matrix of all life. She is also a passionate mother ready to be engaged in cosmic wars against the powers and principalities to protect the life of her infants like the Dalits and their dwelling place, the earth.
Since the context of suffering and pathos of women and Dalits in India is indeed the substantive content of Christian theology we have interpreted the Spirit in our indigenous history. As the Dalit Sakti tradition gives a high place to women and reacts strongly against caste distinctions, we have considered it to interpret the Spirit in our indigenous history. The indigenous source, Sakti/Amman which is a radically different approach to the issue of power with the Christian spiritual sources in a renaming of the Spirit as Mother. As our main objective is to develop a theology of Holy Spirit as Mother, we have developed such a theology basing on the Indian Christian interpretation of Dalit Sakti/Amman as an empowering Principle, the Mother to empower both women and the Dalits in the context of oppression and dehumanization. Thus the lost image of the women and of the Dalits is restored by the development of a theology of the Spirit as an empowering Mother.
By reconstructing the theology of the Spirit as Mother we have reduced the excessive masculinity in the Trinity. We have paralleled the Holy Spirit as Mother to the image of God as Father and Son for the Spirit is Mother. With the correction of the Spirit as a female member in the Trinitarian God language God the Father, God the Mother and the God the Son, women’s image of God as female is explicitly approved. By giving the female personality to the Spirit we have assured of the feminine image of God and by so doing we have reassured the image of God in women.
Women can now relate and find their self-reflection and thus they regain the human dignity. As we aim to include women in the religious life of the Christian community, women are now assured that their female reality is not “feminine evil” but good and suitable reference point for God and the Church can no more define woman as inferior.
The Spirit Mother, who is creative, life-giving and death-negating power, raised Jesus from the dead still does the same things for those who believe in Christ. The Church, therefore, has to align herself with the Spirit in taking the risks involved in eliminating the gender discrimination. To correct the outdated male centered language and conceptualization of the Spirit the Church must appreciate and approve the theology of the Holy Spirit as Mother not only for the women but also for the spiritual enrichment of the whole Church.