Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Heresy of the Year

There was one heresy that came up so many times this fall semester at Boston College, I am giving it the heresy of the year award. That heresy is calling God Mother. This little oddity, found occasionally in the early Church, was rejected as time went on. People like Julian of Norwich did it, as well, but she was never canonized. Her theology is not endorsed by the Church. In charity, I simply presume that as a mystic, Julian was having a lot of powerful experiences and having trouble communicating them. Pope John Paul the First also once called God Mother, but popes are not impeccable. He did not succeed in getting into any Church document his views on this matter.

I think the reason this idea is so prevalent at Boston College is because people do theology from the ground up instead of top down, in the manner in which our Lord came to us. Many times people think that we call God Father because He is like an Earthly Father. This is false. "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). Our Earthly fathers are named after our Heavenly one. Similarly, our true mothers are Holy Mother Church and Blessed Virgin Mary.

I do sympathize with feminists who are confused on this matter. Many of them say that we have lost the feminine in God. They make a very important point that God is actually the fulfillment of male and female. The Catechism says, “In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman” (370). Both of us are made in His image. Doing theology from the bottom up is what causes the confusion and when this happens, we are making God in our image. Sadly, some members of the Boston College theology department openly admit that they do theology bottom-up.

Looking at the Trinity, we see how the Father loves the Son freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, and the Son receives this love. The Son is called the Son because the Word Incarnated as man. However, in the Trinity, the Word takes on a feminine role. Similarly, feminine imagery is used in Scripture for God. God is like a mother-hen or a woman looking for a lost coin.

However, God is masculine in relation to us. We, the Church, the Body of Christ, are the bride of God. Jesus is the bridegroom. We see this imagery in the Song of Songs. In the conjugal act, the man actively puts something and leaves something in the woman, and the woman actively receives. This is the image we use with God’s grace. If we freely open ourselves up to it, God will pour it into us. In his interactions with us, God acts as loving parent and as masculine. We have only one masculine parent: the Father.

How we pray will reflect how we think about God. This principle is called lex orandi, lex credendi (as the Church prays, so she will believe). While we sometimes address God by other titles, “Lord” and “Savior” for Christ or “Creator” for God, these are functions. Father is not a function. When we pray, though, even if we emphasize one of God's other roles, Jesus commanded that "Father" be an essential part of our prayer. Whatever else God may be, we must understand Him as Father. It is important we not call God “Mother” or any members of the Trinity “she” as this goes against the specific instructions of Christ, even if we don’t understand fully how calling God these things will affect our thought belief.


Athanasius contra mundum said...

I remember once parying the Liturgy of the Hours with a groups a Benedictine Sisters who started the Lord's Prayer by singing "Our Mother, Our Father who art in Heaven..."

BCatholic said...

As I've said, this is a misguided error that should not imitated.

BCatholic said...

I just noticed that in the Diary of Saint Faustina that she calls Jesus "Mother" many times. In the context, this makes sense. She clarifies on occasion that He is "like" a mother but she is not trying to make a theological statement about Who God Is. She is explaining how she experiences His love. God has not forgotten her.

While many radical feminists may claim that they are just explaining how they experience God, they do attempt to make their experience a public statement of theology. This is doing theology bottom up, the same error that I originally condemned. Emotional experiences are hard to put into words. Theology is something revealed. There is a subtle and yet important difference.