Mother-Father God

We lean on Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation again for thoughts on a challenging point: gender identity. Rohr writes:

I know I am taking some risks writing about Feminine Incarnation. There are certainly limitations to the construct of binary genders. God and Christ are beyond gender, and all humans are a blend of masculine and feminine traits. But because Western Christianity and culture have primarily worshipped male images, I believe it’s important to reclaim and honor female wisdom. Whether you identify as a cisgender man or woman, are trans or non-binary, I hope this week’s reflections will help you see aspects of yourself that may have been ignored or suppressed.

I draw from my own encounters with God, my mother, sisters, and many women friends and colleagues over the years. And I’ll share insights from several women I deeply respect. I hope these perspectives invite you to trust your own experiences with the divine feminine. For many, it is an utterly new opening, since most Christians falsely assumed that God is strictly masculine even though there are numerous descriptions of a mothering, feminine God throughout the Bible.

In spite of patriarchy’s attempt to marginalize women, the feminine incarnation continues to appear in innumerable ways. This week we’ll focus especially on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whenever I go to Europe, I am struck by how many churches are dedicated to Mary. Here in New Mexico and throughout Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is found everywhere: in tattoos, murals, bathtubs converted to garden shrines, and gilt statues. Why did the first fourteen hundred years of Christianity, in both the Eastern and Western churches, fall head over heels in love with this seemingly quite ordinary woman? After all, the New Testament speaks very little of Mary.

We are clearly dealing with not just 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 human unconscious.

In some ways, many humans can identify with Mary more than they can with Jesus precisely because she was not God! The Gospels attribute no miraculous works or heroic acts to her, simply trust and pure being more than doing. From her first yes to the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38), to Jesus’ birth itself (Luke 2:7), to her yes at the foot of the cross (John 19:25), and her presence at fiery, windy Pentecost (see Acts 1:14, where she is the only woman named at the first outpouring of the Spirit), Mary appears on cue at key moments of the Gospel narratives. She is Everywoman and Everyman, and that is why I call her the feminine symbol for the universal incarnation.