420 In Sophia’s heart we find a reflection of ourselves, divinely human, humanly divine.
Day 420 Monday, May 10th, 2021
When we look into Sophia’s heart we find a reflection of ourselves, divinely human, humanly divine. She was. And so are we.
A church was hosting a Lenten exhibition with the theme of “The Many Faces of Jesus.” I knew immediately that the face of Jesus I wanted to portray was Sophia wisdom.
Sophia is the Greek feminine word for wisdom in the New Testament. Her characteristics are similar to the Hebrew hokhma, but expand in early Christian theology as she is understood as a divine attribute, or part of the trinity. In these ways, sophia is portrayed as a reality of God’s wisdom - a part of God’s substance. Accordingly, early Trinitarian formulas reference God the father, Jesus the son, and Sophia the spirit. A female spirit was undeniably an early part of the trinity.
The Spirit was understood as and spoken of as a “she.” What was once understood —a female sophia spirit—has slowly, yet intentionally been overshadowed by patriarchal understandings of the trinity and the spirit.
Feminist theologians, such as Elizabeth Johnson, claim that this Sophia Spirit emboldens the entire trinity—and even all of humanity—to work toward flourishing for all creation. The wisdom of Sophia desires for all people to dwell in places where they can flourish and thrive.
Johnson re-imagines the traditional Trinitarian formula of “Father-Son-Spirit” as
She Who Is:
This feminine spirit is found in feminist theology and also throughout scripture. The Gospel of the Hebrews, for example, records Jesus being taken by the Spirit up to Mount Tabor where Jesus says, “My mother the Holy Spirit took me by one of the hairs on my head and bore me off to the great mountain Tabor.”
So, the Spirit, Sophia, is not simply a feminine Greek word, but Jesus’ Heavenly Mother. This early Christian understanding continued in the Gospel of Phillip, an early Syriac text. At one point, this early Christian document essentially accuses some early Christians of heresy because they believe that the Spirit is male and that Jesus only has a Heavenly Father when it states, “Some say, ‘Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.’ They are wrong. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever become pregnant by a woman?”
And all this was reflected in early church baptismal liturgies, where those being baptized believed that they were entering into the womb of God as they immersed themselves in the baptismal font. In fact, many fonts from the third, fourth, and fifth century are in the shape of a womb. Priests proclaimed prayers, saying,
“Blessed are you, Lord God, through whose great and indescribable gift this water has been sanctified by the coming of the Holy Spirit so that it has become the womb of the Spirit that gives birth to the new human out of the old"
- (Sebastian Brock, The Holy Spirit as Feminine in the Syrian Baptismal Tradition, 84).”
In fact, the majority of early Christians considered the Holy Spirit to be a feminine attribute of God. Of course Jesus had a heavenly mother and an earthly mother. In fact, Jesus had two moms. What is more, Jesus had two dads. This was normal. Understood. Accepted. Orthodox. For several centuries of Christendom these two moms and two dads comprised the holy family. It wasn’t until later when patriarchy crept in ever so smoothly that this orthodoxy became heresy, became wrong.
And now we peel back its sordid history. Scholars translate ancient Syriac and Aramiac texts. Archaeologists uncover baptismal fonts in the shape of wombs. Authors write books that illuminate once-hidden truths. And we see the face of Jesus in the face of Sophia Wisdom.
Here is the painting of Sophia by Angela Yarber, the description of the painting in her own words and her poem inscribed on the painting:
With big, open hands reaching beyond the confines of her canvas and expanding onto either side of the triptych, the wild and flowing hair of Spirit Sophia waves in Dionysian abandon, and we look into her beating heart and see ourselves, our own spirits reflected back at us. And Sophia’s heart cries out to us:
Because she looked into the eyes of fragile humanity and saw the face of Jesus,
her heart shattered at the sight of oppression and injustice…
so she committed herself to a lifetime of picking up the broken pieces
by standing for peace and dancing for justice…
and now when she looks into the mirror,
she sees the face of Jesus once again…
The fragments in her heart are shards of mirrors. And when we look into Sophia’s heart we find a reflection of ourselves, divinely human, humanly divine. She was. And so are we.
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber has a PhD in Art and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley. She has been a clergywoman and professional dancer and artist since 1999.
Announcements: Teilhard de Chardin:
Hope in the Future
AMERICAN TEILHARD ASSOCIATION
Annual Event (Online)
Teilhard de Chardin: Hope in the Future
June 12, 2021 12:00pm - 2:00pm EDT
Teilhard de Chardin: The Sphere of the Person
Cynthia Bourgeault will reflect on Teilhard’s experience of Christ as person
and what this meant to his understanding of an evolutionary process that draws us with hope into the future.
Followed by short presentations by authors of recent publications on Teilhard's life and work:
author of Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man Explained
Marie Josèphe Conchon
author of Marguerite Teillard-Chambon Marie Bayon de la Tour
grandniece of Teilhard and author of “Teilhard and the Feminine”
The charge for the event is $10. A description and information about how to register and pay via PayPal can be found on our home page, http://teilharddechardin.org. Closer to the event, we will send a link for the Zoom session to all who register. If you prefer, you can write a check to American Teilhard Association and mail it to Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, American Teilhard Association, Chestnut Hill College, 9601 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118.
Announcement #2: Journey of the Universe: Conversations "An epic story of the cosmos, earth, and human transformation"
Steve Lyman and our Education Committee are sponsoring the DVD based course "Journey of the Universe: Conversation" based on a series of interviews with scientists, philosophers and theologians toward a flourishing earth community.
Hosted by Mary Evelyn Tucker of Yale University.
The Course begins next Monday, May 17th,
Time: 2:00 - 4:00
and will be held at Nancy and Bob McFarland's home in Petaluma:
Their address is:
2404 Marylyn Circle
Petaluma, CA 94954
A bit more information about the film Journey of the Universe use this link:
For those of us who spend a lot of time in our cars or are insomniacs, there's a Podcast called "Journey of the Universe." I found it on Apple Podcasts.
Announcement #3: Diarmuid O'Murchu
has a new book!
As Nancy explained on Sunday, our friend and mentor Disrmuid O'Murchu has a new book.
This is how Amazon explains it:
In his new book, Irish priest and renowned author Diarmuid O'Murchu points the way toward a Spirit-driven evolutionary perspective, in which Creation is God's primary form of revolution. It is in the power of that Spirit that Jesus incarnates afresh God's embodied presence in our midst and encourages us on the way to becoming creative participants in God's unfolding mission.
Announcement #4: Celebrating Anna "Madre" Bates
as We Honor All the Fierce and Faithful Women
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 4:00pm PT
Join us this Tuesday, May 11th at 4:00pm Pacific Time as we celebrate a Woman Witness for Racial Justice, Anna "Madre" Bates, the founder of Our Lady of Victory Mission/Parish in Detroit. Together we will pray and learn about Mother Bates' witness and her leadership in the face of white supremacy, segregation, and racism, as well as hear the witness of Black Catholic Women who face and challenge those obstacles today! Sign Up