Lent, Day 18

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We only have fragments of the non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews. But within lies a fascinating insight. The fragments we do have come from the writings of the early Church Fathers.

Perhaps the most distinctive writing in the Gospel of the Hebrews is a line that calls the Holy Spirit Jesus’ Divine Mother. Scholars assume this is because in Hebrew the word for “spirit” is feminine. The writings were used by the Hebrews in the early church until the canon of the New Testament.

Though it never made canon and has now been lost, The early Church fathers were led to comment on the idea of the Divine Mother.

Saint Jerome wrote of the Hebrew gospel, “A moment ago my mother, the Holy Spirit, took me up.” No one should be scandalized by this, since in Hebrew spirit is in the feminine gender, while in our language [Latin] it is masculine and in Greek it is neuter. There is no gender in the godhead. (Commentary on Isaiah, on 40:9)

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus remarked: “Do you take it, by the same token, that our God is a male, because of the masculine nouns ‘God’ and ‘Father’? Is the Godhead a female, because in Greek the word is feminine? Is the word ‘Spirit’ neuter in Greek, because the Spirit is sterile?”

When Catholicism compiled its Catechism, it seems to have agreed with the thoughts of these Church Fathers,

“239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.”

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