Monday, August 18, 2008

A Father in Heaven

Some people have had a difficult time believing in God as a Father. Some churches, in order to be PC, have even changed the prayer to Our Mother or Our Father/Mother. In reality, having a relationship with God as our Father in heaven isn’t a slam on women or an elevation of men – it just makes theological sense.

Let me begin by saying that God, in his divine nature, is neither male nor female. In his relationship with Creation (including the human race), however, God is masculine. Masculine by the way does not mean male but is rather a cosmic archetype. The male gender is simply a physical manifestation of the masculine archetype. This is clearly evident in language – in many languages there are masculine and feminine words. Do you ever remember your Spanish teacher saying these words had sexual organs?! Language and biological gender are two good example of how these cosmic archetypes manifest themselves in different ways.

Here’s another example of the archetypes at work in two words: transcendent and imminent. The former is an example of the masculine while the latter is an example of the feminine. The Lord’s Prayer applies this to God’s relationship with Creation. God is “in heaven” not in Creation – God transcends his Creation. For us, the universe is very imminent, very feminine; we exist in the universe. It’s one reason why we refer to the world around us as Mother Earth. Mothers tend to be very present (imminent) to their children. It is the mother who births children, the mother who breastfeeds, the mother who always says “I’m here” when their children need them.

God by nature, however, is very masculine. By existing outside the universe God is “out there somewhere”. This may seem cold to some, but it must be so. If it weren’t, there would be no need for any divine revelation. If we could simply understand God without him revealing himself, the Bible would be meaningless. Some people say that they find God in nature and conscience. True enough. But these things are not God but rather point toward God. The Zen masters teach that: “The finger is fine for pointing at the moon, but woe to him who mistakes the finger for the moon.” St. Paul taught this much in Romans 1-2.

I think that God’s transcendence makes his relationship with us that much more beautiful.

God, you might say, courts humanity over the centuries. His self-revelation comes in three steps, each ever more intimate. In the Old Testament he reveals his transcendent nature, the “I am” (Genesis 3:14). In the Gospels, God the Son takes on human flesh to walk with us and save us from sin. From Pentecost on, God’s love and the Holy Spirit have been “poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:5). Thus we see the three steps of intimacy: first, God the Father outside us, then God the Son beside us, and finally God the Holy Spirit inside us.

Do you see how masculine it all is?

Like a bridegroom, God must eventually enter into us from without to impregnate us with divine life, that is, love. We become united to Christ, and thus to each other. God pours out his Holy Spirit into our souls and we become the bride of Christ, the Church (see Ephesians 5:21-33, and Revelation 19:7, 21:2).

God is not our Mother, he is the transcendent Father who brings us to himself through his Son and giving us his very life by the power of his Spirit.

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