Increasingly, my calling and ministry is focusing on this—Sophia, the Feminine Face of God, the Divine Feminine Christ. I began to open to Her presence when my aunt wrote me a letter my senior year of high school and kept calling God “her.” I thought this was very weird, but it planted something in my young Catholic self—the seed, however small, that God could be a She. That God might have feminine qualities, a female face. At the time, I couldn’t fully let the idea in—it was too jarring, too strange, too unlike everything I’d been taught. But through the years this seed has taken root, broken through its shell, and bloomed.
This year the bloom was a garden, a flowering of all that Sophia has been bringing to be in me and in community this past decade. For the Triduum this year—the “high holy days” of Catholicism, for the first time in twenty years, my husband John and I chose not to participate in these mysteries within the institutional church. (By “institutional” I am referring to any form of patriarchal religious hierarchy and control, intertwined with systemic sexism —found in Roman Catholicism and many other Christian denominations.) Something else was rising that needed to be honored—the fact that I know these mysteries, liturgies and rituals deep within my own heart; the desire to co-create ritual with my sisters, in a deeply feminine way; the need to be close to the earth in all we mourn and celebrate, rooting our prayer in Her body of soil and rock and plant and life, the rhythms of sun and moon and air and season. I needed, this year, to follow the expansion that has been happening within me, and the longing I see around me—of and for Her, Her life and love and fecundity.
Mary Daly famously said, “when God becomes male, males become god.” The truth and dysfunction of this has been made deeply and grievously apparent in our religion, our politics, our communities and families, and in the overall health—or utter lack of health—of our global earth home. We all know this—the dysfunction and damage millennia of patriarchy has wrought in our own lives, the lives of those we love, and the planet as a whole. While I want to be sober about that, and while it has affected me deeply in ways I will be healing from for years to come, I want to focus on what’s coming to be, on Resurrection, and on Her.
Who is Sophia? In Greek, this word means “wisdom” yet in the way She is described in Jewish and Christian scriptures, this type of wisdom is not the way we’ve been taught to *think* of it. While it involves mental intelligence, it is not just book smarts. Sophia Wisdom is wise in a 360 degree, multidimensional way. She is deeply aware, awake and embodied. She is the knowing deep in the bowels of our body and of life, the intuition that guides us, the wisdom of our cells and biological systems, working in perfect harmony without any rational thought or direction from us. She is luscious and fecund, in touch with LIFE in the biggest way, in all its forms. She is pouring life into life and she invites us to do the same.
King Solomon in the Book of Wisdom describes her this way: “she moves more swiftly than motion itself… she pervades and permeates all living things…. She is the light that shines forth from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the dynamism of God and the perfect image of the Holy One’s goodness…. She can do all things; though unchanging, She renews all things; generation after generation She enters into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets… She is more beautiful than the sun and more magnificent than all the stars in the sky.” (Wisdom 7:24-29)
Sophia is the Source of guidance for those in leadership, for those who want to live with true rooted and grounded power. In some ways, she is like the energy of Earth itself—teeming with life, composting death, constantly churning to let go of what was in order to bring into being what wants to be, what’s yearning and reaching for life. She is Love, profound and unconditional and creative. I have come to think of her as the lap of the Great Mother, of God’s love wrapping around us and through us and in us and among us. She is the Love that cannot be destroyed, that always remains, no matter how deeply our forgetting or violent our efforts to repress Her.
She is constant with-ness and this-ness, moving towards us always. “She appears on their daily path with kindness, meeting them half-way in all their journeys.” (Wisdom 6:16)
When Jesus knows he’s going to leave his loved ones in the gospel of John, he says, “I will ask the One who sent me to give you another Paraclete, another Helper to be with you always—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept since the world neither sees her nor recognizes her; but you can recognize the Spirit because she remains with you and will be within you.” (John 14:16-17) This Spirit he speaks of, the one who will Remain, the One who will be with his beloveds no matter what, is Sophia! She passes through all walls and boundaries, She is Love itself. She is what remains, She is what we reach for, She is the One residing at the center of our chest, knocking from the inside whispering gently and fiercely “you are loved, you are loved, you are love itself.” She is the place of Soul and of true power within—yearning and longing and living to honor the creative life force from within YOU, the one no one else but you can birth.
Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Doesn’t that fill you with hope and nourishment and life? Does that feel like the God you know?
Here’s the best part. She is as close as our very breath. You can feel her right now, filling your lungs, literally expanding your heart. Take a really deep breath IN. Feel her breathing you. Feel her moving out of you all the stagnant, used up air you no longer need, the old ideas and old ways and self-blame and shame, any doubts or fears you might have in this moment. Just let Her love in, and let the rest go, just like that, as simply as the inhale and the exhale, breathing in and out.
In Hebrew, one of the words for Spirit is “ruach” which also means breath. In the book of Wisdom, She says, “I am the breath of God, a clear emanation of Divine Glory, no impurity stains me. I am God’s spotless mirror reflecting eternal light and the image of Divine goodness.” (Wisdom 7:25) Sophia is this Spirit, the breath of the Living God, constant life pouring into your life.
Frankly, She is the face of God we desperately need right now. She is the One who actually IS God, or at least opens us to the truth of who God really is. We’ve been sold so many counterfeit forms. Our functioning concepts of “God” have been made in the image of men, while in the true order of things humanity has the potential to be transformed inTO the image of the Living God. We’ve been sold so many lies that have benefited those in false power– that somehow God is out to get us or trick us, instead of God as the One who is ALWAYS on our side. That God judges, when God is ONLY compassion and love. That God punishes, when God is ONLY creativity and life. That God keeps a list like Santa Claus, waiting for us to do wrong, when God is only cheering our every step, disintegrating every list of perfectionism we keep trying to make for ourselves. That somehow we have to earn a love that in actuality is only offering, only given, abundant outflow, constantly and endlessly. The great lie that we have to be ‘subservient’ and ‘suffering’ to this almighty God that disturbingly somehow enjoys or needs our suffering, our perfection, our achievements, our praise.
The God of Life, Sophia, is only beholding our magnificence, living and moving in praise of our being, giving us everything we need to not just survive but to thrive and to use our utter goodness for all, to Love like Her, in Her, every day.
Imagining and embracing the Feminine Face of God brings us into a deeper wholeness and healing of who God is and of who WE are. In truth, of course, the fullness of God is not man or woman. God is beyond gender. Yet it remains that human beings, led by men, have gendered God, in harmful and destructive ways, for thousands of years. To begin to undo the damaging imbalance, we cannot just jump to union and opaque genderlessness. We will be missing something vital and life-giving. We must open our hearts to Her, receive the gifts She is pouring out to us, learn to grow in relationship with what will often feel like an entirely new God, because of how we’ve been conditioned. We must come to know Her, the feminine face of the Divine. In doing so, we honor and heal a deep divide that has harmed so many women and men. It is time, at last, to move into wholeness, or really, to return. To embrace the One who is life in every way. To receive Her great love. To become Her love for others.
When my priestess sisters and I courageously and boldly received the mysteries of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil into our own hearts and hands, some part of my still-conditioned mind thought maybe I’d get struck down. That I’d be punished for trusting myself, for tuning in to the movements of Sophia, for not letting just the men do it, as they claim only they have the authority to do. Yet what happened—the revelation of God’s fullness in our lived experience—was glorious and profound. In reality, my sisters and I and our families stepped into resurrection—through the threshold of loss and longing, from what might be into the promise of what is here and what is coming. Together, we found organic creativity, inclusive conversation and a full participation in transformation. A blooming of Life and Love, a profound and deep joy. An intimate holding of our lives by these mysteries in ways that matter and move us into all that wants to come to be through us. This is Sophia. This is the breath of God, alive in us, under us, through us, and all around us. This is Resurrection.
*For more on Sophia, I highly recommend reading and praying with the Book of Wisdom, sometimes called the Wisdom of Solomon in the Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures. The “Inclusive Bible: First Egalitarian Translation” is best for receiving the full scope of who She is.