Sophia Spirit

Holy Trinity Sunday 

June 11 & 12, 2022

This is the text of the homily I preached last weekend at my church in St. Louis, Sts. Clare and Francis of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.

Readings: Proverbs 8: 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16: 12-15

On this Trinity Sunday I’d like to mostly focus on one aspect of this dynamic dance of  relationship that we call God… the aspect of Holy Spirit, or as our readings today show, Holy Wisdom, Chokmah in Hebrew and Sophia in Greek… in both cases the feminine aspect of God and each of us.  

I want to dive in by first telling you about my dog Connell… from whom I have learned so much  about Sophia’s Love.

Connell came into my life the Easter after my sister Caitlin died.  I had never had a dog.  I wasn’t looking for a dog.  John rescued him from a neighbor who was sadly neglecting him.  When John told me Connell was living with him now, I went straight over to his apartment and sat on the floor.  Connell came over to me, layed down, and put his head in my lap.  That was that.  We belonged to each other.  “Who rescued who?” became one of my favorite quotes.  

We adopted him and he became my constant companion in the months and years of grief that ensued.  When I was unable to function, lost in oceans of tears, and would take long naps in the middle of the day, Connell would lick the tears on my face, nestle into me, curl up, and remain.  Walking him and feeding him reminded me to choose life, to keep living.  His joy and playfulness made me smile and laugh in spite of myself.   When I worked, he would curl up under my desk, often with his chin on my foot.  To this day, I look into his sweet graying face, his eyes, and I am astounded by the energy of pure love he pours into me.  And the amount of love I feel for him in return.  All this without a single word.  Just a feeling, a knowing, of total shared love.  A potent, powerful, constant presence.  

Our second reading tells us… 

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 

This is Sophia.  God’s love poured into our hearts.  Always present.  Constantly companioning us.  An energy of pure love that forever changes us, calling us to be the truest version of ourselves, as individuals and as community.  

What if we lived with and in this understanding of Sophia, the Holy Spirit?  This aspect of God that is  so soft and strong, so spacious and silent, that its totally safe to fall into Her, to let her pour into us… & to be propelled into the world as beings transformed in Love? 

This aspect of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has been largely left out of Christian imagination.  In her awesome book, “God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life” Catherine Mowry LaCugna  speaks to this phenomena.  Historically, a lot of time and energy has been spent trying to understand God the Creator (usually God the Father).  Of course, Jesus is everywhere– God the Incarnate One, or most often, the Son of God.  But what about the Holy Spirit?  Why is she reduced to a wispy wind or a hovering dove that we tend to easily forget about?  

She was in the beginning… she is now… and ever shall She be.  SHE is the animating force of our first reading… SHE is the one Jesus promises will always remain… She is actually the aspect of God, the energy of God, that is with us all the time, holding and bringing the energies of Creator and Incarnate One… 

Sometimes I wonder if we forget Her…or  if we were never really taught her in the first place because, well… she’s a SHE.  Because the Holy Spirit lifts up the dynamic dance of the feminine aspect of God.  Maybe in Jesus’ deeply patriarchal day, this was one of the most threatening aspects about him– that he so strongly carried and embodied Sophia’s heart.  To this day, to name any aspect of God “she” is largely thought of as unfamiliar and even heretical.  But what if all along, She has been a SHE?  What if all along, She’s been pointing to not just this feminine aspect of GOD, but of HUMANITY, so needed and so systematically excluded and shamed for so long?  

This is a little tricky because when you start talking male/female right away people say something like… well, God, or the Holy Spirit, has no gender.  This is technically probably true, but equally true that God has been gendered for thousands of years– in texts, in prayers, in song, art, through pronouns and of course, in our imaginations.  A trinity wholly masculine just cannot work if we hope for a world in balance.  Just like the human person cannot be whole without BOTH feminine and masculine aspects.  Again, a tricky point– when we begin to lift up masculine and feminine, it’s important not to essentialize or compartmentalize or create another binary.  Things like, “feminine is receptive and masculine is active”.  “Feminine is soft and masculine is strong”.  It’s not so simple.  The true essence of Sophia Spirit brings us to a both-and, a freeing multiplicity and dynamic dance of being that today’s Queer community really embodies and calls us all to.   Spirit– human and Divine– simply does not fit in a box.  Sophia shows us that this Divine Dance is about limitlessness, about uniting apparent opposites into one beautiful multidimensional rainbow wholeness.  When we let God be God in all His or Her or Their wholeness, we as human beings have a much greater chance of becoming truly whole.  

All our readings today point to this, to who Sophia is, and what she is doing in us and in our world:  

She was there before the beginning– she is essence, being, source itself.  She is space itself, silence and fertile becoming.  At the same time, she is movement– delighting and rejoicing, standing at God’s side in all creative endeavors.  She is an observer, the breath of life, and an artist, creating.  She is love pouring into our hearts, and the energy of grace that enables us to move in the world, despite any challenge or setback.  She is the birth of hope in us and hope itself.  She empowers us to rejoice even when we are suffering.  She is both silent and speaking.  She is stillness and action.  She is belonging itself and she is a force of unity– the energy that travels between Jesus, Creator, and us, the people of God.  

These are aspects of God, of life, necessary to our survival, our evolution, and at this point time, our healing and the healing of the planet.  Sophia is calling us back into balance, into wholeness.  Whether you are male or female, nonbinary or some combination totally unique to you… She lives in you.  She lives in the world.  And we need Her, so very much.  

Trinitarian theology has long considered the Trinity as the perichoresis, a dynamic dance of flow, three energies interwoven as one, constantly inviting the other in– creator and created, source and incarnation, being and becoming, sustained in the never-ending, life-outpouring fecundity of love.  It is love-in-motion, all the time.  Love in relationship, all the time.  Love that changes us, all the time.  Love that reassures us, even in utter heartbreak and loss and excruciating pain, more life is being born.  It is a dance that asks, always, for our participation.  It is a dance of co-creation.  

Molly Marshall, in her book, Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit, writes: 

When we speak of the Spirit, we are preeminently speaking about movement.  Never static, the Spirit is God’s enlivening action, both within the triune God and encompassing all that God has made.  Through vivifying, gathering, empowering, birthing, transforming, winnowing, and honoring, the Spirit forges a partnership between God and all creation that brings both divine and creaturely being to the ultimate realization of participation.

This is exactly what seems to have happened at Pentecost, a potent moment of descent of Sophia into humanity.  The disciples of Jesus were in utter grief and fear.  Sophia emerged in and out of their broken hearts, moving them into communion with one another and into the world.  The dance of life continued, as Jesus told them it would, and their participation was required!  

So is ours.  She invites us in.  She reminds us we are the people of God, here to be the light of the world.  She is the softest of landing places when we need to rest, to remember.  And she is the fire that propels us from that nest of her love into the world.  She lived and moved and had her being in the heart of Jesus, the one we call the Christ.  And she continues, every day, to live and move and have her being in us, Christ-ed ones, nourished at her table and sent forth in her love.  

Amen?  

LaCugna, Catherine Mowry. God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.

Marshall, Molly T. Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2003. 

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