Mystic Mantra: God's motherly embrace

God is compared to a father, king, warrior, protector, provider, etc.

A wise sage insisted that our words often become barriers to worshipping God. Furious, a preacher argued, “But, doesn’t the word ‘God’ lead us to God?” The sage calmly replied, “Yes, it can!” The preacher queried, “So how can something simultaneously help us and become a barrier?” The sage counter-questioned, “Is the donkey that carries you to the door the means by which you enter the house?”

We have just commemorated Women’s Day with many programmes celebrating womanhood. While, such tokenism is understandable, once-in-a-year celebrations often become channels to cleanse our consciences for treating women shabbily during the rest of the year. Can religion — often root-cause of the exploitation of women — contribute to the blossoming of womanhood? I believe it can.

First, we must realise that all religious idioms and symbols are “anthropomorphic” (Greek, literally, “man formed”). Since God is considered powerful, almighty and protective of creation, it’s natural that God is compared to a father, king, warrior, protector, provider, etc. Although there is apprehension that images of God as mother or wife can lead to attributing sexual connotations to God, the Bible also portrays God as having maternal functions: childbearing, nursing, feeding, clothing, etc. Male-and-female metaphors and similes could complement each other in giving us a rounded image of God.

Second, since religious practices in the public sphere tend to restrict active participation of women, even small symbolic gestures of the inclusion of women go a long way in reinstating them in what is regarded as “sacred space”. For the forthcoming “Holy Week” before Easter, Pope Francis has wisely decreed that not only the feet of men will be washed, but those of women, too. This is a small, yet significant improvisation.

Third, scriptural interpretations have largely been the monopoly of males. Thus, feminist theologian Mary Daly famously wrote: “If God is male, then the male becomes God.” Daly argues that, since our God-talk and God-images mould our minds and societal structures, due to the predominance of male images, male interpreters, male lawmakers and male priesthoods, women tend to get pushed to peripheral positions in religious practice. It is therefore necessary that many more women undertake scriptural studies and interpretation.

The Hebrew word for mercy is rachamim, etymologically deriving from rechem, which means “womb”. Likewise, in Islam, one of the names of Allah is Rahman or Raheem, which comes from the root raham, meaning “womb”. Words like these teach us that God transcends gender. Yet, just as wombs protect, nourish, preserve and care for the unborn infant, so does God love, care, support, protect and nourish us.

Let’s be cautious when talking about God; for, besides asserting that God is love, mercy and compassion, what more can we say?

( Source : Columnist )
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