Interior of the Main Dome, Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire.

Click here to read today’s Sunday Mass Readings.

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.     John 14:15-16.

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Today’s three readings taken together seem to point to a new reality. Remember that the Old Testament reveals the intervention of God into our history with the still small voice telling the very old Abram/Abraham to uproot and move to a new country where, God promised him, he will have descendants and land. Abram believed God, despite his barren and old wife Sarah. He trusted the voice. Once there God revealed divine power by granting husband and wife a son, Isaac. Then God insisted on the child being sacrificed to him. Abram, now Abraham, did that, being stopped at the literal last moment. All of which, I believe, was God’s plan to establish a new template, or style, of living. The land was Canaan, and in that land there was a religion which was, I believe, the reason God intervened in history at all. As God had not revealed the divine nature, humans had to respond in some way to the deep instinct we have within us for the spiritual, for the infinite, for a life beyond death. So, not having any divine guidance, that society used the only model known to them. If you wanted something, you had to pay for it. So, if what you wanted was massive, such as avoiding invasion, famine, natural disaster and so on, the price had to be massive, such as the sacrifice of your children thrown, in this case, into a fire as the price, it was thought, to get divine assistance. The god Moloch was considered powerful enough to render the service, provided the high price – a child – was the payment. And it was this practice which, I believe, was sufficient to cause divine intervention. Through the centuries then, the Hebrews came to understand who God was and what had to be done to live a decent life. It was, therefore, in Christian eyes, the slow revelation of God the Father. God always spoke through prophets, but when humanity was deemed ready for the supreme revelation, God took on human flesh, Jesus, God the Son, who came to live among us and show us that it is possible to live the right life no matter the challenges, just as he had done, no matter the consequences. 

“Your Descendants will be as Many as the Stars of the Heavens”, von Carolsfeld 1860, Die Bibel in Bildern.

Now today’s readings. Jesus, Son of God, was preparing his followers for his departure. Firstly he announced that we would not be alone once he had gone. There would be another divine Person to guide and help us, an Advocate who would support and defend us. He also stated that although he would be with the Father, he would also remain with us “I will not leave you orphans” he said. And certainly he remains with us through the Eucharist. So the Holy Spirit in a sense, became the divine presence on a daily, minute-by-minute, basis, 24/7, with the Eucharist as our spiritual center as it were. This was all preparation for the Ascension, and the arrival of the time of the Holy Spirit, our present age. Hence the Holy Trinity was slowly and deliberately revealed over the centuries, carefully preparing us for such a revelation. We live in the Age of the Holy Spirit, and just as the first Age of God the Father had the prophets to guide and encourage the people, and the uniquely blessed time of God the Son literally had God walk among us, so today we have the Advocate, the Holy Spirit as the constant presence of God in all that we do, with the saints throughout the centuries as our “prophets” providing us with the example of living a holy life.

Now, I have said before that it is my opinion that this Person of the Holy Trinity demands much more consideration than we are wont to give. Let me state my strong opinion that we should regard and think of the Holy Spirit as the essence of the feminine, and never be referred to as “he” as in today’s readings. We have “he” for Father and Son, quite rightly because Jesus was clearly male, and always referred to God as his Father, or even Abba, which means Dad. But the Third Person of the Trinity demands something else. First, the word spirit in the language of Jesus, Aramaic, and also in Hebrew, is רוּח pronounced roo’-akh has a feminine gender in that language. It also carries the idea of “wind” and “breath”. Now think of that. God “breathed” life into Adam (Genesis 2:7)… God, by means of a great “wind”, opened the sea for the Hebrews to escape slavery in Egypt and gain the freedom of the Promised Land (Exodus 14:21). And, as if to confirm this interpretation of the Holy Spirit, the word for wisdom in Aramaic and Hebrew, חָכְמָה pronounced khok-maw‘ is also feminine in gender. Wisdom and Spirit are used almost interchangeably in Scripture, so according to this idea, they are one. As I have said before, Jesus would have been just as shocked to hear today’s translation “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.” as we would be with “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows her. But you know her, because she remains with you, and will be in you.” But that is exactly what Jesus and all the people of his time and place would have heard and accepted without question. It all springs from our New Testament being written in Greek, where Spirit, πνεύμα, pneuma, is neutral, hence translated as “it”, which is unacceptable. In translating the Greek into Latin, “pneuma” was rendered “spiritus”, which is masculine, and has been ever since. So we, in the great age of the Holy Spirit of God should look on this Person of the Holy Trinity in perhaps a very different light. Just as God is Our Father, so the Spirit is Our Mother, offering to us a recognizable human reality, even if there is no gender, as such, in God. But it suggests a God much more attuned to our human experience. Here we have a Trinity where the love between God the Father and the Holy Spirit is so strong that the Son is clearly the beloved emanation of such a numinus reality. The perfect model for human life.

The Holy Trinity, van Balen 1603, Sint-Jacobskerk, Antwerp, Belgium.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

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