Archetypal Feminine

Feminine Incarnation

Archetypal Feminine
Sunday, June 9, 2019
Pentecost

I know I am taking some risks writing about Feminine Incarnation. There are certainly limitations to the construct of binary genders. God and Christ are beyond gender, and all humans are a blend of masculine and feminine traits. But because Western Christianity and culture have primarily worshipped male images, I believe it’s important to reclaim and honor female wisdom. Whether you identify as a cisgender man or woman, are trans or non-binary, I hope this week’s reflections will help you see aspects of yourself that may have been ignored or suppressed. [1]

I draw from my own encounters with God, my mother, sisters, and many women friends and colleagues over the years. And I’ll share insights from several women I deeply respect. I hope these perspectives invite you to trust your own experiences with the divine feminine. For many, it is an utterly new opening, since most Christians falsely assumed that God is strictly masculine even though there are numerous descriptions of a mothering, feminine God throughout the Bible.

In spite of patriarchy’s attempt to marginalize women, the feminine incarnation continues to appear in innumerable ways. This week we’ll focus especially on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whenever I go to Europe, I am struck by how many churches are dedicated to Mary. Here in New Mexico and throughout Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is found everywhere: in tattoos, murals, bathtubs converted to garden shrines, and gilt statues. Why did the first fourteen hundred years of Christianity, in both the Eastern and Western churches, fall head over heels in love with this seemingly quite ordinary woman? After all, the New Testament speaks very little of Mary.

We are clearly dealing with not just a single woman here but a foundational symbol—or, to borrow the language of Carl Jung (1875–1961), an “archetype”—an image that constellates a whole host of meanings that cannot be communicated logically but is grounded in our collective human unconscious.

In some ways, many humans can identify with Mary more than they can with Jesus precisely because she was not God! The Gospels attribute no miraculous works or heroic acts to her, simply trust and pure being more than doing. From her first yes to the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38), to Jesus’ birth itself (Luke 2:7), to her yes at the foot of the cross (John 19:25), and her presence at fiery, windy Pentecost (see Acts 1:14, where she is the only woman named at the first outpouring of the Spirit), Mary appears on cue at key moments of the Gospel narratives. She is Everywoman and Everyman, and that is why I call her the feminine symbol for the universal incarnation.

References:
[1] Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans or transgender people have a gender identity or expression that is different from the sex assigned at birth. Non-binary, also known as gender queer, refers to gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 121-123, 127.

Image credit: Our Lady of Guadalupe (detail of the original image as it appeared on the tilma or cloak of Juan Diego when he experienced a vision of Our Lady on top of Tepeyac Hill, outside of Mexico City). The tilma is enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The apparition known as Our Lady of Guadalupe . . . appeared on the exact spot where the Nahuatl people [of Mexico] had been worshiping the fertility goddess for millennia, and she spoke first to an indigenous farmer in his own language. Her skin was dark like their own. . . . She wore the traditional pre-Columbian maternity sash and also a mantle of stars, like the Virgin Mary. She made it clear that she was the Mother of All People and that her task and her delight was to love us, to give us shelter, to comfort our hearts, and to protect us. —Mirabai Starr
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