God as Our Mother

Icon Sophia within the dome of St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we often refer to “Our Father” when speaking of the cosmic, all-encompassing God. Because God is not really man or woman, referring to God as “he” or “she,” when taken out of context, can be controversial.

But if we were to view God as two sides of the same coin, rather than exclusively one or the other, it might be more helpful. I see God as both masculine and feminine, and the feminine, although more hidden perhaps, is the stronger of the two.

I believe what the world needs now is the Divine Wisdom (Feminine) to be made manifest within all of us.

The Wisdom of the Divine Feminine

According to Rabbi Rami Shapiro, a Jewish contemplative and interfaith teacher,the Divine Feminine has been present all along as Wisdom, God’s essential partner in the creation of the cosmos.

It is no small thing to note that Wisdom is feminine. The original language of the texts, both Hebrew and Greek, make this very clear: The Hebrew Chochma and the Greek Sophia are both feminine nouns.

Chochma (Chokmâh) is the Biblical Hebrew word rendered as “holy or divine wisdom.” 

“Koach” means “potential,” and “mah” means “what is.” Thus, chochma means “the potential of what is,” or “the potential to be.” It is only potential being. It is virtually non-being. Thus the verse states, “and chochma emerges from nothingness” (Job 28:12).

Chochma is … the highly condensed revelation of Godly light

This is why it is called the beginning. Psalms (111:10) states “reishit chochma…” — “chochma is the first, the head.” It is the first of the imminent sefirot, the beginning and root of imminent being.

The Divine Feminine as God’s First Creation

The authors of the Wisdom books (such as Proverbs, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, and more) took this gender specificity seriously. They envisioned Wisdom as Mother, God’s consort and bride, and the Divine Feminine through which the masculine God fashioned all creation.

The first chapter of the Book of Proverbs has Wisdom calling out in the streets, and the text goes on to emphasize her status as God’s first creation and her closeness to God:

I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
(
Proverbs VIII: 27-31)

Chochma was not simply the first of God’s creations. She was the means through which all the others came forth. This is what it means to be the master builder. Chochma is both created and creative. She is the ordering principle of creation: “She embraces one end of the earth to the other, and She orders all things well,” (Wisdom of Solomon 8:1). To know Her is to know the Way of all things . . . and to act in accord with what it means to be wise. . . .

Mother Wisdom Illumines All

This is how Mother Wisdom works. She doesn’t change anything; She illumines everything. She is right seeing. Chochma “pervades and penetrates” all things (Wisdom of Solomon 7:24). She is the ordering principle of the universe. What you see when you see Her is analogous to seeing the grain in wood, the current of wind and oceans, and the laws of nature, both the macrocosmic and the microcosmic. . . . She is the Way things are. . . .

She is the Way God is manifest in the world. To know Her is to know God as well.[1]

Sophia: A Central Figure of Gnosticism

Sophia, whose name in Greek also means “holy or Divine Wisdom,” is connected to the different incarnations of sacred female knowledge.

Just what, or who, is this beautiful figure that Proverbs describes as a partner with the Holy One?

In the ancient world, the figure of Sophia can be found in four very different places: Greek myth, Platonic philosophy, the Hebrew Bible, and the Judeo-Christian offshoot called Gnosticism.

Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός, ‘having knowledge’) is a collection of religious ideas and systems which coalesced in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects.  It involved more of a personalized mystical relationship with the Divine beyond institutional religion.

In Gnosticism, Sophia is a feminine figure, analogous to the soul, but she was the syzygy of Jesus (i.e. the Bride of Christ) and was the Holy Spirit of the Trinity. Sophia is one of the central figures of Gnosticism.

In Proverbs 8. Sophia is described as being present at the beginning of creation: “When there were no depths, I was brought forth when God established the heavens, I was there playing before [God] all the while” (Prov. 8:24, 30).

The Book of Wisdom describes Sophia guiding the Exodus people through the wilderness: “She led them by a marvelous road. She herself was their shelter by day and their starlight through the night” (Wis. 10:17). This passage was clearly another way of speaking about the faithful God who “went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” (Exod. 13:21). Sophia is another way of naming the divine – the gift, the (Holy) Spirit, and is represented as Grace.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

In Proverbs it says: “Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars” (9:1). There are seven steps leading to the temple, which represents the Church, as well as Mary, the “house” of Jesus.

From bottom to top they are:

1. Vera: Faith
2. Nadezhda: Hope
3. Liubov: Love
4. Chistota: Purity
5. Smirenie: Humility
6. Blagodat: Blessing/Grace
7. Slava: Glory

Biblical scholar Virginia Mollenkott explores the frequent imagery of God as Mother in the Bible, including in surprising places in the New Testament:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by Her deeds,” Matthew 11:19.

“Most Christian art, church design, and architecture reflects this pyramidal worldview. Humanity’s capacity to disguise its own flaws, even through religion, seems endless. Pyramid or patriarchal logic is only “logical” when applied in favor of the system and the status quo—which it proudly calls the “real world.” Our very inability to recognize that shows how little influence the dynamic Trinity had on our historical ways of thinking. Trinitarian thinking is more spiral, circle, and flow than pyramid.[2]

More pervasive than any other biblical image of God as female is the image of a maternal deity. Not only is the Creator depicted as carrying in the womb or birthing the creation, but also Christ and the Holy Spirit are depicted in similar roles. . . .

[A] serene, transcendent image of God the Mother occurs in Acts 17:26 and 28, during Paul’s speech to the Athenian Council of the Areopagus. Paul declares that God is not dependent on anything, since God is the one who has given life and breath to everyone.

Furthermore, this God is not far from any of us, for it is in God that we live, and move, and exist. Although the apostle does not specifically name the womb, at no other time in human experience do we exist within another person. Thus, Paul pictures the entire human race—people of all colors, all religions, all political and economic systems—as living, moving, and existing within the cosmic womb of the One God.[3],[4]

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Prov 16:7  

Icon of Sophia with daughters from Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in Ukraine

Coping with difficult times especially in the face of evil I am reminded by these words Father Richard Rohr said, “Many people rightly question how there can be a good God or a just God in the presence of so much evil and suffering in the world—about which God appears to do nothing. Exactly how is God loving and sustaining what God created? That is our dilemma.

I believe—if I am to believe Jesus—that God is suffering love. If we are created in God’s image, and if there is so much suffering in the world, then God must also be suffering. How else can we understand the revelation of the cross and that the central Christian logo is a naked, bleeding, suffering man?”[5]

In these challenging times, I offer this prayer:

Dear Mother and Divine Wisdom,

I ask you to nourish us,
Shed your light upon all of our thoughts,
Breathe holy Wisdom into our hearts and minds,
Bring peace to our world and to
us.

~Donnie


[1] Rami Shapiro, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature: Selections Annotated and Explained (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2005), xviii, xxi, xxii, xxiii.

[2] Rohr, Richard, Daily Mediations, The Circle Dance of God, March 16th, 2022

[3] Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1984), 15–16.

[4] Rohr, Richard, Divine Feminine, The Envoy of Sophia, Tuesday March 15th, 2022, https://cac.org/the-envoy-of-sophia-2022-03-15/

[5] Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations(Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 120, 122.

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One Reply to “God as Our Mother”

  1. I always look forward to your posts, they always lift and give hope in a very challenging world. Thank you Donnie!

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