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An Antidote to Snake Oil

Archbishop Haaike Barnard
Sometime Apostolic Administrator for the UMSINDISI Diocese, Africa
The United Ecumenical Catholic Church

The Betesicled God

Insisting that God is male, is as banal as insisting that God has testicles and a penis, for that is what male is. And if God were female, then She has a vagina and breasts. Why on earth would we want to only worship a betesticled God, or a breasty God?  This is all just so stupid!  In God is the fulness of everything, and God fills everything with fullness. God is the fulness of "male" and "female", so, the gender duality (yin-yang, etc.) in reference to God or the Church is nothing more than ill-informed patriarchal prejudice or unqualified paganism.

Gender is secondary to our Baptismal Identity

The dualities that we hold so dear and that have caused so many, many broken hearts and bodies, are the evils of which the Church is purged.  The pleroma of God removes the obstacles of distinctions: "There can be...neither male nor female - for you are all one in Christ Jesus" [Gal. 3:28]. This wiping out of the external distinctions of class and gender is done by the assumption of a new identity through Baptism in which we clothe ourselves with Christ's Divinity and hence our external, physical gender is "covered" by the new identity of Christ's Divinity in which there is no gender distinction.  In this sense, those who are united with Christ in Baptism "wear" only Divinity on the "outside", and this Divinity is the "new identity" in which we find our own fulfilment.

Gender or Grace?

Discriminating against gender in the extension of Orders, for example, is to go "under the robe of Christ", as it were, and to dig up that which is covered in Baptism.  This nullifies the spiritual significance of Baptism which is more than just a "laying off" of sins.  At a simplistic level, there are two "results" (the effect of the forgiveness of sin) of Baptism:
  1. spiritual resurrection "...by Baptism...you have been raised up with Him through your belief in the the power of God who raised Him from the dead" [Col. 2:12],
  2. clothing with Christ "...everyone of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ" [Gal. 3:27].
In the case of the former, we have already spiritually assumed the inner status of resurrection (being "born again" in Baptism) and already have the effect of the New Covenant of grace in its fullness, in the spirit.  And Jesus reminds us Himself that resurrected beings have no need for the genital functions and distinctions of gender:  "For at the resurrection men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angles in heaven" [Matt. 22:30]. In the case of the latter, Baptism clothes us with the resurrected and glorified Christ who also has no need of genital distinctiveness.  It is Christ that we see in each other, through Baptism, and it is this vision of Christ that makes us "one" in the Church.  To deny this and to resurrect the genders that are "buried" in Baptism is, in my view, tantamount to heresy since it makes the qualification one of gender and not one of grace!

Our Humanity is "united" with Divinity.

And yet, there is male and female in Christ!  The point from [Gal. 3], clearly, is that gender is not important in spiritual terms since the "new identity" is defined in terms of being "one in Christ Jesus" through Baptism, and in Him (male though He was!), there cannot be a gender distinction since He is the pleroma of Divine Incarnation, "in bodily form" [Col. 2:9]. The Sacrifice of Jesus unites us with God in a way that "perfects" our humanity.  At the Commixture in the Antiochen Liturgy, for example, we pray these beautiful words:
"You have united, O Lord, Your Divinity with our humanity and our humanity with Your Divinity; Your life with our mortality and Your mortality with our life.  You have assumed what is ours, and You have given us what is Yours, for the life and salvation of our souls.  To You, O Lord, be glory forever."

Our own "sexless" fulfilment is in Christ

And, Saint Paul continues to the Colossians:  "...in Him you too find your own fulfilment" [Col. 2:10]. God is, as it were, "bisexual" since in God is the fullness of everything, and so is the Church [Eph. 1:23]. The antithetical dualities of night and day, summer and winter, male and female, sun and moon, love and hate, etc., require a pagan conception of God in which the male is the sun and the female is the moon, and so on.  (I should know, I used to be an avid Wiccan practitioner for a long time!) But, the God of the Revelation in Jesus Christ is all and in all.

The extent of our Patriarchal Madness

Our misguided gender prejudice through the ages has resulted in the creation of an idol whom we call exclusively "Father", and we have assumed that "He" is like human men with testicles and penis, and therefore only men can be Priests because they act "in persona Christi".  And we (Orthodox!) have even gone even further to assume that Priests have to sport a beard to TRULY be "in persona Christi", to the extent that a Priest who shaves his "holy beard" is considered to have invalid orders! What madness is this?  For two millennia we have subjugated women to servanthood and serfdom in the Church, ready to serve their male masters, and we still pussy-foot around this matter as if the sin we had committed were not serious enough to warrant an open and decisive stand once for all!

Our Motherly God

We all know of the various Scriptural instances where God is "feminine" and "motherly", but let me just remind you of two of those:

Racham/Rechem

But, most importantly to me is the "motherliness" of God in God's "mercy". In Hebrew, one of the words that is used for "mercy" is "racham" from which is also derived "rachamim" ("mercy" or even "insides/bowels"), "rachum" ("merciful/pitiful"), "racham" (to have pity/to love), and so on. But, "racham/rechem" is also the word that is used for a woman's womb! The connection between mercy and womb is astounding! When God grants us mercy for our sins, God is being "wombful" toward us, and brings us into the safety, protection, intimacy and dependency of His "womb". This is the condition in which God reaches out to us to be merciful and forgiving. And when we participate in the Holy Liturgy, once again at the Commixture, we pray from our hearts and praise God for rechem:
"Father of truth, behold Your Son, a Sacrifice pleasing to You. Accept this Offering of Him who died for me.  Behold His Blood shed on Golgotha for my salvation, it pleads for me. For His sake, accept my Offering. Many are my sins, but greater is Your mercy. When placed on a scale, Your mercy prevails over the weight of the mountains known only to You. Consider the sin and consider the Atonement; the Atonement in greater and exceeds the sin. Your Beloved Son sustained the nails and the lance because of my sins, so in His sufferings, You are satisfied, and I live. Glory be to the Father who sent His Son for our sake. Adoration to the Son who, by His Crucifixion, redeemed us. Thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit, through Whom the Mystery of our salvation was brought to fullness. Blessed is God who, in His love, gave us life. To Him be glory. Amen." [Anaphora of the Holy Apostles].
And we pray this awesome prayer for mercy at the Anamnesis (which is just before the Epiclesis):
"O Lord, we commemorate Your death, Your resurrection from the dead on the third day, Your ascension into heaven, Your sitting at the right hand of the Father, and Your awesome and glorious second coming when You will judge the world in justice and reward all people according to their deeds. We plead before You this awesome and Holy Sacrifice, united with the Sacrifice of Christ. Do not judge us according to our faults, O Lord, nor reward us according to our iniquities. In Your compassion and love, we implore You: blot out our sins, for we are Your people and Your inheritance. We pray to You, O Christ, through You and with You we pray to Your Father, saying: Have mercy on us, Almighty Father! Have mercy on us!".[Anaphora of St James]
How easily could be, here, pray instead:  "Have mercy on us, Almighty Mother!  Have mercy on us!", but even "Mother" is incapable of expressing the Nature of God.

Conclusion

I have just put together a few ideas in an attempt to make a case for the futility of our "gossiping" about God and

the utter ridiculousness of a "theology of the body" that undoes what Baptism and grace have done.

What we need is the "theology of the Body" and not the "theology of the body". In the Body, we are "one" and gender is no distinction since it is being clothed with Christ that is our new identity. But, in the body, we are distinct and different, and rightfully so. Since we are not pagan, we need no "maleness" or "femaleness" in the God whom we worship. God transcends our metaphors and definitions, especially those that refer to gender.

In our quest for spiritual understanding, we are trying as best we can to "contain"
our faith in the receptacles that we calls "vocabulary", and we are well aware that
this distorts reality enormously.

We should be far wiser in our quest to "yadah" God, and allow the limitations of our vocabulary to point to the greatness of surpassing glory of God.  Let us remind ourselves:  "...those who live in the spirit have their minds on spiritual things" [Rom. 8:5], and:  "...the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God...nobody knows the qualities of God except the Spirit of God" [1 Cor. 2:10-11].