Return of Gregorian Chant

This past Summer a conference took place on the shores of Lake Michigan on reinvigorating the use of Gregorian Chant in our liturgies.  The Reform of the Reform continues.

Deo gratias!

(Biretta Tip: New Liturgical Movement)

96 Responses to Return of Gregorian Chant

  • FYI – There will be a Gregorian Chant workshop at St. Theresa’s in Sugar Land on Feb. 13th & 14th, 2009. It will be presented by Scott Turkington, who is on the board of directors for the Church Music Association of America. $75 for the weekend, beginners welcome!

    http://www.musicasacra.com/sugarland/

    Incidentally, there is also a (free) concert of William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices at 7:30pm on Feb. 13th, put on by the St. Theresa Schola Cantorum. Come for the whole weekend!

  • Chant is a nice option for liturgy. Too bad most of the folks pushing it as if life depended on it are simply “high culture” types who simply have an emotional attachment to one particular form of music and insist on imposing it on the rest of the church.

  • Before you make sweeping statements like that, you might want to have some basic familiarity with what the advocates of traditional sacred music (chant and polyphany) actually say about it — and more importantly what the Church herself has said about chant: namely that it should (according to Vatican II) given “pride of place” as a form “specially suited to the Roman Liturgy.”

    If we take the universal understanding of our Church seriously, we should certainly be following her guidance in this regard rather than the sort of Americanist guitar strumming which is all too often inflicted on us.

    Surely as someone so able to get outside the dominant cultural paradigm you agree?

  • “who simply have an emotional attachment to one particular form of music and insist on imposing it on the rest of the church.”

    Yes. One does wonder when most music directors at masses in this country will wake up to the astounding fact that the year is 2008 and not 1978. The persistance of bad “worship” music from the sixties and the seventies of the last century is as much a wonder to behold as it is painful to hear.

  • Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium §116 (1963) says, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services”.

    Amen.

  • [quote]If we take the universal understanding of our Church seriously, we should certainly be following her guidance in this regard rather than the sort of Americanist guitar strumming which is all too often inflicted on us.

    Surely as someone so able to get outside the dominant cultural paradigm you agree?[/quote]

    Yes, one would think so, but how could this fit into a pre-ordered worldview?

  • Darwin – First, I am quite familiar with what “they” say about it, having been active in liturgical music for about 15 years. Second, despite your wishful thinking, the “universal church” is not teaching us to restore monocultural music universally. It’s not even asking us to ban guitars. Keep dreaming. And what is “Americanist” guitar strumming anyway?

    Donald – The worst of liturgical music is from the late 80s and the 1990s. Most parishes are using music that sounds like its from the Weather Channel or Elton John “Circle of Life” crap and it’s horrid. A lot of the music from the 70s was actually quite good.

    Surely as someone so able to get outside the dominant cultural paradigm you agree?

    Yes, what better way to “get outside the dominant cultural paradigm” than by restoring the former dominant cultural paradigm, and not because the type of music is any “better” in any objective way, but because 1) of some emotional “mysterious” feeling it gives you and 2) because it suits your ecclesiological ideology.

    Of course some types of music are better than others, and we can certainly say that some types of music are suitable for the eucharistic liturgy and others are not. And of course chant is fantastic. Sure, let’s even say it should have the “pride of place.” But it’s merely an option among many.

  • Here is a thread from Catholic Answers on the worst Catholic hymns.

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=197443

    Note that it goes on for 50 pages.

    My personal list of the bottom ten Catholic hymns that make my ears bleed:

    1. Sing a new song-1972.

    2. I am the bread of life-1971.

    3. On eagles’ wings-1979

    4. Here I am Lord-1979

    5. Gift of finest wheat-1976

    6. Be not afraid-1974

    7. Glory and praise to our God-1976

    8. Hosea-1972

    9. Peace is flowing like a river-1975

    10. Ashes -1978

    Bad music is created in every decade, but the seventies abuse the privilege.

    Hear is a good article that explains why this mouldy boomer music is foisted upon us so frequently at Mass.

  • I am curious if there is overlap between Donald’s bottom 10 and Michael’s top 10 from the 70’s.

    Personally I think some of those songs are defensible, particularly when they are scriptural, but to say they are defensible is not to say they are ideal.

  • I am personally a lover of Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, Palesrtina Tavener AND all of the songs on Donald’s list.

  • I have a certain shame-faced affection for Gift of Finest Wheat, though my list of horribles would line up well with Donald’s. I’d add Let Us Build the City of God in place of Gift of Finest Wheat.

    There’s an important distinction to bear in mind, however, when talking about Palestrina, Byrd or the Glory & Praise Hit Parade versus talking about chant. (And this applies equally to Gregorian Chant in the Latin Rite and the various Eastern forms of chant which are found in the Eastern Rites and the Orthodox churches.

    John Michael Talbot and Palestrina are both composers who wrote specific compositions in the idiom of their times (though one barely deserves the title and the other was among the most brilliant composers of choral music who ever lived). In that sense, Desprez, von Bingen, Monteverdi, Byrd, Tallis, Palestrina, etc. are of a specific time and culture, though composing music to fit an eternal and universal purpose. (And creating beauty which can be appreciated in many times and places.)

    Chant, however, is not a composition in the same sense. It is a mode of turning words into musical prayer, not a style for composing songs. This is what make’s Michael’s comment about “restoring the former dominant cultural paradigm” very odd. The “dominant cultural paradigm” in regards to sacred music has varied throughout the history of the Church. Medieval compositions are very different from Renaissance ones, which are in turn different from Classical and Baroque and modern ones. The various forms of chant, however, are not time and place specific in the same way. They’re flexible — listening to an African or Latin American priest or choir chant is very different from hearing a French or Spanish one — and yet they contain a universal musical language of prayer. (The use of the Church’s universal language helps as well, of course, when it comes to bridging barriers.)

    That is why the Church teaches that chant should have price of place in our liturgy — not because it is superior music or from a superior culture (though it is musically superior to much of what is churned out in any given period or by any given culture) but because chant provides the Church with a musical language of prayer which crosses cultural and temporal boundaries.

  • I appreciate music from all periods, but the problem that happened over the past generation and a half with Catholic Mass music in this country is that it largely remained frozen in time with the same 20 hymns or so, mostly from the seventies, played ad nauseum. One of the benefits of belonging to a Church that spans two millenia is that it gives us the opportunity to choose good music from many time periods, with the mediocre and bad music, alas always in the majority for any time period, residing in sweet oblivion. Time to take advantage of this and give the jejune hymns of the past two generations a rest for say a century or so.

  • “Hear is a good article that explains why this mouldy boomer music is foisted upon us so frequently at Mass.” should have been “Here is a good article that explains why this mouldy boomer music is foisted upon us so frequently at Mass.”, although, considering the subject matter, no doubt it was a Freudian slip.

  • .”..but because chant provides the Church with a musical language of prayer which crosses cultural and temporal boundaries.”

    I understand the claim and sympathize with the sentiment, but am not so sure that it is in a category unto itself, actually delivering in such a way.

  • Donald,

    Sadly I’ve been inculcated with these songs, having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s. Most of the songs you list I actually like. However, as I’ve become more and more aware of liturgical abuses, I’ve also become a little more sensitive to abuses in music, as well. There might be hope for me yet…

    As a completely useless anecdote, just this morning I was looking up the lyrics to Tim Schoenbachler’s “Rise Up, Jerusalem”. The song popped into my head at Mass yesterday, and I was trying to remember if it was something we sang in church years ago or was some pop piece that I’d heard elsewhere.

  • No problem Ryan, force of habit will cause many people to become fond of items that they would otherwise not be fond of. Of the songs produced during the seventies I actually like One Bread, One Body which I know is fingernails on the chalkboard to many people. Tastes will vary. My main point is that these songs are played too frequently and detract from the massive musical heritage that Catholics have to draw upon.

  • I am curious if there is overlap between Donald’s bottom 10 and Michael’s top 10 from the 70’s.

    Most of the songs he mentioned I don’t really like. I do like “I Am the Bread of Life” and “Be Not Afraid.” “Hosea” is also pretty good. The rest are not very good songs. “Here I Am Lord” rips off, of all things, the theme from the Brady Bunch.

    I do tend to like St Louis Jesuits hymns for the most part (only a few of the songs D mentioned were their songs), but I tend to like the more obscure ones. And I like them stripped down to folk instruments, well played, as they were intended to be played. Not translated to piano or pipe organ. And not simplistic guitar strumming. Good guitarists and singers playing “Answer When I Call,” for example is simply beautiful.

    A more interesting question is whether the songs on the “top ten worst songs” lists make it because folks are simply sick of them, and sick of bad music in general in Catholic parishes. “Be Not Afraid” is a great song, but it’s overdone and it’s usually played horribly. Any style of liturgical music can be done poorly. Donald’s later comments indicate to me that his issue is more with the fact that he is sick of certain hymns being over played. That’s certainly a legitimate point, but it does not signal an overall problem with the quality of Catholic liturgical from 1960-present.

    That said, I mostly don’t like Haas and Haugen (Haugen is better). And I can’t stand the Catholic embrace of “praise and worship” music.

    Chant, however, is not a composition in the same sense. It is a mode of turning words into musical prayer, not a style for composing songs. This is what make’s Michael’s comment about “restoring the former dominant cultural paradigm” very odd… The various forms of chant, however, are not time and place specific in the same way.

    What is “odd” is the notion that chant somehow floats above culture as if God herself wrote it. I’ve heard that argument before and frankly I find it ridiculous.

    I was fortunate to grow up in a parish that had a “folk Mass” with a very competent choir. These “folks” knew what they were doing. Great guitar players, fiddler, bass, etc. They had a huge batch of songs to draw from and they knew how the songs were intended to be played. Thus, it’s hard for me to accept the across-the-board dismissals of contemporary Catholic liturgical music.

    I’m working on an album of St Louis Jesuits songs played in a very stripped down format, with a sort of Appalachian old time feel. I am picking some of their more obscure songs for the most part.

    “Cry of the Poor,” played well, is one of the best, most hauntingly beautiful contemporary Catholic hymns in my opinion. But it does not translate well to piano or organ.

    I like Taize music (in Latin, English, or Spanish) because it feels both ancient and contemporary.

  • God herself

    Can I hope that’s a typo…?

  • That said…

    What is “odd” is the notion that chant somehow floats above culture as if God herself wrote it. I’ve heard that argument before and frankly I find it ridiculous.

    I don’t think the argument is that God himself produces chant, obviously the various forms of chant are human developments, but they’re human developments with a purpose and form different from “song writing” or “composition” in that they are means of singing pre-existing words (the words being the main emphasis) to a musical form that provides beauty without making the musical composition the center (a center to which the words are fit.)

    In this sense, a chant approach works equally well in Latin, English, Spanish, etc., so long as one takes into account the rhythms of the language itself.

    Though I can certainly imagine given your background and ideological commitments why you’d want to ignore or recategorize chanted prayer.

  • Most of what Donald puts on his list rank near the bottom of my list, too It’s not that they are necessarily bad songs (in fact, melodically some of them are very good), but most of them suffer from one serious defect: they’re virtually unsingable by ordinary people. The melodies have huge intervals in them or cover an enormous range (and sometimes both). The majority of people can only consistently sing an interval of a third or maybe a fourth, but many of these songs have fifths, sixths, and even octaves in them. Most people’s effective range is perhaps a full octave, but some of these songs stretch almost two octaves (“I Am The Bread Of Life” is especially bad about this). If your goal is to have the people sing along with the choir, this is the worst thing you can do; the result typically is absolute cacaphony. The great advantage of chant (and hymns up until the early 20th century in general) is that the intervals and ranges are relatively small (and the meter is regular). Even untrained singers can sound reasonably good with that material. By contrast, only a trained choir typically sounds good with much of the modern stuff.

    There are other issues involved that I won’t get into, such as apparently sopranos and tenors write all of the modern music and put it in keys that are uncomfortable for a bass such as myself, or performing in a style that is totally inappropriate for the source material (the parish I’m at now is the second consecutive one where the music group tries to play Andrae Crouch’s “Soon And Very Soon” and absolutely butchers it…).

  • I’m working on an album of St Louis Jesuits songs played in a very stripped down format, with a sort of Appalachian old time feel. I am picking some of their more obscure songs for the most part.

    I’d be interested in hearing it when you’re finished.

    but most of them suffer from one serious defect: they’re virtually unsingable by ordinary people.

    Truer words were never spoken. I grew up in a Presbyterian church (where they sang the Psalms, and nothing but the Psalms, set to music) and later a Southern Baptist church — and in both instances, everybody sang. Take a look around my parish on Sunday and people struggle along (if at all) while the director puts on a solo performance.

    Something’s amiss here, and it ain’t the parishioners.

  • God herself

    Can I hope that’s a typo…?

    Like his refusal to capitalize certain words, Michael I. is just going out of his way to be obnoxious.

  • One thing professional gadfly Todd Flowerday correctly points out is that everybody needs to step back and realize that hymn-sifting will occur and is occurring. Each of the currently popular hymnists is going to be lucky to have maybe five of his/her songs in a hymnal come the turn of the 21st Century. Which means that we’ll end up singing a lot of chaff, alas.

    The transcultural effect of chant is a good point. The Church has rarely been monochrome culturally, least of all during its formative years, and yet that’s when traditions of chant proliferated throughout. Take a listen at Sr. Marie Keyrouz’ eastern chant repertoire and that comes through with crystal clarity. And, yes, hymns do as well, given the hymn fragments we see in the NT (Phillipians, for example). But it is the centrality of chant to the actual liturgical prayer forms of the Church across time and culture which distinguishes it from hymnody.

  • Can I hope that’s a typo…?

    If you want to. But it’s not a typo.

    I don’t think the argument is that God himself produces chant, obviously the various forms of chant are human developments, but they’re human developments with a purpose and form different from “song writing” or “composition” in that they are means of singing pre-existing words (the words being the main emphasis) to a musical form that provides beauty without making the musical composition the center (a center to which the words are fit.)

    I said “as if” God writes chant.

    Of course I see that chant is held to be different than mere “song writing” in a way similar to how icons are not mere paintings. But even most contemporary liturgical composers do not see what they do as mere songwriting. And given what you have said about using pre-existing words, etc etc, it still does not follow that chant somehow “transcends” culture. It simply does not.

    Though I can certainly imagine given your background and ideological commitments why you’d want to ignore or recategorize chanted prayer.

    I have said a few times now in this thread that I like chant. A lot. I don’t ignore it at all. I have some on my laptop right now. But the push to enshrine chant as the only “real” form of liturgical music is misguided and not catholic (in the “small ‘c’ sense of the word). If you want to try to misrepresent my position (as usual), go ahead, but I’ll indeed point out whenever you do so.

    The great advantage of chant (and hymns up until the early 20th century in general) is that the intervals and ranges are relatively small (and the meter is regular).

    Your point about the singability is a good one. But I don’t agree that pre-20th c. hymns were easier to sing. I say this from experience in choirs over the years who have used a variety of music from different time periods.

    Take a look around my parish on Sunday and people struggle along (if at all) while the director puts on a solo performance.

    Yes, absolutely. But here again, this is a problem with the practice of liturgical music, NOT with the style of the music.

  • Can I hope that’s a typo…?

    If you want to. But it’s not a typo.

    Well, okay.

    I kind of thought it might not be, but I had hoped that my low expecations were not actually reflective of reality.

  • As Julian of Norwich says so beautifully, Jesus is our Mother…

  • Tito,

    Both man and woman were made in God’s image.

    Can you use your analogical imagination to understand that in God’s perfection there is femaleness?

  • Mark,

    I understand where you and Michael I. are coming from, but I respectfully disagree with calling God a ‘she’. It is more an act of provocation rather than anything congenial.

    The thread is about Gregorian Chant and then MIchael I. decides to throw a hand-grenade that is completely unrelated to the topic, ie, par for the course.

    What’s the name of your pooch?

  • So our Lady is our mother, in whom we are all enclosed and born of her in Christ, for she who is mother is mother of all who are saved in our savior; and our saviour is our true Mother, in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.
    ….

    And so in our making, God almighty is our loving Father, and God all wisdom is our loving Mother, with the love and the goodness of the Holy Spirit, which is all one God, our Lord.

    The mother can give her child to suck her milk, but our precious Mother can feed us with himself, and does, most courteously and tenderly, with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life..

    The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open sidem and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss.

    Julian of Norwich, Shewings

  • Tito,

    The dog’s name is Georgia, or Georgie for those who are on familiar terms with her. She’s actually my girlfiend’s.

  • Mark,

    Thanks for the Julian referrence. It’s always good to learn more about the faith.

    Georgia it is. I’m a big cat and dog fan. Cats because they take care of themselves, dogs because they are loyal. Though I don’t own any as of this moment, I’m thinking of getting two kittens sometime next year.

    Felix and Nestor!

  • The thread is about Gregorian Chant and then MIchael I. decides to throw a hand-grenade that is completely unrelated to the topic, ie, par for the course.

    I’m sorry you find female terms for God “provocative.” That’s your problem, your issue, not mine.

    Utterly hilarious that you think my use of the word “she” for God was an intentional attempt to derail the conversation here. You have issues, my friend!

    Can you use your analogical imagination to understand that in God’s perfection there is femaleness?

    Tito has made clear for some time now that he has no analogical imagination.

  • Mark – Femaleness is a “hand grenade,” according to Tito. I’ll bet the women in his life must be flattered.

  • Michael,

    Maybe you are being a bit too tough on Tito. He probably just wants to respect the language that God chose in his full revelation of Himself.

    Unfortuantely, a too obsessive adherence to this langauge has historically stifled the theological imagination, and we are all the victims.

  • Utterly hilarious that you think my use of the word “she” for God was an intentional attempt to derail the conversation here.

    Of course it was. The troll’s mission accomplished!

  • From a recent post:

    Whenever I see debates about Church music, they are generally about stylistic issues, instrumentation, and the like. These debates usually center around music selection — which hymns to select and why. It’s been this way for at least as long as I’ve been involved in church music (13 years). I wish to change the terms of the debate; I’m not going to center on style or instrumentation. Instead, I wish to concentrate on the texts of the music assigned for the Mass each and every week.

    Now many will wonder at the final part of that phrase. “I didn’t know each and every Mass has music assigned already. I thought pastors, music directors, and liturgical committees chose the music for the Mass.” This kind of question is a manifestation of what I see as a case of deep liturgical amnesia that has plagued the Western Church since even before the Second Vatican Council. But that is another post for another time.

    Read on…

  • Aristotle,

    That’s a very key point you bring up, and while I think that chants are particularly appropriate forms of music to the texts appropriate to the mass, I would agree with you that it is more important that we regain the lost propers of the mass than what style of music they are in.

    Michael,

    I’ve known rather more women who are offended by the implication that they were incapable of “relating” to God when He is referred to with the masculine pronoun (which is generally how the scriptures and Church Father describe Him, after all) than who are offended by comments such as Tito’s. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I very much doubt that any women worth winning the admiration of would be offended by what he said.

    As you are no doubt aware, God is traditionally referred to in orthodox Christianity as masculine, just as the Church is traditionally referred to as feminine, and I think the case is pretty solid that doing otherwise can only be taken as:

    a) An attempt to shock and/or flaunt one’s transgressive attitude.
    b) An expression of solidarity with the sorts of “feminist theology” which have been explicitly rejected by the Church.

    Mark,

    You’re right, of course, that there are aspects of God which we, in human terms, might see as feminine. Men and women are equally made in His image. However, I must admit that I can’t see where generally sticking with describing God as the scriptures and the Church Fathers described Him has stifled theological imaginations that much over the last 2000 years.

  • Darwin/Brendan:

    On the contrary, God is referred to as both masculine and feminine throughout the history of orthodox Christianity. Jesus himself referred to God as female at times. Take it up with him.

    You’re simply not familiar with the breadth of the tradition. Sticking God in a box labeled “BOY” is transgressive, not referring to God as “she.”

    Tito-sterone is right, though: this thread is about liturgical music not “feminist theology.” The fact that you jerks can’t handle a feminine pronoun in reference to God is not my problem. YOU are the ones who are making a big deal about it, not me. Get over it.

  • Jesus himself referred to God as female at times. Take it up with him.

    Once, yes. But there’s hundreds of times more scriptural support for saying that God is pro-war (i.e., much of the Old Testament). Likewise, if you look at Church history, there were more wars started by the Church itself than there were orthodox theologians who called God “she.” So if, in a thread about Church music, someone dropped a completely irrelevant aside that God is pro-war, only jerks like you would be sidetracked over that comment, right?

  • Is today Festivus or Christmas Eve?

  • On the contrary, God is referred to as both masculine and feminine throughout the history of orthodox Christianity. Jesus himself referred to God as female at times. Take it up with him.

    I think you’re wrong about that, but if you want to provide ten specific citations from the from the New Testament and/or Church Fathers (stick to people canonized so we don’t have to argue over whether they’re “orthodox”) I’ll gladly concede the point.

    Sticking God in a box labeled “BOY” is transgressive

    If you read what we wrote, we pretty specifically did not do that.

    Tito-sterone is right, though: this thread is about liturgical music

    Just so. Thus, if you want to return to that, I’ll throw this out: It strikes me that one of the things you’re missing when you talk about chant being culturally specific rather than a universal part of the Church is that chant as a form is not a product of a specific regional culture, but rather of Catholic culture.

    So while it’s well and good that you have an affection for religious music in a bluegrass style (a style to some extent specific to your region of origin) it strikes me as important that we as Catholics also give significant (not merely token) place in all her liturgies to both her universal language and to her developed forms of music and prayer.

    There’s a balance to be found here. I think in many cases in the immediately pre-Vatican II period there was a tendency to attempt to impose a lot of European cultural baggage along with an authentically Catholic culture, yet since the 70s (though this seems to be slowly and surely correcting itself) we seem to have swung in the opposite direction and our authentically Catholic language, music and other cultural elements are often ignored and replaced with quickie knock-offs of the local regional cultural forms.

  • I think you’re wrong about that, but if you want to provide ten specific citations from the from the New Testament and/or Church Fathers (stick to people canonized so we don’t have to argue over whether they’re “orthodox”) I’ll gladly concede the point.

    Why ten? That’s arbitrary number. Even if Jesus referred to God as female “once” (as S.B. incorrectly states) is that not enough to convince you that referring to God as “she” ONCE in a stupid blog thread might be acceptable?

    is not a product of a specific regional culture, but rather of Catholic culture.

    “Catholic culture” cannot be completely isolated from culture in general.

    it strikes me as important that we as Catholics also give significant (not merely token) place in all her liturgies to both her universal language and to her developed forms of music and prayer.

    Sure. But nevertheless, it still remains an OPTION to do so.

  • Why am I in moderation? Because I called God a “she”?!

  • Probably for the same reason that Vox Nova automatically moderates comments that use certain rude words.

  • I’m not sure why the comment was in moderation, but I pushed it through.

    Yes, ten is an arbitrary number. I’d be moderately impressed with five, come to that. But I did indeed pick it arbitrarily. Given the thousands of times that God is referred to in the scriptures and by the Church Fathers, it seems to me that if you can’t locate ten specific instances where God is referred to with the feminine pronoun (and this would have to mean just calling God “she” or “her” — not an analogy to a mother or some such literary device) then that would substantiate my claim that your use is unusual — and only makes sense as a way to make a statement or dissent from the traditional Christian understanding of God.

    “Catholic culture” cannot be completely isolated from culture in general.

    Certainly not, but it doesn’t need to be wrapped in the dregs of the culture in general either. At no time in the Church’s history has chant been the prevailing musical form in the wider culture — it’s always been specific to the Church and her worship.

    Sure. But nevertheless, it still remains an OPTION to do so.

    Yep. Kind of like it’s an option to occasionally celebrate mass in the vernacular.

  • Even if Jesus referred to God as female “once” (as S.B. incorrectly state

    Put up or shut up. Give a citation outside of the mother hen passage (“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing”).

  • …only makes sense as a way to make a statement or dissent from the traditional Christian understanding of God.

    There is no “dissent” involved in using “she” as a pronoun for God. Unless you happen to think God is male. THAT is heresy.

    Kind of like it’s an option to occasionally celebrate mass in the vernacular.

    Latin and vernacular are both options. Yes. What is your point?

    Give a citation outside of the mother hen passage

    The parable of the woman and the lost coin.

  • That’s not a very good example — the whole point of that story was the attitude towards the lost coin; the story had absolutely zero to do with “femaleness,” or any attributes thought to be particularly “female.” Just like the point of the “unjust judge” story was the value of persistence, not to say that God is literally an unjust judge.

  • Why do some people get so sensitive in regards to the issue of the femaleness of God?

  • I think what you meant to ask was, “Why do some people get so sensitive [towards attempts to derail a conversation by raising bogus arguments] in regards to the issue of the femaleness of God?”

  • If you sincerely are puzzled, check out the (a) and (b) points in Darwin’s comment, December 24, 2008 A.D. at 12:54 am

  • S.B. – I didn’t “derail” anything. I used a female pronoun for God, as I often do, and there was a comment made about it. In response to that comment, I didn’t fight back, if you remember. The ones “derailing” the conversation are the folks who can’t seem to deal with a casual comment.

    Mark – There is, sadly, a deep hatred of women that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my wife, I love my daughters, I love my mother.” But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns. Even Christ’s use of female images for God does not satisfy them: the feminine must be excluded from the Godhead.

  • S.B. – I will not continue talking about the reasons why I used a female pronoun, if you are concerned about “derailing” the thread. I suggest that if you are really concerned about it, then you too should shut us about it and deal with it. I may continue to use the word “she,” just as I would “he,” in reference to God. But that ain’t “derailing” anything.

  • There is, sadly, a deep hatred of soldiers and policemen that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my friends who are soldiers.” But their god is their own political beliefs, not Christianity. It’s connected to their leftist posturing, and their desire to fit in with their radical friends. Even God’s repeated commandment to wage war throughout the Old Testament does not satisfy them: Anything to do with soldiers must be excluded from their faith.

  • Yes, Michael, I am afraid you are correct.

  • My comment, if it wasn’t obvious, was intended to be as facetious and silly as Michael’s psychoanalysis. The notion that you have a “deep hatred of women” if you don’t mind private gun ownership and if you’re thankful for the service of American soldiers . . . that’s one of the most knee-jerk examples of ideological dimwittedness I’ve ever heard.

  • There is, sadly, a deep hatred of women that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my wife, I love my daughters, I love my mother.” But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns. Even Christ’s use of female images for God does not satisfy them: the feminine must be excluded from the Godhead.

    I suspect that you know very well this is not the motivation involved, though I have little doubt that you have the low opinion you state of those who disagree with you. Because although you’re a somewhat unpleasant and disdainful person at times, you’re not particularly stupid — and as analysis goes that above is pretty stupid.

    Now you gave as an example of Jesus referring to God with a feminine pronoun “The parable of the woman and the lost coin.” This pretty much substantiates my expectation when I said, “you can’t locate ten specific instances where God is referred to with the feminine pronoun (and this would have to mean just calling God “she” or “her” — not an analogy to a mother or some such literary device)”

    The text of the parable you mention is:
    “Or what woman having ten coins 2 and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    I should hardly have to point out to you that this is a case of Jesus comparing God’s rejoicing in the return of one sinner to that of a woman who finds a lost coin — at no point in it does Jesus refer to God as “she”. (I can’t really imagine you’ve gotten as far an academic theology as you have at this point without knowing the difference — so I must assume that you either think we’re pretty stupid or that you’re being disingenuous in making your argument.)

    Now if someone did actually object to parables, analogies and similes in which God is compared to a woman for one reason or another, you might perhaps have a case that that person has a hang up about women based on some sort of prejudice or disdain. That’s not the case, however. You’re simply referring to God as if He were female by referring to Him as “she” or “her”. (I’m assuming that your lack of capitalization is simply typing laziness, such as I at times suffer from myself, and not a point such as your lack of capitalization with “america” and “usa”.) Doing so puts you very much outside the tradition of how God has always referred to Himself in revelation, and outside the traditional language of the Church.

    That said, I don’t really doubt you when you say,
    may continue to use the word “she,” just as I would “he,” in reference to God.
    Because when it comes to making a statement, you don’t seem to mind putting yourself outside of the traditional range of Church thought.

    ———-

    But since you seem to feel all this is a distraction, I’ll close by returning to point.

    When you said: Sure. But nevertheless, it still remains an OPTION to do so.

    I fell into the temptation to go for the snappy content-less reply and said: Yep. Kind of like it’s an option to occasionally celebrate mass in the vernacular.

    Instead, I should have been more clear as to why I’ve been objecting to your repeated characterization of the use of chant in liturgy as “just an option”.

    First, the use of chant and the use of Latin were both originally intended (as in, when the rubrics were written — and in the case of chant this is still reflected in the current rubrics) as the norm while the use of the other songs in place of chant, and of vernacular in place of Latin, are the options — allowable exceptions to the norm.

    This clearly doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to use other songs in other styles in the context of the liturgy, nor to use the vernacular in place of Latin in some or all of the liturgy. Using other music and other languages remain a perfectly acceptable option.

    The problem, however, is that in the modern US these exceptions have become the norm, and often what was meant to be the norm is harshly opposed. (For example, one of the priests at our parish, when the choir chanted the introit before the entrance hymn, gave the directive: I don’t want you people doing that Latin stuff at any of my masses again.)

    This trampling of the very aspects of our Catholic liturgical culture which bring all parts of the universal Church together (rather than fragmenting us apart so that even the Spanish, Vietnamese and English masses at the same parish become foreign to one another) causes serious problems for the Church. And your initial dismissive comment on this thread, and subsequent follow ups, suggest to me that you either don’t “get it” or are part of the problem.

  • There is, sadly, a deep hatred of women that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my wife, I love my daughters, I love my mother.” But their god is Maleness.

    Does your diagnosis apply to Benedict XVI?

    First of all we have to say that the Bible does indeed, when addressing God in prayer, use the image of him as Father, and not as Mother, but that in images used in talking about God it always equally attributes feminine characteristics to him.” God and the World p. 101

    Notice the distinction Benedict makes between referring to God and describing God’s attributes or characteristics. As Darwin noted, your assertion above is either disingenuous or sloppy. The Bible does not describe God as ‘she,’ but it describe God as possessing ‘feminine’ characteristics. Those are two very different things. More Benedict XVI:

    Yes, why is this strictly limited to calling God Father?….I would in the first place hold on to the fact that the word ‘Father’ naturally remains an image. It remains true that God is neither male nor female, but is simply God. Yet at the same time we are talking about an image that was given to us authentically by Christ himself, and is thus non-exchangeable…
    God and the World p. 102

    Notice, Benedict XVI seems to take it for granted that we are ‘strictly limited to calling God Father.’ He goes on to explain what some of the reasons for this might be, but says we cannot come to a definitive answer. I would submit for your consideration that those who believe, like Benedict XVI, that God should be referred to using masculine pronouns do so not because of some sort of ‘deep hatred of women,’ but rather because it is the language through which God has chosen to reveal Himself.

  • I have promised S.B. that I would not “derail” the conversation further. I encourage all of the men here to get over the fact that I used “she” in reference to God.

    Hey, by the way, do any women read this blog?? You have no women contributors….

    Something to think about.

  • Michael I.,

    It’s a shame that even during Christmas you continue in your uncharitable ways. You have not contributed anything to the thread concerning Gregorian Chant except your bile and hatred for all things sacred to our beautiful Catholic faith.

    If you continue distracting from the conversation, you will be put back on probation.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,.

    Tito

  • You have not contributed anything to the thread concerning Gregorian Chant except your bile and hatred for all things sacred to our beautiful Catholic faith.

    Baloney. I repeatedly said how much I love chant. I simply don’t think it should be used instrumentally as a symbol in the ideological battles of the Catholic Right.

    You need to look at who really has derailed the conversation.

    Even during the holidays you are a major league nutcase. But happy Christmas to you anyway.

  • Michael I.,

    Too bad you wished me a “Happy Christmas” preceded by an insult.

    Par for the course.

  • I must say that the arguments for primacy of Gregorian chant have been wanting, even in both the claims for 1) a special universality, in contrast to beautiful “compositions”; and 2) their separateness from the hymnody. In the end, all we have left standing is an argument from authority…

    And why does God’s using masculine language preclude us from also acknowledging that a) he transcends the human sexes; and b) contains equally the perfection of both sexes in God’s unique, special way, as Genesis informs us that both man AND woman are made in God’s image.

  • I must say that the arguments for primacy of Gregorian chant have been wanting, even in both the claims for 1) a special universality, in contrast to beautiful “compositions”; and 2) their separateness from the hymnody. In the end, all we have left standing is an argument from authority…

    Well, given that the Church is the authority in determining the wording and form of the liturgy, I’m not sure that an argument from authority is really out of place. Indeed, attempts at arguments from first principles for one liturgical form or another usually come up rather poor.

    There are, I think, good arguments for chant which could be made from first principles. (One might note, for instance, that most major religious traditions have their own forms of chanted prayer.) But it’s not really an issue one can make arguments about as one might about the necessity of an all powerful deity being one.

    And why does God’s using masculine language preclude us from also acknowledging that a) he transcends the human sexes; and b) contains equally the perfection of both sexes in God’s unique, special way, as Genesis informs us that both man AND woman are made in God’s image.

    It doesn’t. Everyone agrees on that.

  • It doesn’t. Everyone agrees on that.

    Sure. “Everyone” “agrees” on it but some insist on using language that says the precise opposite. And condemns anyone who uses a female pronoun for God — in casual conversation, mind you, not a liturgical formula.

  • As discussed above, Pope Benedict XVI has said we are ‘strictly limited to calling God Father,’ and that this image, having been provided by Christ, is ‘non-negotiable.’ There is a difference between attributing ‘feminine’ attributes to God like compassion, and referring to God using a feminine pronoun (one happens in Scripture, the other doesn’t as BXVI and numerous commentators noted above).

    Thus far, it is not clear whether you disagree with this distinction, are ignorant of it, or don’t understand it. You have offered nothing other than insults and third-rate exegesis to support your point of view. Granted, this is a combox on a blog, but it is intended to be a forum for discussion; if you are unwilling (or incapable) of having a discussion on this topic, then at a minimum please refrain from insults and other childish behavior.

  • Invoking the “non-negotiable” language, eh? That’s a conversation stopper.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    1) Though I don’t know the context of that particular passage from Ratzinger (I don’t have that particular book of his) it seems to be an expression of his opinion. You are certainly free to cite him to strengthen your argument, but you need to understand that you are citing his personal opinion in this case. His opinion is certainly a strong participant in these discussions, but in this case he does not represent a “final word” so to speak.

    2) Again, I can’t look at the context of the passage you plucked, but I truly have no problems with Ratzinger’s views necessarily because I don’t think he is in contradiction to my position. Take for example his assertion that “Yet at the same time we are talking about an image that was given to us authentically by Christ himself, and is thus non-exchangeable…” Of course there is real significance to the images of God that Christ gave us. The image of God as Father is indeed “non-exchangeable” in that sense. We don’t simply “get rid of it” because it offends modern sensibilities. I am not in favor of renaming the persons of the Trinity, for example, as some feminist theologians have suggested. But insisting on retaining the “Father” language in reference to God does not exclude the possibility of other images (as we have seen, Jesus used female images for God).

    3) There is a good deal of evidence that the “Abba” language that Jesus used is not as “masculine” as many of you anti-feminists would like to think.

    4) COMPASSION IS NOT A “FEMININE” QUALITY. IT IS A HUMAN QUALITY. These bogus dualisms are precisely part of the problem. Let’s not perpetuate them.

    You have offered nothing other than insults and third-rate exegesis to support your point of view.

    5) You may not like my views, but I am not insulting anyone (save for the ever-charming Tito, I suppose, who does not really qualify as a dialogue partner in this case). Nor have I attempted any sort of “exegesis.” I guess it’s easy to call my exegesis “third rate” when I haven’t attempted any. Figures. It would be like me calling your “theology” third rate when you clearly haven’t engaged in anything remotely resembling theology.

    If you are unwilling (or incapable) of having a discussion on this topic…

    Once more, you might not like my views, but it’s absurd for you to suggest that I am “unwilling” or “incapable” of having a discussion on the topic. I never really intended a discussion on the topic (as I have said) but quite clearly have been bullied into it through a snarky response to my use of the word “she,” then accused of “derailing” the previous conversation. If ya’ll would LIKE to discuss the appropriateness of feminine images of God, fine, but you can’t then accuse me of “derailing” the conversation on liturgical music when I participate in the new discussion.

    Which is it going to be?

  • As you are no doubt aware, God is traditionally referred to in orthodox Christianity as masculine, just as the Church is traditionally referred to as feminine..

    If this is to imply that God is really masculine, and not feminine, then would it follow that we are all really feminine, not masculine…

  • 1) Agreed.

    2) There is a fairly clear distinction, as discussed above, between referring to God as having attributes typically described as feminine (like a mother hen…) to God, and referring to God as feminine. That is the distinction Benedict XVI articulates, and it is the distinction between your position and his (and mine).

    3) All well and good. Why do you refer to me as an anti-feminist? Feminism has a lot of different meanings. Is Benedict anti-feminist? Was JP II? If so, then fine. Otherwise, all I have done is cite Benedict’s position.

    4) Notice I put ‘feminine’ in quotes above; I agree compassion is a human attribute. Later in the passage I cited, Benedict XVI was describing the use of the word ‘rachamin’ in the Old Testament, which is a word for sympathy/compassion with corporal overtones referring to the ‘motherly body’ of God. That’s why I used compassion.

    5) You may not like my views, but I am not insulting anyone (save for the ever-charming Tito…) Nor have I attempted any sort of “exegesis.”

    5) Nonsense. You wrote, “But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns.” Unless Tito is now multiple persons, you were insulting more people than Tito. And yes, saying somebody’s ‘god’ is ‘maleness’ (whatever that means) is an insult as is saying they love war.

    As to exegesis, you seem to think describing God’s attributes using feminine images (e.g. the woman and the lost coin – suggesting God desires and rejoices over every individual’s salvation; and the mother hen analogy- referring to a lament over the failure of people to respond), is identical with referring to God as female. This, as Benedict XVI and other commentators have noted, is fallacious. There may be a valid case for referring to God as ‘She’ or ‘Herself’, and perhaps these passages can be cited as incidental support, but these passages do something quite different than referring to God as feminine. This is not exactly ground-breaking, nor is it difficult to understand. That is why I referred to your interpretation as third-rate exegesis.

  • “If this is to imply that God is really masculine, and not feminine, then would it follow that we are all really feminine, not masculine…”

    It is fairly common in the tradition of the Church and Christianity to think of the soul as feminine in response to God. Even non-Catholic writers addressing a popular audience like C.S. Lewis discuss this, saying that there is a larger sense in which all souls are feminine/receptive in response to God’s initiative. Ever read the Song of Songs?

  • Sure. “Everyone” “agrees” on it but some insist on using language that says the precise opposite. And condemns anyone who uses a female pronoun for God — in casual conversation, mind you, not a liturgical formula.

    Because there’s a very big difference between the two points Mark made, which I fully agree with (That God transcends human sexes and that both men and women find their perfection as creatures in God, in whose image both men and women are made) and the peculiarly modern idea of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she”.

    Nor does consistently referring to God as “He” (which is, after all, the choice that God Himself has made in His interactions with humanity) serve to deny either of those points.

  • I’m working on an album of St Louis Jesuits songs played in a very stripped down format, with a sort of Appalachian old time feel. I am picking some of their more obscure songs for the most part.

    This has got to be one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve read on St. Blog’s in a long time, all the more so coming from the oh-so-serious commenter who wrote it. Thanks for the chuckle.

  • Ah, come on, that project could be cool Rich…it all depends on which songs are chosen and the arrangements.

  • There is a fairly clear distinction, as discussed above, between referring to God as having attributes typically described as feminine (like a mother hen…) to God, and referring to God as feminine. That is the distinction Benedict XVI articulates, and it is the distinction between your position and his (and mine).

    […]

    As to exegesis, you seem to think describing God’s attributes using feminine images (e.g. the woman and the lost coin – suggesting God desires and rejoices over every individual’s salvation; and the mother hen analogy- referring to a lament over the failure of people to respond), is identical with referring to God as female.

    Right here you show that you can’t even control the “distinctions” you think you are making. In the first, you say that I can’t distinguish between using female images for God and describing God as “feminine.” In the second, you say that I don’t know the distinction between using female images and calling God “female.” These are two very different things.

    Note, however, that I never said “God is female.” All I did was to use the word “she” in reference to God. Just as using “he” in reference to God is not a claim that God is male — in orthodox Catholic thought, anyway — use of the word “she” does not imply that God is female.

    There may be a valid case for referring to God as ‘She’ or ‘Herself’…

    Then it’s interesting that no one here, save Mark, rushed to my defense for doing so in the first place. Because my use of the word “she” was seriously not done as a statement, but casually.

    …and perhaps these passages can be cited as incidental support

    Which is all I used them for. And yet you slam me for “third rate exegesis” when I was doing no such thing.

    …but these passages do something quite different than referring to God as feminine.

    Well, no. They do MANY things including referring to God as feminine. To say that these passages do not refer to God as feminine when they clearly do (in the course of telling us other things about God of course) is simply to have an allergy to comparing females with God. That is a huge problem.

    Nonsense. You wrote, “But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns.” Unless Tito is now multiple persons, you were insulting more people than Tito. And yes, saying somebody’s ‘god’ is ‘maleness’ (whatever that means) is an insult as is saying they love war.

    Those are not insults, but observations.

    …the peculiarly modern idea of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she”.

    If you think referring to God using both masculine and feminine pronouns is “modern,” then you clearly have no familiarity with the history of world religions, the history of Judaism, or the history of Christianity. Blaming everything on “modernism” is typical here, but quite stuppid in this case.

    Nor does consistently referring to God as “He” (which is, after all, the choice that God Himself has made in His interactions with humanity) serve to deny either of those points.

    This “God himself used masculine words” is silly as well. Quite a fundamentalist Protestant approach.

    Nor does consistently referring to God as “He” (which is, after all, the choice that God Himself has made in His interactions with humanity) serve to deny either of those points.

    I agree with Mark’s points too, obviously, and I don’t think occasionally referring to God as “she” serves to deny his points either.

  • For those who are interested, I was just reading in Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Jesus this little section….

    “Alone among the many ancient gods, the Jewish God was always ‘He’, never ‘She’ (or ‘It’ or ‘They’ or the Hermaphrodite). For ‘She’ symbolized something immanent, while ‘He” was transcendent. ‘She’ was the Womb of all things, the cosmic Mother, but ‘He’ was other than Mother Earth. He created the earth, and He came into it from without, as a man comes into a woman. He impregnated nonbeing with being, darkness with light, dead matter with life, history with miracles, minds with revelations, His chosen people with prophets, and souls with salvation (which John Henry referred to). He was transcendent.

    That is why only Judaism, of all ancient religions, had no goddesses and no priestesses. For priests are representatives and symbols of gods. Priests mediate not only Man to God but also God to Man. Women can represent Man to God as well as men can, for women are equally human, valuable, good, and pious. But women cannot represent this God to Man, for God is not our Mother but our Father. Earth is our Mother.

    Jesus always called God ‘Father.’ And Jesus was anything but a male chauvinist. He liberated women more than anyone else in His time. But He was also a Jew. He believed that Judaism was the revelation of the true God. He believed that God had taught us how to speak of Him. He not only believed this, He knew it, for He was there! He was (and is) the eternal Logos or Mind or Reason or Word of God. He was the Mind that had invented Judaism – unless He was a liar and Judaism was a lie.”

    By the way, I think Chant is the way to go… I would like to see more churches chanting the antiphons… the Intro, Gospel, and Communion… maybe a combination of them in Latin and then English… I think that would be cool. (as you can see; I’m a Medieval Modern.) :)

  • Bret,

    Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite apologists.

    That is why we don’t have priestesses as well in the Catholic Church. Though the Roy Bourgeois supporters and their SOA conspirators would beg to differ of Mr. Kreeft’s conclusion(s).

  • o say that these passages do not refer to God as feminine

    Again, when Jesus says that God cares about the lost sinner as much as a housewife might care about a lost coin, that is NOT “referring to God as feminine” in any way whatsoever.

  • Note, however, that I never said “God is female.” All I did was to use the word “she” in reference to God. Just as using “he” in reference to God is not a claim that God is male — in orthodox Catholic thought, anyway — use of the word “she” does not imply that God is female.

    The difference is that traditional Christian writing has always referred to God as “He” while not asserting that He is a male. Traditional Christian writing has not referred to God as “She”. When you go around referring to “God herself” you strongly imply a claim that God is female (or at the very least a strong rejection of referring to God with masculine terminology). By the same token, if you went around calling God “it” or “they” people would take you to be making a statement about your beliefs as to the nature of God. There doubtless are senses in which one could strive to justify such a usage, but since the usage would be contrary to all tradition using it (especially in passing when discussing other topics) would be taken as making a statement.

    Well, no. They do MANY things including referring to God as feminine. To say that these passages do not refer to God as feminine when they clearly do (in the course of telling us other things about God of course) is simply to have an allergy to comparing females with God. That is a huge problem.

    So does the “mother hen” passage consist of referring to God’s avian nature? I know the modern education can be a bit peculiar, but I can’t really imagine that you’re unclear on how an analogy or simile works.

    If I were to make an observation along the lines of, “In discussion, Michael is like a harpy. A harpy will follow her victim constantly, pecking and tearing, yet never engaging in a direct fight — hovering always just out of reach and flapping her wings in the face of her prey while screaming incessantly,” I would clearly be describing you in rude and unflattering terms, and imputing a number of characteristics to you, but one could hardly claim that I was saying you were female and could rightly be described as “Michael herself.”

    The passages in question certainly describe God, and they do so by drawing on examples and similes which describe women (or female birds, etc.) but that certainly does not mean that they refer to God as feminine.

    Our archetypal language is frequently gendered. For instance, if I said, “Michael cared for his son as tenderly as any mother could have,” I wouldn’t be saying you were female, but rather drawing on a cultural archetype which sees mothers as more tender than fathers.

    If you think referring to God using both masculine and feminine pronouns is “modern,” then you clearly have no familiarity with the history of world religions, the history of Judaism, or the history of Christianity. Blaming everything on “modernism” is typical here, but quite stuppid in this case.

    Read what I wrote. I said specifically that the tactic of referring alternately to God as “him” and “her” was very modern. You’re described yourself as having the habit of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she” more or less at random without attempting to make any particular theological point by it. I challenge you to point to any orthodox Christian writer living before 1700 who did the same. In this sense, yes, what you’re doing is very modern.

    And I continue to stand by my claim that there is practically no precedent in the history of orthodox Christianity for referring to God at all with the feminine pronoun, except in the middle of a analogy or simile. (Note: If you’d made some sort of statement along the lines of, “God watches over us with more care than any mother over her children,” no one would have challenged you. It’s the random “God herself” that’s causing disagreement.) If you want to shoot me down on that claim by providing specific citations, I’m perfectly happy to look at them.

  • If I were to make an observation along the lines of, “In discussion, Michael is like a harpy. A harpy will follow her victim constantly, pecking and tearing, yet never engaging in a direct fight — hovering always just out of reach and flapping her wings in the face of her prey while screaming incessantly,” I would clearly be describing you in rude and unflattering terms, and imputing a number of characteristics to you, but one could hardly claim that I was saying you were female and could rightly be described as “Michael herself.”

    Marvelous.

  • Bret (and Peter Kreeft, who is a philosopher, not a scholar of Israelite religion) has clearly never heard of Ashera, nor of the development of monotheism is Judaism.

    Though the Roy Bourgeois supporters and their SOA conspirators would beg to differ of Mr. Kreeft’s conclusion(s).

    Tito does not seem to have the intellectual capacity to distinguish movements and persons. I do not support Bourgeois’ actions with regard to women’s ordination. But that had nothing to do with his work to close the SOA.

    Traditional Christian writing has not referred to God as “She”.

    Julian of Norwich did. That IS traditional. When you use the word “traditional,” you are using it to exclude certain traditions from view. That’s dishonest.

    I said specifically that the tactic of referring alternately to God as “him” and “her” was very modern.

    No, it’s not. There are pre-modern instances of it. Julian of Norwich.

    ou’re described yourself as having the habit of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she” more or less at random without attempting to make any particular theological point by it.

    Who says I am not making a theological point by it? I most certainly am. What I meant above is that I am not attempting to derail the conversation here or to be “controversial.”

    And I continue to stand by my claim that there is practically no precedent in the history of orthodox Christianity for referring to God at all with the feminine pronoun, except in the middle of a analogy or simile.

    But masculine language for God (“he”) is an analogy as well. ALL RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE is analogy.

    It’s the random “God herself” that’s causing disagreement.

    It’s not random. And it should not cause disagreement if you acknowledge that God is neither male nor female.

    If you want to shoot me down on that claim by providing specific citations, I’m perfectly happy to look at them.

    I am fairly certain that some of the Church Fathers even used feminine images for God, but I am on vacation and don’t have my resources with me. Perhaps someone here who specializes in patristics (anyone?) would know.

  • If I were to make an observation along the lines of, “In discussion, Michael is like a harpy. A harpy will follow her victim constantly, pecking and tearing, yet never engaging in a direct fight — hovering always just out of reach and flapping her wings in the face of her prey while screaming incessantly,” I would clearly be describing you in rude and unflattering terms, and imputing a number of characteristics to you, but one could hardly claim that I was saying you were female and could rightly be described as “Michael herself.”

    Of course, there are clear difference between God’s being and my own being. So your analogy breaks down and is, in fact, irrelevant.

    Again, here we have a case of Protestant thinking: God is a being like us, only bigger.

  • Of course, there are clear difference between God’s being and my own being. So your analogy breaks down and is, in fact, irrelevant.

    Nah, you’re just being obtuse. DC is describing how analogies work. If you can’t follow the point that’s fine, but it is irrelevant for the purpose of his explanation who the subject of the analogy is.

    Again, here we have a case of Protestant thinking: God is a being like us, only bigger.

    So ‘Protestant thinking’ involves thinking ‘God is a being like us, only bigger’? Well, I guess there are more barriers to ecumenical dialogue than I realized. Or perhaps the barrier in this case is that you (and MM, for whatever reason) have an odd habit of describing anything ignorant as ‘Protestant’. Sure some Protestants probably think that. So, for that matter, do some Catholics. It’s a matter of education and reflection. If you are going to describe something as ‘Protestant,’ it would be better if you limited yourself to what educated Protestants believe. In my opinion, it is embarrassing for a grad student in theology to make such an ignorant generalization. But then, you also believe people who refer to God as ‘Him’ do so because they ‘hate women.’ What a subtle and nuanced appreciation you have of those who differ from you!

  • Julian of Norwich did. That IS traditional. When you use the word “traditional,” you are using it to exclude certain traditions from view. That’s dishonest.

    I can’t speak to Julian of Norwich as I haven’t read her Revelations of Divine Love. My understanding is that she consistently uses feminine familiar imagery in speaking about God (thus talking about the senses in which Jesus and God the Father nurture us like a mother) but I do not know linguistically how she refers to God. My suspicion would be given what I’ve read about her and given that she was never formally censured and the general theological tenor of the 1400s, that she used a lot of feminine imagery (and thus has been much cited and misused by modern feminists who are driving at a wholly different point) but that she did not habitually refer to God as “She”. However, I’d have to read Revelations of Divine Love to know.

    But yes, I do mean to be restrictive when I say “traditional” because I try to write with a certain degree of precision and I don’t want you to be able to wiggle into supporting your claims by going all Eileen Pagels on me.

    I said specifically that the tactic of referring alternately to God as “him” and “her” was very modern.

    No, it’s not. There are pre-modern instances of it. Julian of Norwich.

    Again, you seem rather stubbornly to ignore the different between using feminine imagery (in Julian’s case, recounting mystical visions of God) and referring to “God herself” in passing.

    Plus, if Julian is the only writer who did this (and again, I’ve no where read that she simply alternated referring to God as “he” and “she” as you said that you do) one uncanonized anchoress hardly makes for a tradition.

    You certainly know a lot more about trendy and avante guarde modern theologians than I do, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a certain number of the works you’ve read make the claim that alternately referring to God as “he” and “she” in order to express the idea that God is not “a male” has precedence in traditional Christianity. However, so far as I can tell, I’ve studied linguistics and language rather more than you have, and I’m pretty confident in asserting that this is a rather modern use of language.

    Of course, there are clear difference between God’s being and my own being. So your analogy breaks down and is, in fact, irrelevant.

    Again, here we have a case of Protestant thinking: God is a being like us, only bigger.

    There is most certainly a big difference between your being and God’s being, but prose composition is the same either way. Using feminine imagery to describe you is not linguistically any different than using feminine imagery to describe God — in neither case is it then appropriate to in a completely unrelated place talk about “Michael herself” or “God herself”.

    And while you are a male in a sense in which God clearly is not (aside, of course, from the obvious fact that Jesus was himself a human man, while at the same time being fully divine) it is equally the case that you and God are traditionally referred to using masculine pronouns. And thus in either case it would be seen as making some sort of a statement to do otherwise.

    Essentially, through use the usage of “He” to refer to God has become the standard neutral usage. When we talk about “God himself” we use the standard usage which Christians have used for 2000 years and which Jews used before that from a fairly early period. (Though obviously, there are linguisticly plural usages in some of the earliest parts of the Old Testament which present their own issues — but that’s another topic.) To refer to God as “she”, “it” or “they” instead thus strongly indicates a desire to disagree with the traditional understanding of God — asserting that He is female or is neuter or is plural.

  • That said, I recognize that we’re all on vacation right now (and I promised Eric that I’d use that vacation to, among other things, write a substantive post on gun control) so with the assurance that I’ve said everything I can several times over I’ll give it a rest and offer you the last word if you want it.

    Though others should, of course, feel free to do as they like.

  • If you are going to describe something as ‘Protestant,’ it would be better if you limited yourself to what educated Protestants believe. In my opinion, it is embarrassing for a grad student in theology to make such an ignorant generalization.

    I’m quite serious. The Protestant tendency is to think of God as if God were a being in the world, whereas the Catholic distinction is to place God radically outside the world. This is why Protestants tend to have problems with understanding the Catholic principle of mediation. I realize my way of explaining it was not very sophisticated. But I did that on purpose.

  • o refer to God as “she”, “it” or “they” instead thus strongly indicates a desire to disagree with the traditional understanding of God — asserting that He is female or is neuter or is plural.

    This is simply not true. In fact, using “she” from time to time is precisely a way of stressing the traditional, orthodox understanding of God. I have not asserted that God is female. God is neither male nor female. And God is both one and plural, by the way. That whole “Trinity” thing.

  • “Hey, by the way, do any women read this blog?? ”

    My wife does :) But I’m sure she’s bored with this particular thread already. *yawn*

    Getting back to topic – Here’s a reminder about the Chant Workshop at St. Theresa’s in Sugar Land in February, presented by CMAA:

    http://www.musicasacra.com/sugarland/

    Beginners welcome! Merry Christmas to all.

  • Thanks, Alan. I’ll let my wife know about the workshop. Maybe she and one or two others from the St. Elizabeth’s schola can make it.

  • Still looking for some female commenters on this blog. Can’t find one.

  • Still looking for some female commenters on this blog. Can’t find one.

    You don’t have many female commenters on VN either, dude. Sure, there’s the occasional female blogger or commenter, but easily 90% of the posts and comments are written by males. So if you’re trying to impress feminists for some inexplicable reason, you’re failing too.

  • I suppose everyone needs a hobby, but you don’t seem to be very good at this one if you assume that commenters with names like MissJean, Esther, and Kathy are all men.

    Or were you laboring under some sort of patriarchal illusion that because you asked on this particular thread if there were any woman commenters that they were then obliged to come and announce themselves to you here?

  • Michael I. I thought you were married? I hope your wife doesnt’ know that your trolling around for women on The American Catholic.

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