|The (former) Basilica of the|
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul--when
the Holy Spirit was Lady Wisdom
One of my favorite krazy-blogs is Restore D.C. Catholicism, an internet rant written by a dyspeptic suburban Maryland housewife in serious and immediate need of hormone restoration therapy. Now don’t get me wrong. I think that the blogosphere offers us a promising opportunity for the laity to enter into a fruitful conversation about our faith that can let the bishops tap the pulse of the consensus fidelium, but that doesn’t mean that the wild-eyed rants of every krazy with a keyboard merit to be given serious consideration. Some people should just close their computers and volunteer for Candy-Stripe duty at the local hospital. Our Faith is not something that is a matter of one person’s opinion but is rooted both in the scripture and in centuries of faith. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to the great 20th century Patristic scholar, Jaroslav Pelikan is
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”
And while the rest of us look to the living faith that has been passed down from the Apostles through the Fathers of the Church and ultimately to us, the Grand Inquisitor of Gaithersburg clings to the dead faith learned from Sister Mary Christmas in the fourth grade at Saint Torquemada Academy for Aspiring Book Burners.
The current tempest our kitchen theologian has conjured up in her teapot regards a priest from Durham in England. She casts her net far and wide to hunt her heretics. Father Dan Fitzpatrick, a popular preacher and a caring pastor posted on his twitter account
“The term “Holy Spirit” in Hebrew, ie the form Jesus would have learned in the first century, is feminine: “ruach” So let us listen to her.”
This sent the self-appointed Defensor Fidei totally ass-over-teacups in a theological tizzy. The problem is that Father Fitzpatrick is correct. But then, who expects a middle-aged hausfrau from Germantown to know Hebrew? What is more, when the Greek-speaking Fathers of the Church (including the Latin Fathers of the Second and Third centuries who wrote in Greek, not Latin) spoke of the Holy Spirit, they chose the word Sophia (Wisdom). Thus we have the ancient basilica of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now, Istanbul). And guess what: the Greek Sophia, like the Hebrew ruach, is feminine. And so the Eastern Church still speaks of the Holy Spirit as feminine. Imagine that!!! When the western Church moved from Greek to Latin, the western Fathers used the more literal translation of ruach, Spiritus. Spiritus, in Latin, is masculine. And so in the western Church we speak of the Holy Spirit in the masculine. Being One Church in One Faith, however, there really is no problem in cross-referencing over to the other side of Tradition.
Of course the pointlessness of the entire conversation is that the First and Third Persons of the Holy Trinity are neither masculine or feminine. While Tradition does speak—for the greater part—of the First Person in the masculine, the Tradition is divided on the Third Person. So there is lot’s of wiggle room here for Father Fitzpatrick—and for those 300,000,000 Christians who follow the Eastern Church Tradition. As for the lady behind Restore DC Catholicism, to quote my much cherished Sheldon Cooper, “them bitches be krazy.”