Thursday, October 01, 2009

Scott Hahn's Response

Well, when I posted on Dr. Hahn's idea of the Holy Spirit acting maternally, I never thought the post would make it up to him or that he would personally take the time to offer a response, but indeed he did, for which I am truly grateful and somewhat humbled. After all, this is the man through whom God led me back to the Catholic Faith. I'll post Dr. Hahn's responses in their entirety (they are also in the combox-emphases mine):


Phillip

I am grateful for your blog and also for your kind words. And I appreciate your concern about my understanding of the Holy Spirit, and some of the bridal-maternal aspects that may (or may not) pertain to the Holy Spirit's Person and work. Please allow me to share some thoughts that might help to alleviate your concerns.

First, I have never once referred to the Holy Spirit as feminine, as the ancient gnostics did. Indeed, I expressly deny the Holy Spirit is feminine in my book First Comes Love (both editions).

I do quote Cardinal Ratzinger, from his book, Daughter Zion (p. 27), where he states: "Because of the teaching about the Spirit, one can as it were practically have a presentiment of the primordial type of the feminine, in a mysterious, veiled manner, within God himself." I subsequently go on to clarify Ratzinger's point by stating: "Once again: God is not feminine by nature. Nor is the Holy Spirit feminine" (pp. 163, 166).

I then proceed to quote the Catechism's teaching about God: “He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband” (CCC 370).

As to my patristic sources, I quote first, from a baptismal homily of St. Aphrahat (who speaks of "God his Father and the Holy Spirit his mother"); second, from a homily by St. Macarius (who speaks of how "Adam no longer saw the true Father, nor the good Mother the grace of the Spirit, nor the desirable brother, the Lord"); and third, from the Syriac rite of pre-baptismal anointing (where the Holy Spirit is called upon,"Come, Mother of the seven houses").

As you mentioned, I quote St. Ephrem, a Doctor of the Church, who actually refers to the Holy Spirit as "Mother" on many occasions (in homilies, hymns and prayers). I also cite St. Catherine of Siena, another Doctor of the Church, who wrote: "The Holy Spirit becomes a mother who feeds them from the breast of divine charity."

But I draw most extensively from modern Catholic saints and theologians of unimpeachable orthodoxy. So for instance, St. Maximillian Kolbe speaks of the Holy Spirit as the "Uncreated Immaculate Concepion," and the Blessed Virgin Mary as the "quasi-incarnation of the Holy Spirit."

St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein) writes: "Thus we can see the prototype of the feminine being in the Spirit of God poured over all creatures. It finds its perfect image in the purest Virgin who is the bride of God and mother of all mankind."

The great 19th century German Thomist theologian, Matthias Joseph Scheeben, who is generally acknowledged to be the founder of Mariology as a distinct branch of Sacred Theology), writes: ""As the mother is the bond of love between father and child, so in God the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son." He also notes: "As Eve can, in a figurative sense, be called simply the rib of Adam... St. Methodius goes so far as to assert that the Holy Spirit is the rib of the Word (costa Verbi)" (Mysteries of Christianity, 183-85).

I go on to show how this notion is affirmed by many other notable theologians: R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP; L. Bouyer; J. Kentenich; B. Ashley, OP; Cardinal Y. Congar (Tradition & Traditions, pp. 372-75); F.X. Durrwell; A. Feuillet; H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP (The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit).

All of this does not prove that bridal and maternal elements are proper to the Holy Spirit's Person and work, of course; but it does indicate how highly unoriginal I am in exploring something that has never been condemned by the Church's Magisterium. Nor should this ever be linked to (or confused with) the bizarre speculations of the ancient gnostics, who rejected the Incarnation and Trinity in favor of bizarre aeon-schemes drawn from a pantheistic/emmanationist view of God and the world.

Likewise, it should be noted that this approach to bridal-maternal aspects of the Holy Spirit is generally rejected as abhorrent to feminist scholars, like Catherine LaCugna, who warns that "the Spirit's activities should not be stereotyped according to gender-determined roles for women.... Further, the association of feminine imagery solely with the Spirit would reinforce the subordination of women in church and society" (cited in First Comes Love, p. 206).

All of this is found in a chapter of First Comes Love ("The Family Spirit"), which is available on-line here.


All the best,
Scott Hahn

PS I might add that I first ran the entire manuscript of First Comes Love by my "spiritual father," Bishop Bruskewitz (who received me into the Church back in 1986), asking him to read it carefully and offer his critique. He offered some suggestions and then concluded: "I assure you that in my view it is not only completely orthodox but also exceptionally useful."

PPS Thanks for suggesting that I write bigger books, which makes me think you may be interested to learn that in June, I published a 600-page book with Yale University Press, Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises (Anchor Bible Reference Library), and a 1000-page Catholic Bible Dictionary (Doubleday), also in June, and then last week a measly 200-page book, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Baker Brazos). But I will get to work on another big tome just as soon as I've recovered from these! It's a start, at least.

All the best,
Scott

I want to first thank Dr. Hahn for writing such a lengthy response and trying to clear up some of the confusion on this matter. I think this may be the most thorough exposition of his opinion outside of the appendix of First Comes Love, which he was gracious enough to link up in his response.

This does indeed "alleviate some of my doubts", at least to the degree that I can say that it is not something Dr. Hahn is pulling out of thin air. He seems to be suggesting that certain maternal aspects of God seem to be attributed to the Holy Spirit by appropriation, not stating that the Holy Spirit is essentially feminine. If this is all he is getting at, then I think that I for one can give him the benefit of the doubt - after all, Proverbs 8 speaks of Wisdom as unambiguously feminine, but this has never stopped the Fathers, Scholastics or modern theologians from applying these passages to the preexistence of the Son, who is obviously not a female. In the same way, while keeping in mind both that God has revealed Himself as a Father, but that in His substance He is neither male nor female, I don't see as much problem in saying that the Spirit acts maternally now that I have read Dr. Hahn's exposition of it and seen his citations.

24 comments:

Athanasius said...

Wow. You have hit the big time.

Mr S said...

yeah, keep it up and you might even get an invite to the summer BBQ for apologists-'n-others. :)

Glad to see his posts were an expansion of his thoughts as I remembered them. Have to up his accuracy to 91% lol (and mine into the double digits :) )

Dave Armstrong said...

I highly suspected (without studying the issue myself) that criticisms of Scott in this fashion were unfounded, and sure enough, so they were.

Ben said...

I'm having trouble with seeing the Spirit as the (metaphorical) "rib" of the Son. It seems to me (as I think JPII said) that the Trinity is the model of the Family: Adam, Eve, and Seth.

Wouldn't Adam be an image of the Father, because he's the human father of the family? And then wouldn't Eve be an image of the Son, because she came out of the side of Adam just as the Son comes out of the bosom of the Father? And then both Adam and Eve begot their child, likewise, the Spirit is spirated by both the Father and the Son?

On the other hand, if St. Methodius is right that Eve is like the Holy Spirit, then Adam is the Son. But where does the Father fit in?

Gosh, my "reasoning" is tying me up in circles. Any ideas?

Alexander said...

Now we need some dialog on how the TLM is superior and how Vatican II has actual problems (ambiguity). :)

BONIFACE said...

Ben-

I wouldn't say that Dr. Hahn's opinion is in the mainstream or that the majority of Fathers and Saints subscribed to it, so I definitely think it is a minority position, but at least because of his clarification I don't see it as outright heretical. It is definitely not within the larger body of Tradition, I'd say...I think it is a legitimate and old but tiny minority.

Ben said...

Phillip,

Dr. Hahn does say he was only referring to certain motherly aspects of the Holy Spirit, not to an ontological gender of the Holy Spirit (i.e. that the Holy Spirit is literally a woman), or that we should refer to Him in feminine pronouns (contra St. John). I haven't read the original work where he makes these claims, but just judging by the comments here, it would be similar to saying that the Holy Spirit has aspects that are like a bird, as we see in Genesis 1:2 and some other metaphorical places in the Bible (e.g. Christ's baptism). No doubt the Church Fathers use these metaphorical expressions too. I suspect Hahn would say "the Holy Spirit is our mother" in a similar sense, i.e. the Holy Spirit protects and nurtures us (or whatever the case may be).

At any rate, my question was about specifically what St. Methodius meant by saying the Holy Spirit is Christ's rib, just as Eve was Adam's rib.

Kneeling Catholic said...

I think some of you are being wow-ed by Dr. Hahn's stature, and not necessarily being won over by his logic.

my original post emphasized 'lex orandi-lex credendi'. If a total acceptance of Dr. Hahn's ideas leads us to change our prayer and belief that Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, then I see a problem. If our treatment of the Holy Trinity now leads us logically to...Fatherhood of God the Father, the Sonship of Jesus Christ, and the Motherhood of the Holy Spirit..... that appears to be a huge break with the doctrine as it has come down to us.

K.C.

http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2009/10/dr-hahn-and-holy-spirit.html

Mary said...

To Dr. Hahn. I don't think St. Maximilian meant at all what you are implying he means by referring to the Holy Ghost as "in a sense the Uncreated Immaculate Conception." In my understanding, he meant that just as a human conception comes from two, so did the Holy Ghost come from the Father and the Son. The Father is Uncreated and Unbegotten, and not in any sense a conception; the Son Proceeds from the Father alone. So neither may be called a conception in any way. But in a certain way the Holy Ghost perhaps might. And the Immaculate part, naturally, since He is divine and both Immaculate and Impeccable.

Wasn't this part of a handwritten document that was the last thing he wrote before he was taken to the death camp? I *don't* mean to imply it wasn't a true, consistent fruit of St. Maximilian's thought, but only perhaps unpolished and unelaborated, which should also be considered.
---------------------------
To Kneeling Catholic.

How old really is the idea of Mary as Spouse of the Holy Spirit? I most certainly accept it. For that very reason I was surprised in the past few years by two things:

1. In Vol. 3 of the Baltimore Catechism, in the annotations (not part of the actual text), it reads "In the flesh Mary was Our Lord's Mother, but in the spirit she was His bride." (p. 216, Lesson 35, Matrimony, note above q. 457.)

2. [Sadly I feel quite certain I've read this but skimming her Letters, Rule & Const. can't find it] St. Clare refers to her daughter-nuns as brides of Christ several times, but also tells them like Mary to be "daughters of God the Father, mothers of Jesus Christ, brides of the Holy Spirit." This isn't so much a point about Our Lady, as that, if I've recalled aright, she used another bridal image, nuns as brides of the Holy Spirit, in addition to that of brides of Christ. That was just an unexpected thing for me and I'm adducing it to reinforce (maybe), by analogy, my point that perhaps Our Lady hasn't been referred to as Bride of the Holy Ghost for as long as I would have guessed?

**Sorry if there's a double post. I couldn't tell if it had gone.

Kneeling Catholic said...

btw, Mary and anyone else still paying attention I'm going to post of few of these notes on my website

http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2009/10/dr-hahn-and-holy-spirit.html

It is a fascinating discussion!
.....PS on another note I just found: Count Zinzendorf,the 18th cty founder of the Moravians, openly taught the doctrine Dr. Hahn seems only to be hinting at. I believe the Moravians celebrated the Holy Spirit's enthronement as 'Mother' of the Church. This does not necessarily make the teaching wrong...but I don't see how such a teaching won't conflict with the role we traditionally give to Mary... also if Dr. Hahn is giving us a true teaching, then why does its most clear enunciation come from non-Catholic Moravians? has our Magisterial faculty been sub-contracted? :-)]

K.C.

Kneeling Catholic said...

Mary,

our belief about Mary's matrimony with the Holy Spirit has developed mostly over the past millenium and has been referred to by a number of Popes, e.g. Leo XIII, Pius XII, JP II and was also near and dear to Maximilian Kolbe. Hence my concern that Dr. Hahn's teaching on this needs at least to line up with his hero's.

K.C.

Jean Baptiste said...

KC,
Hahn posted a link to the chapter in which he treats your concern. He acknowledges that Mary may be characterized as the "spouse of the Holy Spirit," but only in a figurative sense, not in a strict and proper sense. Hahn cites THE book on St. Maximilian Kolbe's teachings about Mary and the Holy Spirit (Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, by H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P.): "With profound cleverness he (Kolbe) developed the multiple aspects contained in the notion of 'Spouse of the Holy Spirit'.... It is an analogy, Saint Maximilian Kolbe stresses, that gives a glimpse of the ineffable, intimate and fruitful union between the Holy Spirit and Mary." In Kolbe's own words, "the name of Spouse of the Holy Spirit cannot express more than a far-off, pale, imperfect shadow of this union" (p. 152). Hahn tries to show why it cannot be strictly applied to the third Person of the Trinity as anything other than a metaphor: "The eternal personhood of the Holy Spirit... cannot be made to depend upon a creature, no matter how exalted (e.g., Mary is the 'spouse' of the Holy Spirit), since that would imply absurd or impossible notions (viz., before Mary's creation, the Trinity would have consisted of a Father, Son, and Holy Bachelor)" (First Comes Love, p. 205).

Kneeling Catholic said...

Jeane Baptiste!

We seem to be the only ones paying attention to this topic...I posted your note and my response here...


http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2009/10/dr-hahn-and-holy-spirit.html

Kneeling Catholic said...

Hey Jean Baptiste!

I commented on your post after I pasted it on my website...

http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2009/10/dr-hahn-and-holy-spirit.html

K.C.

Rosemarie said...

+J.M.J+

>>>At any rate, my question was about specifically what St. Methodius meant by saying the Holy Spirit is Christ's rib, just as Eve was Adam's rib.

If I might make a suggestion here, maybe this is related to the patristic belief that the Holy Ghost is the "Soul of the Church." The Church is the Bride of Christ, and the Church Fathers saw the piercing of His Side on the Cross as paralleling God's opening Adam's side to create the first woman. I believe they said that the Church came forth from Christ's side while He "slept" (in death) on the Cross as Eve came forth from Adam's side while he slept.

If the Spirit is Mother Church's Soul - the basic principle of her being, life and unity - then that might explain the "rib" statement. God drew the rib from Adam's side and built it into Eve; the Spirit came forth from the New Adam's side and built up the New Eve, the Church... something like that.

Also, if the Holy Spirit is seen as united to the Church (which is the Bride of Christ) as a soul is united to a body, then that might explain the quasi-bridal relationship thing. Though I'm personally "iffy" about that, I think that could be what St. Methodius was trying to say.

In Jesu et Maria,

Rosemarie said...

+J.M.J+

Another point before I go to sleep. Ben also asks:

>>>Wouldn't Adam be an image of the Father, because he's the human father of the family? And then wouldn't Eve be an image of the Son, because she came out of the side of Adam just as the Son comes out of the bosom of the Father? And then both Adam and Eve begot their child, likewise, the Spirit is spirated by both the Father and the Son?

One of the Church Fathers (I forget which) used Adam, Eve and Seth as an illustration, to show how the Holy Spirit could proceed from the Father but not be another son. He pointed out that Adam begot Seth, as God the Father eternally begets God the Son, but Eve came forth from Adam's side without being his offspring, even as the Father "breathes" the Holy Spirit without the latter being His son. So here the parallels would be Adam = God the Father, Seth = God the Son, and Eve = God the Holy Ghost.

Of course, this was merely an analogy that attempted to explain the difference between the begetting of the Son and the spiration of the Spirit. It was not intended to attribute gender to the Divine Persons or to suggest that the Trinity is a "family" consisting of a father, mother and son. It would be quite wrong to say that the Holy Ghost is the eternal "mother" of God the Son along with God the Father; Scott Hahn is not saying that, of course.

He's saying that the Spirit is the eternal bond of Love between the Father and Son (quite true and orthodox), and that in a human family the mother plays a similar role, as a "bond of love" between the father and his children by her. So perhaps this aspect of human motherhood was patterned after the Holy Spirit's role in the Trinity, similar to how human fatherhood is a created image of the Divine Paternity. That doesn't make the Third Person of the Trinity female or feminine.

In Jesu et Maria,
Rosemarie

Alexander said...

Dave wrote:

I highly suspected (without studying the issue myself) that criticisms of Scott in this fashion were unfounded, and sure enough, so they were.

That's sounds strange because why would anyone make a conclusion without looking at the situation? Dr. Hahn isn’t infallible. Although I’m not saying he’s wrong here anyway.

Kneeling Catholic said...

....My biggest problem is my own conviction/obsession with 'lex orandi-lex credendi'. Dr. Hahn emphasizes that if his side were to win the day-- and the Church would define the Holy Spirit as the sole maternal member of the Holy Trinity-- then we could still never refer to the Holy Spirit as Mother, or ever pray that way.

If it were to be essentially true, then why not? 'lex orandi-lex credendi'. Moreover if it has been true for so long, then why is it not reflected in any of the prayers of the Catholic Church? We have had 2000 years of development! And why is this 'truth' not even currently reflected in the prayers of Dr. Hahn's heros, the Syriac Church, which he admits abandoned such references 1500 years ago?

I also cannot accept that Mary is solely identified with the Holy Spirit. In her role as Co-redemptrix it seems to me she is very closely identified and united with our Lord.

K.C.

Dave Armstrong said...

That's sounds strange because why would anyone make a conclusion without looking at the situation?

I "looked" at it, of course, when I saw Scott's explanation. It's perfectly acceptable to harbor suspicions without personally studying everything.

The "traditionalist" criticisms have questioned Scott's orthodoxy in a matter of theology proper, which is a very serious charge indeed. Even Boniface has essentially withdrawn his "Gnostic" charge in that regard, and now talks mostly about prudence and possibly misleading language, etc. So the argument (at least for him) has considerably shifted.

What Scott clarified was perfectly acceptable to me, particularly because I was not inclined to second-guess / wonder about / publicly speculate about his orthodoxy in the first place.

And that is what I was driving at in my comment, but in the rush to criticize what I wrote and misconstrue it, and to concentrate on minutiae, this was missed.

Rosemarie said...

+J.M.J+

>>>I also cannot accept that Mary is solely identified with the Holy Spirit. In her role as Co-redemptrix it seems to me she is very closely identified and united with our Lord.

She isn't "solely" identified with the Holy Ghost. The role of the Spirit is to bring us to Christ (which is Mary's role as well, of course). It isn't possible for someone to be associated with the Spirit and not with Christ; the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Our Lord became incarnate by the power of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit Himself brought about Mary's close identification and union with Our Lord when He formed Jesus' Sacred Body out of part of her own body.

The Spirit also descended upon Him in bodily form as a Dove at the beginning of His ministry. On the Cross, He offered Himself up to the Father through the Eternal Spirit (Hebrew 9:14), Who was also involved in the Resurrection (Romans 8:11). He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to breath life into His Bride. Christ is the Head of the Church and the Spirit is her Soul.

The Lamb and the Dove are inseparable. If Mary is the fitting dwelling place of the Heavenly Dove, she is also very close to the Lamb of God. And vise-versa. It can be no other way.

In Jesu et Maria,

Ben said...

Thanks very much for your answers to my questions, Rosemarie.

Your comments especially in regards to the Adam/Eve/Seth were very helpful and interesting. You said: "One of the Church Fathers (I forget which) used Adam, Eve and Seth as an illustration." Do you have his name written down somewhere? It'd be good to know. :-) This already goes a long way to explaining how these eminent saints could describe the Holy Ghost in particular with maternal metaphors.

I disagree with what you say here: "If the Spirit is Mother Church's Soul - the basic principle of her being, life and unity - then that might explain the "rib" statement. God drew the rib from Adam's side and built it into Eve; the Spirit came forth from the New Adam's side and built up the New Eve, the Church”.

It would seem more accurate to say this: Adam parallels the New Adam (Christ), Eve parallels the New Eve (the Church, and especially the perfect symbol of the Church: the Virgin Mother), and the spirit (or soul) which God infused into Adam parallels the Spirit which God infused into the New Adam and the New Eve. God’s Spirit overshadowed the Virgin thus producing the New Adam’s flesh; and God sent his Spirit into the Church at Pentecost. He had already formed the “Body” of the Church from Christ’s side (in the water/blood: Eucharist/Baptism), but he then infuses His own Spirit into this Body, thus vivifying Her as the New Eve and His Bride. So Christ’s Rib=the body to be formed into the Church. The Holy Ghost=the Spirit which is infused into this Body.

God bless.

Rosemarie said...

+J.M.J+

>>>You said: "One of the Church Fathers (I forget which) used Adam, Eve and Seth as an illustration." Do you have his name written down somewhere? It'd be good to know. :-)

It was St. Gregory of Nazianzus; here's the quote:

"What was Adam? A creature of God. What then was Eve? A fragment of the creature. And what was Seth? The begotten of both. Does it then seem to you that Creature and Fragment and Begotten are the same thing? Of course it does not. But were not these persons consubstantial? Of course they were. Well then, here it is an acknowledged fact that different persons may have the same substance. I say this, not that I would attribute creation or fraction or any property of body to the Godhead (let none of your contenders for a word be down upon me again), but that I may contemplate in these, as on a stage, things which are objects of thought alone. For it is not possible to trace out any image exactly to the whole extent of the truth. But, they say, what is the meaning of all this? For is not the one an offspring, and the other a something else of the One? Did not both Eve and Seth come from the one Adam? And were they both begotten by him? No; but the one was a fragment of him, and the other was begotten by him. And yet the two were one and the same thing; both were human beings; no one will deny that." (Fifth Theological Oration: On the Holy Spirit, XI)

>>>This already goes a long way to explaining how these eminent saints could describe the Holy Ghost in particular with maternal metaphors.

Well, that and the fact that the Syriac word for "spirit" is feminine in gender. Many of the Fathers who used such metaphors were Syrian.

I don't think Scott Hahn mentions this, but St. Basil the Great, though not Syrian himself, mentions that Syrian Christians understood Genesis 1:2 as an image of the Holy Ghost as a mother bird hovering over her nest:

"How then did the Spirit of God move upon the waters? The explanation that I am about to give you is not an original one, but that of a Syrian, who was as ignorant in the wisdom of this world as he was versed in the knowledge of the Truth. He said, then, that the Syriac word was more expressive, and that being more analogous to the Hebrew term it was a nearer approach to the scriptural sense. This is the meaning of the word; by "was borne" the Syrians, he says, understand: it cherished the nature of the waters as one sees a bird cover the eggs with her body and impart to them vital force from her own warmth. Such is, as nearly as possible, the meaning of these words— the Spirit was borne: let us understand, that is, prepared the nature of water to produce living beings: a sufficient proof for those who ask if the Holy Spirit took an active part in the creation of the world." (Hexameron II:6)

>>>It would seem more accurate to say this:(snip)

I don't disagree; I was just trying to explain what St. Methodius might have meant when he identified the Holy Spirit with Christ's rib. It's a pretty obscure statement anyway. I don't know of any other Church Father who made that same comparison, so it's hard to know what to make of it.

In Jesu et Maria,
Rosemarie

theruteger said...

Nothing wrong with referring to God n the feminine, Pope John Paul I did it in the month of his papacy, the Syrian Church Fathers did it in following rabbinical tradition (as Hahn mentioned ST Ephrem as one), ST Aphraates does too, saying the mother and father of Genesis 2 that a man leaves are God the Father and the Holy Spirit. And even the bible seems to do it in Proverbs 8, Sirach 24, and a couple other places. In the Aramaic version of the New Testament the Holy Spirit is explicitly called "she". One of the earliest orthodox writings of the Early Church, the Odes of Solomon calls the Holy Spirit a She, and it sort of feminizes the Father. Fr Robert Murray addresses this issue in his book "On Symbols of Church and Kingdom" and quotes a few instances where the Syrian Fathers refer to the Holy Spirit in the feminine.

Kneeling Catholic said...

http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2009/10/more-scott-hahn-and-gods-feminity.html