The Mother of the Bridegroom

The Mother of the Bridegroom

Published: Mar 18, 2008 by Maria Gwyn McDowell

Perhaps it is foolish of me to post the quote below, given that so often pointing out multi-gendered metaphors for God is met with an irate assumption that I am rejecting the language of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." I am not rejecting such language. However, I do maintain that it is not the only way to speak of the Trinity, and by itself, it is an incomplete expression of the God whose nature can NEVER be reduced to a single name, even "Father." One of these days, I will post on metaphorical language and the necessary diversity it represents in our understanding. But for now, I will post a quote from Gregory of Nyssa recently brought to my attention. After all, Gregory has an authority on the subject to which we should pay heed, yes?

“No one can adequately grasp the terms pertaining to God. For example, “mother” is mentioned (in the Song) in place of “father.” Both terms mean the same, because there is neither male nor female in God (for how can anything transitory like this be attributed to God? But when we are one in Christ, we are divested of the signs of this difference along with the old man). Therefore, every name equally indicates God’s ineffable nature; neither can “male” nor “female” defile God’s pure nature. Because of this, the father mentioned in the Gospel parable [Mt 22.2] prepares a wedding. The prophet says of God, “You have placed on his head a crown of precious stones” [Ps 20.4]. Hence the Song says that a crown is placed upon the bridegroom by his mother. Since the nuptials and bride are one, one mother places the crown upon the bridegrooms’ head. Neither does it make much difference whether one calls the Son of God the only begotten God, or the Son of his love. According to Paul, each name has the capacity to be a bridal escort which leads the bridegroom to dwell in us. “Go then”, the bride says to her companions, “and become daughters of Sion, that from a high peak (for this is what Sion signifies) you will be able to see that marvelous site, the bridegroom adorned with his crown.” His crown is the Church encompassing his head by living stones; love is the plait of this crown, for whether anyone calls it “mother” or “love,” does not err: God is love, as St. John says [1 Jn 4.8].”

Seventh Homily. Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Song of Songs, trans. Casimir McCambley OSCSO, The Archbishop Iakovos Library of Ecclesiastical and Historical Sources, vol. 12 (Brookline, Mass: Hellenic College Press, 1987), 145-146; PG 44.916)