It’s taken me a long time to leave behind the Old Testament images of God that I inherited, with its pictures and words that appeal more to males than females. It was only when I read the lesser known books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Baruch and the Book of Wisdom that I discovered God imaged in a myriad of female roles. In them the word used for God is Sophia, sapientia on Latin, or Sophia in Greek, and it’s definitely feminine.
Just now my favourite God image comes from chapter 8 in the Book of Proverbs. Imagine a desert city three thousand years ago, walled and gated, sandy roads converging on the one opening. This was a men only place, where business was discussed, contracts were negotiated and legal matters settled. Into that sea of men strides Sophia, unafraid, interested in all that was going on, seeing issues from a female perspective, ready to listen to all who would talk with her. “At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, Sophia took her stand.”
That’s where I find my Sophia God – in the midst of whatever is going on. She’s always ready to listen, encouraging me to find her whatever and wherever life takes me.
And that’s why Tarella Spirituality looks a little different today. I’m replacing my longish focused topic with bits and pieces of my everyday, brief accounts of times and places where I’ve found traces and echoes of Sophia.
We’ve heard a lot of sad stories over the past few weeks as the voluntary euthanasia bill is debated in the Victorian parliament. I’d like to counter them with the story of Ruth, my oldest living relation who died three weeks ago aged 96. We only met her in the last year of her life, and that was thanks to Ancestry.com. Through it we discovered a shared grandmother – one great back for her, two for me. Her father had rarely spoken about his family background and she longed to know more so her eldest daughter began the long search to find out more. My brother came across that search, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We were able to visit, to tell her what we knew about her father, her grandmother and her great grandparents. It wasn’t a lot but it brought a new dimension to her life at a time when her hearing and eyesight had all but disappeared. Her seven children surrounded her with laughter, memories and their loving care right up to the day she died. I’d like to say rest in peace Ruth, but resting wasn’t her thing. So my prayer is: Ruth, teach me to live with joy.
Who are the saints in your family? As a child I listened to stories of the saints. They all seemed to have the same things in common: they lived a long time ago, they died very painful deaths, usually through martyrdom, they had feast days and lots of them seemed to be priests, bishops or nuns. Then and there I decided that sainthood was something that was out of the reach of ordinary people.
Now I know differently. For every Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila there are thousands of unknown and long forgotten mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, co-workers, neighbours, nurses, supermarket employees and other individuals in various occupations and countries, who all lived prayerful lives, imbued with the Gospel values of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we forget that it is Church teaching that all baptized Christians who have died and are now with God are considered as saints.
Take your shoes off and feel the earth beneath your feet.
Try a vegetable that is new to you.
Float a flower in a bowl of water.
Pray Psalm 148
This week my nephew and his wife adopted an eight month old baby boy. What was the spare bedroom and the new dad’s writing space has had a makeover and is now known as the baby’s room. I know the joy that a child brings when a couple become a family, because many years ago my husband and I adopted two baby girls as well as fostering a family of three school age children.
Welcoming a baby or a child into a family, however it happens, isn’t easy. It opens up young parents to the gradual realization that the life that was, is now gone. I am delighted that another great- nephew has come into my life. My gift to this new little person will be a book – and the offer of a helping hand or a listening ear if his parents ever need it.
My knee replacement is nearly four months old and I’m still struggling to walk any distance without discomfort. I wrote a poor me email to a friend who sent this reply:
Accept what is,
let go of what was,
and have faith in what will be.
May you find traces and echoes of Sophia in your day.