Merton on the Divine Feminine, continued

In a long prose poem entitled “Hagia Sophia” (Holy Wisdom), Merton reminds us of the “feminine principle” in the universe. He reminds us that within the biblical and Western mystical tradition, the Divine Feminine has been recognized and honored. 

Icon by Br. Robert Lenz OFM, entitled, Holy Wisdom. You can purchase this icon and others by visiting Trinity Stores.

Interestingly, the poem is arranged according to the hours that the Divine Office is sung each day in the monastery — Lauds, Prime, Tierce, and Compline. In this way Merton emphasizes the Wisdom tradition that is honored in the daily prayers of chanting the Psalms in the church and the monastery. Yet one fact rarely gets the attention it deserves: Wisdom is feminine in the Bible, and in both Latin and Hebrew, and as current scholarship has reminded us, the historical Jesus himself comes from the Wisdom tradition. The Psalms are a large part of the Wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Bible. To sing the Psalms daily in prayer, as the monastic tradition does, reminds us of our relationship to the journey of the sun and moon each day; the cosmos is attended to, and thereby we are assisted to move beyond anthropocentrism. Time does not come from the clock; it comes from the movement of the sun, which the clock merely records.

Merton tells us that he finished the poem “at Pentecost, 1961,” and that “it became a prose poem in honor of Sophia.” Originally born as a response to a friend’s painting of Mary crowning her Son, Merton tells us that “The Three Divine Persons each at the same time are Sophia and manifest her.” Merton compares Sophia, the wisdom of God, to “the Tao, the nameless pivot of all being and nature.” (The Tao is feminine and “the Great Mother” in the Chinese tradition.) 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 160-162.  See also: Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 3-18.

Banner Image: Panoramic view of the Hagia Sophia. Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

How do you and we “attend to the cosmos” on a daily basis?  Is meditating on the news from cosmologists and the pictures from Hubble Telescope and other places helpful to you in placing our existence within the context of the universe as a whole and thus moving us beyond anthropocentrism?  What does it tell us about the sacredness of “Father Sky”?

Recommended Reading

A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey

In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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8 thoughts on “Merton on the Divine Feminine, continued”

  1. Avatar

    What helped me to discover the wisdom of the Divine Feminine, and honoring our connections to the moon, and the seasonal cycles of the sun, was my ten year apprenticeship in Native Spirituality. In and through this path I was invited to Women’s full moon sweat lodge ceremonies, along with equinox and solstice ceremonies. During these sacred times together, with other women, I learnt much about the mysteries of wise women’s ways and our womb wisdom. I learnt how to use the gift of the marriage basket, that taught us how to open our hearts to one another, and to share the creativity of our wombs, teaching us how to dream together as one… each sister Oned With the womb of the Great Mother and the mysteries of Her wisdom. We celebrated women’s rights of passages, our journey from maiden, mother into becoming the wise crone.

    As of late, meditating and contemplating upon the painting of the Saphire Man, by Hildegard, I see similar symbols… the moon, the sun, the marriage basket… the eclipse of the two becoming one, joined in a sacred union of marriage. I see the Saphire Man, emerging from the womb of this union.

    I see the Red Thread, the soul vine connection to the as above and the so below, the spiritual and the natural eternally linked, reflections mirroring this Oneing. I also see a laberythn, the journey of the soul, tethered to the Red Thread, that leads oneself into the mysteries of these wisdom womb ways of birthing both the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine, the essence of Divine Love, in the harmony and unity of the marriage of Oneness.

    I am grateful for the many wisdom traditions that I have had the privilege and blessing of encountering in my journey of life. And it is these things that we must not only preserve, but that we must also continue to engage with, for there are many whom hunger and thirst for that which can and does feed one’s soul.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Your ten year apprenticeship in Native Spirituality sounds amazing, and Native American Spirituality is definitely Earth-Centered Spirituality–as a matter of fact, I took a class in Native American Spirituality at Matthew’s school from a Native American teacher named, Jose Hobday! Meditating on the paintings of St. Hildegard are another effective way of getting to the place of Oneing with God.
      Thank you for sharing more of your spiritual journey with us!

  2. Avatar

    I love the simple statement that time does not come from the clock but from the movement of the sun. As I was reading about the four times a day of chanting Psalms in a monastery, it struck me that I walk my dog four times a day. On those walks I see the sun, feel the wind (or the rain), see wild animals – and I feel opened up and full of wonder!

  3. Avatar

    I have been attracted to the vision, art and symbols of Indigenous people for many years. Their art graces my walls, as well as my coffee cups and t-shirts.

  4. Avatar

    I also thank you for sharing your spiritual journey and your personal integration of the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine in all of us and all Creation. Indigenous spirituality has so much to offer us around the world. It’s a tragedy what ‘Western civilization’ has done and still doing to native cultures. Consequently, many of our modern problems, especially to Mother Earth….

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