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A recent question on Christianity Stack (about monotheism and the Trinity) suggested that since Christians present the Trinity as a “family” it must contain a feminine element. This came as news to me, so I started to look into it.

Gender of God

I would appreciate an overview on any official Catholic position on this subject. This question is directed at both Western and Eastern Catholic Churches. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #239 states that God is called "Father", while his love for man may also be depicted as motherhood, but he ultimately transcends the human concept of sex, and that "God is neither man nor woman: he is God".

Does the Catholic Church subscribe to the view that the Trinity is a family and does it contain a feminine element? I would appreciate quotes from the Bible to support official teachings along with other Church sources.

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    I think an overview question would be better as most denominations won't have different answers, and the outliers won't be distinguished by denomination. – curiousdannii Dec 22 '19 at 14:24
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    @Ken Graham - by all means use other Catholic sources. I just want an up-to-date view of where the Catholic church stands with regard to any feminine element within the Trinity. – Lesley Dec 22 '19 at 14:29
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    @curiousdannii - Appreciate the comments and I have edited my question to invite an overview from Catholics of all persuasions. – Lesley Dec 22 '19 at 14:39
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    @Lesley "What is the Catholic view of the Trinity?" is quite broad (and has probably be answered already here), and "should it contain a feminine element?" is a separate question that solicits opinion-based answers. Regarding the latter question, you'd be interested in Fr. Maximilian Kolbe's title for Mary: the "quasi-incarnation of the Holy Ghost". – Geremia Dec 22 '19 at 21:32
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    @Geremia - I have edited the question in order to avoid any opinion-based answers. And thank you for the link. – Lesley Dec 23 '19 at 9:14
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What is the Catholic view of the Trinity and does it contain a feminine element?

The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Catholic religion, the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another.

Catholics are baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Before receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit: "I do." "The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity."

What is the Trinity?

A term used since A.D. 200 to denote the central doctrine of the Christian religion. God, who is one and unique in his infinite substance or nature, is three really distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The one and only God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet God the Father is not God the Son, by generates the Son eternally, as the Son is eternally begotten. The Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but a distinct person having the divine nature from the Father and the Son by eternal procession. The three divine persons are co-equal, co-eternal, and consubstantial and deserve co-equal glory and adoration. - The Holy Trinity

In essence there is no feminine principle in the Trinity. Nevertheless some have expressed a feminine element so to speak in regards to the person of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that God is called "Father", while his love for man may also be depicted as motherhood, but he ultimately transcends the human concept of sex, and that "God is neither man nor woman: he is God".

The Father revealed by the Son

238 Many religions invoke God as "Father". The deity is often considered the "father of gods and of men". In Israel, God is called "Father" inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.59 Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, "his first-born son".60 God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is "the Father of the poor", of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.61

239 By calling God "Father", the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.

240 Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Of the thirty or so parables in the canonical Gospels, the Prodigal Son was one of the four that were shown in medieval art almost to the exclusion of the others, but not mixed in with the narrative scenes of the Life of Christ (the others were the Wise and Foolish Virgins, Dives and Lazarus, and the Good Samaritan. The Labourers in the Vineyard also appears in Early Medieval works).

God the Father will never forget his children here on earth, just as a mother would never forget the child of her womb.

Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? and if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee. - Isaiah 49:15

Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”

This painting is perhaps the most famous, dramatic and beautiful presentation of the forgiving and accepting grace of God the Father. As was Rembrandt’s custom, he presents the figures in this piece primarily in darkness, with the primary light being on the face of the father, his embracing hands upon the back of his returned son, as well as upon the face of the jealous and judgmental older brother. Notice how Rembrandt has the son positioned between the arms of the father. These arms are both receiving and protectively outlining the son. In this tender embrace, we can wonder if Rembrandt had John 1:18 in mind where we are told that God the Son dwelt in the bosom of God the Father.

Roger Scruton comments in session 9 of The Family Project, “These are hands that are not in the business of judging or scolding.” Henri Nouwen, in his wonderful devotional on this painting, asks a question about these hands which are distinctly different from one another. One, the left, is large, strong and masculine. The right is smaller, more slender. Perhaps feminine? Could they represent both fathering and mothering nature of God? Nouwen tells of one of his friends pointing out to him how these two hands correspond with the difference in the son’s feet. He explains,

“…the caressing feminine hand of the father parallels the bare, wounded foot of the son, while the strong masculine hand parallels the foot dressed in a sandal. Is it too much to think that the one hand protects the vulnerable side of the son, while the other hand reinforces the son’s strength and desire to go and get on with his life.” (p. 99)

It is very possible, as this is God’s heart and nature toward each of us. - Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”

Further food for though may be obtain with the following(s):

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What is the Catholic view of the Trinity and should it contain a feminine element?

The best answer can be found in St. Louis De Montfort book "Love for Eternal Wisdom" as he sees God not just a creator but a parent.

King Solomon discovered that the Wisdom is a Mother of All, and this is where the feminine aspect of God was seen by this Great Marian saint.

In the creation of the world

  1. Eternal Wisdom began to manifest himself outside the bosom of God the Father when, after a whole eternity, he made light, heaven and earth. St John tells us that everything was made through the Word, that is eternal Wisdom: "All things were made by him" (Jn. 1:3; cf. Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:16-17). Solomon says that eternal Wisdom is the mother and maker of all things. Notice that Solomon does not call him simply the maker of the universe but also its mother because the maker does not love and care for the work of his hands like a mother does for her child (Wisd. 7: 12,21).

  2. After creating all things, eternal Wisdom abides in them to contain, maintain and renew them (Wisd. 1:7; 7:27). It was this supremely perfect beauty who, after creating the universe, established the 8 magnificent order we find there. He it was who separated, arranged, evaluated, augmented and calculated everything. He spread out the skies; he set the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets in perfect order. He laid the foundations of the earth and assigned limits and laws to the sea and depths to the ocean. He raised mountains and gave moderation to all things even to the springs of water. Finally, he says, "I was with God and I disposed everything with such perfect precision and such pleasing variety that it was like playing a game to entertain my Father and myself" (Prov. 8:30-31).

Also, the feminine aspect of God can be well appreciated thru artistic depiction like the cover of the book of Fr. Richard Rohr titled "Divine Dance", here we can see the image of the Most Holy Trinity resembles the a feminine faces.

enter image description here

“We must begin with Trinity if we are to rebuild Christianity from the bottom up. The Trinity is absolutely foundational to Christianity because it reveals the heart of the nature of God.” –Fr. Richard Rohr

Here’s the math behind Rohr’s Trinitarian message: while One is lonely, and Two oppositional, the number Three represents a moving, dynamic, and generative flow. “In the beginning was the relationship,” he affirms, and therein lies our salvation. His new approach calls for new definitions: “The Father is Being itself” (think of the words flowing, formless, nothingness, mystery), and the Christ is a “living manifestation” of that Being. What’s more, the major future task of Christian theology and practice will be to bring Jesus and the Christ together in our understanding. As for the Holy Spirit or “Implanted Hope,” whenever it is missing, we are robbed of that “inner aliveness that keeps people from dying from their wounds.” https://parabola.org/2018/01/31/divine-dance-trinity-transformation/

But the greatest art that depicted the Most Holy Trinity in Catholicism is the Holy Family.

enter image description here

In Catholicism, St.Joseph resemble the image and character of the Abba Father as protector and provider while Mary is closely associated with the Holy Spirit being Her spouse and Jesus Christ represents the incarnated Logos the second person of the Most Holy Trinity.

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