“The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up his zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against his enemies. ‘I have held my peace a long time, I have been still and restrained myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once. I will lay waste the mountains and hills, ... I will bring the blind by a way they did not know…” (Is 42: 13-16a)
In today’s reading from Isaiah, we see God using not only “male” imagery, but also “female” imagery, to refer to Himself, as He reveals Himself to us. He likens Himself not only to “a man of war,” but also to One Who “will cry like a woman in labor,” Who “will pant and gasp at once.” Because, contrary to popular misconception, while God is no doubt a “He” in Scripture, He does make Himself “relatable” both to male and female human beings, in both male and female imagery or “symbolism.” And by “symbolism” I mean the use of a “symbol” (from the Greek verb “sym-ballo,” meaning “to bring together”), or that which “brings together” the invisible reality Who is God, with the visible reality of our human existence, both male and female. The metaphorical “word,” passed down to us in Scripture, is God’s way of “bringing together,” for us, His reality with ours.
Of course, in God’s timeless Being, He is neither male nor female, in our sense. But He makes Himself “relatable” to both males and females, by likening Himself not only to males, but also females, in Scripture. And He does so not only in the Old Testament (as quoted above), but also in the New, as Christ proclaims, for example, in Mt 23: 37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, …How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Christ also embraces a “female” role when He washes the feet of the disciples at His Mystical Supper (Jn 13: 5-12), if we consider the fact that the only other “feet-washers” in the Gospels were women (Lk 7: 37-38; Jn 12: 3).
So today let me say Thank You, God, for making Yourself “relatable” to all of us, both male and female, in Your divine revelation that is Holy Scripture. …You know, Lord, I think I would have “related” all Your “male” symbols also to myself, a ”female.” So, You “had me,” already at those “male” symbols! But I thank You for extending Your symbols also specifically to me, because that helps. Glory be to You.