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Liz wrote:

Hi, guys —

Help! In a homily given on Mother's Day, our pastor spoke of the Holy Spirit as female. He said that the Hebrew word "ruah", or breath, meant to signify the Holy Spirit was feminine in gender and therefore it was okay to think of the Holy Spirit as female. He did, however, say that he wasn't saying that the Holy Spirit is "woman" but that you could attribute specifically feminine characteristics to the action of the Spirit, i.e. nourishing, maternal, life-giving, etc.

I thought that the Holy See had declared that in the Church's Tradition, the feminine and neuter pronouns should not be used when referring to the person of the Holy Spirit.

  • Is this correct or not?

Thanks for your help.


  { Should feminine or neuter pronouns ever be used when referring to the Holy Spirit (in a homily)? }

John replied:

Dear Liz,

The Church has said that female and neuter pronouns were not to be used to reference the
Holy Spirit, in the translation of Sacred Scripture. The underlying reason for this is that according to the Revelation, we have been given, The "Person" of the Holy Spirit is male.

Having said that, your priest is correct in saying the Hebrew word for Spirit is "ruah" and that it is a female noun in Hebrew, however that does not make it right to "think of" the Holy Spirit as female. The Italian word for tiger is "tigre", a female noun.

  • Does that mean we can assume this species has no males?

Further, your pastor is confusing attributes with the Revelation of "Personhood".

The Bible speaks of God, the Father covering us with His feathers.

  • Does this mean we can now think of the Father as a big chicken?

The Holy Spirit in the "Godhead" transcends gender, but we know God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit revealed by Jesus in the Scriptures. By the same revelation, we know all three members of the Trinity as male.

The Nicene Creed we say every Sunday also confirms this when we say:

"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified."

Having said that, many feminists have appealed to the references in Scripture where the Holy Spirit is called wisdom. This is the Greek word sophia which is feminine. The heretic feminists say that the Holy Spirit is female.

This is an ontological polemic to which no practicing Catholic subscribes.

The Holy Spirit is the spouse of Mary.

Through out the Scriptures, God has revealed His maternal and female attributes. It is also true, that in the "Godhead", the Holy Spirit transcends gender. However, these same Scriptures make it make it abundantly clear that the Persons of the Trinity are male.

Hope this helps.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

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