Feminine aspects of God explored

Lyla June Johnston, a Native American activist and speaker, left, spoke to Christopher Pramuk following his presentation during the 23rd Festival of Faiths April 25 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Johnston and Pramuk presented during a session called “One, Not Two: Sacred Wholeness.” (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

A diverse crowd — including Mercy Academy seniors — who packed a theater inside the Kentucky Center for the Arts April 25  heard from Dr. Christopher Pramuk that reclaiming the “feminine divine” would celebrate the fullness of God in all things.

Pramuk, who is the chair of Ignatian Thought and an associate professor of theology at Regis University, was a speaker at the 23rd annual Festival of Faiths, which took place April 24-28 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in downtown Louisville. This year’s theme was “Sacred Insight: Feminine Wisdom.”

Pramuk was one of several speakers at a session called “One, Not Two: Sacred Wholeness.” The speakers discussed how balancing the “complementary feminine and masculine aspects of divine wisdom” can lead to a better understanding of the interdependence of all things. 

Pramuk shared with his audience that he — like the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton before him — believes in a feminine aspect of God. Pramuk said he believes the “feminine face” of God in the Bible is wisdom or sophia — the Greek term.

That feminine face of God, he said, appears especially in the books of Wisdom and Proverbs “as a kind of divine child, an animating presence at play within the whole of creation; God with us in the depths of life as it springs forth from the natural world,” he said.

In other passages of the Bible, said Pramuk, this feminine God appears as a “woman” and a “prophet” bringing hope, especially to the “little and the poor.”

In the Jewish Rabbinic tradition, he noted, she is called Shekhinah which comes from the word shakan which means “to dwell.”

“She accompanies the people of God in their exile and their despair,” he said.

Thomas Merton — the Trappist Monk who lived and wrote from the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Ky. — was “haunted by” the Wisdom passages in which this feminine face of God appears, Pramuk said. “She came to him in dreams. He heard her in the wind blowing in the trees outside his hermitage.”

Pramuk told his audience that “to reclaim the feminine divine in our communities would be to celebrate the fullness of God.” It would be to allow God to “manifest in and through all things” beyond the “prisms” in which people tend to confine the creator.

In addition to Pramuk, balancing the feminine and masculine aspects of divine wisdom was also discussed by Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, a student and practitioner of Buddhism; Lyla June Johnston, a Native American artist and speaker; and Pravrajika Brahmaprana, resident minister of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of North Texas. 

Members of the Mercy Academy senior class, who are studying world religions and “women of faith,” said they are grappling with ideas presented by Pramuk and the other speakers.

The entire senior class attended the presentation and later spoke to the professor during a question and answer session at the Center for the Arts.

Mercy senior Kara Shunnarah said the “women of faith” class is discussing how “God can be understood as a woman.” She had never thought of God as feminine before then, she noted.

Pramuk’s presentation helped put her class into perspective, she said, and furthered her understanding of “God as a mother,” too. This more complex image of God, somehow makes it “easier to dive into your faith,” Shunnarah said.

Jeanna Kleine-Kracht, a student in the world religions class, said she enjoyed Pramuk’s insights into Thomas Merton — whom she studied at a recent retreat.

Audria Hettinger, a student in the world religions class, said attending the Festival of Faiths was a “really good experience.” She appreciated the way the speakers presented their differing views based on their faith tradition, yet the overall message was one of “unity” and that “each religion intertwines in a way.”

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