“For we do not know how to pray” — for Japan

As the nuclear catastrophe in Japan unfolds, on top of the twin catastrophes of last week’s earthquake and tsunami, we re-discover that we do not really know how to pray [not withstanding the “Litany” I posted earlier on this blog].

As I told my friend, who lives in Japan, I went to a retreat place yesterday, aptly named Mercy-By-The-Sea, to ponder and pray and try to be with Japan’s suffering. I ended up walking the shoreline at Mercy-By-The-Sea, cleaning it of trash, only able to repeat “mercy” “mercy” “mercy”. At some point, even someone used to creating/writing prayers will be reduced to this basic groan for redemption. Nothing more, nothing less.

But maybe it is precisely in this experience of being reduced to not knowing how to pray that the Holy Spirit Herself can, finally, intercede “with inexpressible groanings” (Rom 8:26).

14 comments

  1. the Holy Spirit Herself

    Does the author expect this to be received without comment, or is this chum to stir up some excitement?

      1. Yes, Paul, I do know that. This tiresome fad of feminizing the third Person of the Trinity has been dealt with over and over.

        The gender of ruach is irrelevant. See John 14:26.

    1. Many of us use the feminine pronoun when speaking of the Holy Spirit, even as a commonplace in homilies, addresses, and writing. Aside from using it myself, I frequently run across it in books and journals, even those that would be considered “traditionalist” or “conservative.”

      Frankly, capitalization of the pronoun in reference to the Trinity or the persons thereof — which has fallen into disuse in most academic writing — catches my attention before a feminine reference to the Spirit, or to God generally.

      1. First I’ll say I’m kind of surprised this topic came up in a thread about Japan since it doesn’t seem especially appropriate…

        However, I could see someone being surprised by referring to the Holy Spirit as feminine. Perhaps it is common in some circles (especially keeping in mind you are Episcopalian), but it’s not something I’ve ever seen or heard outside of internet discussions myself. I honestly can’t think of any homilies I’ve heard where the Holy Ghost was called “Her,” nor have I encountered it in the various theological talks I’ve been to. Calling the Holy Ghost a “She” doesn’t bug me, but it certainly sticks out when I see it since it’s not the least bit common in my neck of the woods regardless of what some academics might be doing.

        I think people who do use feminine pronouns for the third person of the trinity should keep in mind that it might not be as widely accepted as they think and that other things they are convinced have gone by the wayside (like capitalized pronouns or archaic language) are still far more common for a lot of average people. I was convinced that most people no longer used the King James Bible until I started my career as a teacher and found that a lot of the small protestant churches around here still use it, for example.

  2. Robert, you have shown your true colors. Shame on you for hijacking this well intentioned thread for people who need our prayers. Only you could have thought of such a thing and followed through on it. Truly, you must be a miserable person.

    1. Harsh words, Gregg.

      Please know that the sufferings of the Japanese are very much in my prayers, along with thanks that I’ve been spared any sorrow of this magnitude. Under the circumstances, it seems best to pray to the real God and not one of human devising.

  3. Robert B. Ramirez :

    Harsh words, Gregg.
    Please know that the sufferings of the Japanese are very much in my prayers, along with thanks that I’ve been spared any sorrow of this magnitude. Under the circumstances, it seems best to pray to the real God and not one of human devising.

    Only the language is of human devising.

    Of course that means that language is severely limited and incapable of expressing the nature of an unlimited God.

    For two millennia, the church has taught that God is pure spirit and not limited to a particular gender.

    For most of that time we have arbitrarily used male pronouns in reference to God, wholly inaccurate, but the language is limited.

    What possible harm is there to use female pronouns on occasion? It at least raises awareness that neither is particularly correct in reference to God.

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