Long before the dogmas of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity evolved, the heirs of the Peter and Paul traditions venerated the feminine even when faced with death by pagan interrogators. The Acta Martryum is a narrative of martyrs dating to the second century, and supposedly contains eye-witness accounts or “official accounts” of trials preceding their judgments. One description is of the “Martyrdom of Justin and His Companions” in 165 at the hands of the Prefect Rusticus, who, on learning that some of these had become Christians because of their parents, inquires as to their parents’ location. Justin’s student Heirax replies:
“Our true father is Christ, and our mother our faith in him…”
This points to a Trinitarian understanding of the indivisible nature of God. Jesus himself states in John 14 that “if you have seen me you have seen the Father” and “I and the Father are one.” As to faith being the mother, faith is the gift and power of the Holy Spirit, in whom we are nurtured and sustained in our life with God through Jesus Christ.(see "The Bible and the Sacred Feminine.")
Thus, in the kind of Christianity set forward by Peter and Paul, masculine and feminine images were together wrapped into the Christian’s understanding of their relationship to God in Christ. These images were not suppressed by the Church.
Towards the time of the fall of Rome, a North African bishop named Augustine wrote volumes which are considered classics in the theological development of orthodox Christianity. In his Confessions he describes the nature of the mutual love relationship between himself and God. Read this and decide for yourself whether this Catholic Christian was enslaved by masculine sentiments.
“I love you, Lord…But what do I love in loving you? Not physical beauty, the splendor of time, or the pleasant radiance of light. Not the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs or the fragrant smell of flowers, ointments, and spices. Not manna and honey. Not limbs that are pleasant for fleshly embraces. I don’t love these things when I love my God. Yet, I love a certain kind of light, sound, fragrance, food, and embrace in loving my God….In this love, the light shines that can’t be contained into my soul. It is where those things resound that time can’t snatch away, where there is a fragrance that no breeze can scatter, where there is a food which no amount of eating can cut into, and where there is a clinging to that no gratification can break apart. This is what I love when I love my God.” (Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers: Selected Readings for Daily Reflection. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers 1999.)
As a male, I associate flowers, perfume and the “limbs that are pleasant for fleshly embraces” with the love I reserve for a woman. A woman reading this passage might not make the same association, but will certainly recognize that Augustine is drawing on the experiences of romantic love to describe the more complete love that is satisfied by God. Even the other images, light and food, are wrapped in with the idea of an intimate completeness that is experienced in the love of God. Light and food are frequent motifs in both religious and romantic expressions of relationship. A male writer, i.e. Augustine, who associates romantic images with Godly love is holding forth a reverence for the sacred feminine.
This is the kind of worship “in spirit and truth” that Jesus spoke of with the Samaritan woman at the well of the city. We can love God and be loved by God directly in the Spirit, without exploiting a ritual prostitute or invoking the magic of a Heiros Gamos orgy.