Mother's Day Theology

Mother’s Day, it seems, has become a sacred festival.  Not many churches across our country fail at least to mention mothers on “their day”, which is this Sunday.  Many churches have mothers and motherhood as the theme of worship and the sermon. 

Odes to Mom are shared.  Special music is played, often accompanying a slide show of pictures that make everyone cry.  And Proverbs 31 is read – at least verses 28-29 that mention a mother’s children and husband praising her.

I wonder how many churches honor our Mother who gave life to us all – Christ?

One of the most beautiful theologies of what happened on the cross was given to the world by Julian of Norwich.  At the age of 31 and a half (ca. 1373), she suffered from a potentially life-ending illness.  As she neared death, Julian experienced sixteen intense revelations, or “showings”, as she named them, of Jesus. 

Upon recovering, Julian wrote a narration of the visions.  This recording, along with a theological expansion of each showing written about 20-30 years later became Revelations of Divine Love.  Julian’s work is believed to be the first book written in the English language by a woman.

Unique to Julian’s theology is the motherhood of God.  Beyond giving us life via creation, God lovingly took a greater step in bearing us to eternal life.  Christ revealed himself to Julian as mother, the mother who gave all of humanity new life through the labor pains of the cross.

 [Our] great God, the most sovereign wisdom of all … dressed himself in our poor flesh to do the service and duties of motherhood in every way.  The mother’s service is the closest, the most helpful and the most sure, for it is the most faithful.  No one ever might, nor could, nor has performed this service fully but he alone.  We know that our mothers only bring us into the world to suffer and die, but our true mother, Jesus, he who is all love, bears us into joy and eternal life; blessed may he be!  So he sustains us within himself in love and was in labor for the full time until he suffered the sharpest pangs and the most grievous sufferings that ever were or shall be, and at the last he died.  And when it was finished and he had borne us into bliss, even this could not fully satisfy his marvelous love, and that he showed in these high surpassing words of love, ‘If I could suffer more, I would suffer more.’[1]

Look at the difference in relation to traditional atonement theories.  God is not angry.  God is not demanding recompense for sin or a perfect blood sacrifice.  God is displaying love, love and more love. 

The cross is God’s way of showing humanity the extravagant extents God will go to help us understand how deeply, widely and completely we are loved. 

As beautiful as this is, Julian's vision does not stop there. Not only does our Christ our mother suffer out of amazing love to bring us to eternal life, he nourishes us by feeding us himself – his body and blood that are our Sacrament.  He also nurses us “through his sweet open side”.  And as we nurse, Christ looks up on us, his children and rejoices: “Look how I love you.”

Human mothers blow it.  All of us who were born of mothers and raised by them (or not) could tell our own tales.  Those of us who are mothers could list a myriad of ways that we fear we’ve messed up our kids for life.  No human mother is perfect.

A perfect Mother does exist, though – the one who will not let us down, abandon us, embarrass us, bully us, abuse us, nor ever stop loving us.  Jesus labored and gave us life so that we might live, and have life abundantly.

Hug or remember your Mama this weekend.  Then give praise, glory and honor to your Christ your Mother.  Great things he hath done.



[1]   Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, trans.Elizabeth Spearing (New York: Penguin Books, 1998), 141.

 

Angie Mabry-Nauta
Woman, in Progress...

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