Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Mothers of God

Three days until Mother’s Day. What’s the feel of the day for you? Christians remember it’s not all “mom and apple pie.” Lisa and I lost our mothers in the past year. Some have prickly relationships with their mothers. Some battle infertility. Some can’t find sufficient words or gifts to express their joy and gratitude. Some moms are going it alone.

On Mother’s Day each year, I like to think of Mary, the mother of our Lord. Not long ago, Catholics marked “the Feast of the Annunciation” on March 25 – obviously, thinking Mary came to be pregnant 9 months before Christmas. We don’t know such dates with precision – but let’s enter into it. On May 9, she would have been 6 weeks into her pregnancy. I wonder if Amy Grant’s lovely “Breath of Heaven” captures Mary’s mood: “I am frightened by the load I bear… Do you wonder as you watch my face if a wiser one should have had my place” – and then she pleads, “Hold me together… Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me.”

On May 9, the “little Lord Jesus” was just that: about the size of a pea – reminding somehow of that Hans Christian Anderson story, The Princess and the Pea. To test if the young woman in question was really a princess, they placed a pea under 20 mattresses. She didn’t sleep well – proving her delicate sensitivity, although you might prefer a princess who’s a little more rugged. Mary would have felt the pea in her belly, that unease, a touch of nausea, her body morphing into a liquid abode for the child within.

I love it that Mary made a journey while pregnant. By the Catholic calendar, Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home on May 31, 8 weeks pregnant. Elizabeth was further along. How tender, and moving, these 2 unlikely mothers, carrying wee ones invisibly, children who would grow up and change everything forever. So much love, so much to bear, so much hope. We need good company to be God’s people, or just to make it in this world.

Mary was someone who “pondered” and “treasured” things in her heart (Luke 2:19 and 51). She knew how to be quiet, and still, and to listen. She had immense courage, willing to risk everything to do God’s bidding, to let God take on flesh in her. She could easily have lost her fiancée Joseph. Surely her parents and neighbors raised eyebrows and whispered, questioning her morals. When I think of Mary, I wonder how God is asking me, and you, to do what she did: she listened, she said Yes to God taking on reality in her life.

Meister Eckhart, the medieval German mystic, wrote these words well worth pondering as Mother’s Day approaches: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.”

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