Motherhood

While today is Mother’s Day in the United States, in Orthodoxy references to mother often bring to mind the Mother of God, Mary the Virgin.

Fr. Georges Florovsky writes, “She [the Virgin Mother] was not just a ‘channel’ through which the Heavenly Lord has come, but truly the mother of whom he took his humanity…Motherhood, in general, is by no means exhausted by the mere fact of a physical procreation…  In fact, procreation itself establishes an intimate spiritual relation between the mother and the child. This relation is unique and reciprocal, and its essence is affection or love…  or could Jesus fail to be truly human in his filial response to the motherly affection of the one of whom he was born…” (Christos Yannaras, Against Religion, p. 128)

 

A Mother’s Love: Even In the Womb

Fetus6months“A child’s upbringing commences at the moment of its conception. The embryo hears and feels in its mother’s womb.  Yes, it hears and it sees with its mother’s eyes. It is aware of her movements and her emotions, even though its mind has not developed. If the mother’s face darkens, it darkens too. If the mother is irritated, then it becomes irritated also. Whatever the mother experiences – sorrow, pain, fear, anxiety, etc. – it is also experienced by the embryo. If the mother doesn’t want the child, if she doesn’t love it, then the embryo senses this and traumas are created in its little soul that accompany it in all its life. The opposite occurs through the mother’s holy emotions.

When she is filled with joy, peace and love for the embryo, she transmits these things to it mystically, just as happens to children that have been born. For this reason a mother must pray a lot during her pregnancy and love the child growing within her, caressing her abdomen, reading psalms, singing hymns and living a holy life. This is also for her benefit. But she makes sacrifices for the sake of the embryo so that the child will become more holy and will acquire from the very outset holy foundations.” (Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, p 195)

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms!

We never know a day on earth without your influence.

The Theotokos, Motherhood and Salvation

“Conqueror, adventurer, builder, man is not fatherly in his being.

An ancient liturgical text projects upon the motherhood of the Virgin the light of the divine fatherhood: ‘You have given birth to the Son without a father, the Son whom the Father brought forth before the ages without a mother.’ The virgin Mary’s motherhood is thus a human figure or image of the fatherhood of God. Here we have an explanation of why the religious principle of dependence on the beyond, of receptivity, of communion is expressed so immediately by woman. The particular sensibility to pure spirituality resides far more in the anima than in the animus. It is the feminine soul which is nearest to the sources, to the origins, to birth. The Bible presents woman as the quintessential image of human nature’s spiritual receptivity. In actuality, the promise of salvation was given to woman, for a woman received the Annunciation of the birth of Christ and it was a woman who first saw the Risen Lord, and it is a woman ‘clothed in the sun’ who is the image of the Church and of the heavenly city in the Book of Revelation.

Further, it is in the images of the beloved and the bride that God chose to express his love for us and the marital nature of his communion with us. Finally, the most important fact is that the Incarnation was accomplished in the Virgin’s feminine nature. It is she who gave the Word of God her flesh and blood. To divine fatherhood as a specific feature of God’s very being directly corresponds the motherhood of woman, her receptive capacity for the divine. The whole goal of Christian life is to make of every human being a mother, a being predestined for the mystery of birth, ‘so that Christ may be formed in you’ (Gal. 4:19). Sanctification is precisely the action of the Spirit who makes possible the miraculous birth of Jesus in the depths of the soul. This is why the Nativity symbolizes and expresses the charism of every woman, that of bringing God to birth in destitute souls: ‘The Word is constantly born anew in our hearts.’ says the Letter to Diognetus. For St Maximus the Confessor, the mystic is the one in whom the birth of Christ is manifest. In order to describe his spiritual fatherhood, even St. Paul used the image of motherhood: ‘I undergo the sufferings of childbirth’ (Gal. 4:19).”   (Paul Evdokimov, In the World, Of the Church, pp 234-235)