Mother of All the Living Ones

The man called his wife’s name Zoe (Life), because she was the mother of all the living.  (Genesis 3:20)

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As we in America honor our mothers today, we remember that it is through women that we come into the world.  Women have a unique role to play in the life of the world and are involved in God’s life-giving nature in a way that men cannot be.  Even the life-giving incarnation of God, required a woman for our salvation.  Males had no direct role in the incarnation itself, except to be in need of it for salvation.  So motherhood itself is a necessary part of the salvation of every human being.  Males cannot be saved without a woman, which is why all Christians should also honor, Mary, the Theotokos.  As St Elizabeth shows in her own praise of Mary as  “she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?   (Luke 1:42-43)   Elizabeth was overwhelmed that the Mother of the Lord should visit her.

30107253080_7ee0ce7d69_nHowever unique and great the role of motherhood is in the continuation of the human race and in the salvation of all humans, motherhood is not the only role women play in the life of the church.  The ability to give birth is a unique role for women, but not the only role for women in the Church.  Obviously the entire history of women monastics shows us that child birth is not essential for the salvation of women.  There are many women who are saints in our Church, who were never mothers, nor even tried to be.

Women, including mothers, have the same path to salvation as men: through holiness.  There are women Disciples of the Lord such as the Myrrhbearing Women.  There are women who are proclaimed Equal to the Apostles (such Photini the Samaritan Woman and Helen the mother of Constanine).  There are women who are titled Evangelizers   (such as Nina of Georgia  but also God chose women to serve as the first Evangelists – the Myrrhbearing Women carried the message to the male Apostles).   In the Church calendar of saints there are women martyrs, confessors, ascetics, women prophets, deacons, teachers, rulers and monastics.

So while motherhood is a unique role for women in God’s creation and in the Church, it is not the only role for women.  And few women are glorified as saints just for being mothers. The women saints of the Church are generally recognized for all the other roles they played in the life of the Church.

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Mothers like all women can know the Lord.  They can be saints and disciples because they can be imitators of Christ.  Mothers give us life, but they can also be examples of how to love and live for eternal life.   Giving birth is a natural thing, which may be why it is not always the way to holiness.  We are a pro-life Church, and we honor our mothers because they show the sanctity of life in their pregnancies, in giving birth and in their rearing of children.  Mothers reveal a unique relationship between themselves and the infants to whom they are giving life as well as to the life-givingness itself.   Mothers are the human element in the birthing process.   Mothers can be examples not only to their children, but to all women and men of how to follow Christ (Titus 2:3-4), to be His disciple, to experience His presence every day in the most mundane circumstances, in the most natural way.  Jesus in fact says everyone who does the will of God becomes His mother (Mark 3:33-34).  The holiness of motherhood lies in doing God’s will.    And the children of believing mothers are considered to be holy (1 Corinthians 7:14) based on the mother’s faith.

Be blessed like Rebekah

In giving birth to us, in giving life to us, our mothers make it possible for us to experience God, to be in God’s presence.  For this alone, we should thank and honor our mothers.

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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.

Happy Mother’s Day!

For those who know me, or who have looked at the photos on my flickr site, you know I shy away from human subjects and prefer taking nature photos.

So my photographic homage to moms is going to look pretty natural.  Nothing can match a mother’s love, even if you have a look that only a mother can love.

Mom’s can be pretty formidable, yet even without makeup mom’s are pretty special.

We all know each mom is pretty unique in her own way.

No monkeying around about it, some mom’s are pretty and some are pretty funny.

Some mom’s just reflect pretty much what’s best in all of us.

The common thread is of course that our mom’s are just naturally pretty.

For those of us who grew up around Cleveland in the early 1960’s, we all remember Captain Penny’s Rule:  “You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool Mom. She’s pretty nice and she’s pretty smart.”

That pretty much gives you a picture of motherhood from mother nature to your stay at home mom.

Mother’s Day (2010)

Mother of God

We honor today our mothers for being the life-bearers of the human race,  for bringing us into the world, for the nurturing roles they play in our lives, for raising us up, for their roles in forming our beliefs and moral thinking.   

May God bless them all, always.

While we offer prayers today for our mothers, here is a prayer that mothers today can offer up for their children of all ages:

Lord our God, in Your wisdom You created humans from the earth and breathed the breathe of life into them.   In humility I call upon your goodness, asking that you unceasingly pour out your grace upon my child/children.   Fill him/her/them with wisdom and understanding so that she/he/they might always choose the good.   Protect them/him/her from all of the snares of the evil one.  Command Your angels to be with her /him/them and guide him/her/them toward good works, so that they/she/he may always praise and glorify You all the days of his/her/their life/lives.  Amen.

Myrrhbearing Women and Mother’s Day

Sermon originally given for Mother’s Day and the Myrrhbearing Women in May, 2003

Motherhood – we do set aside this day in our country to give special honors to mothers, to acknowledge their special role in shaping the lives of each of us, and consequently recognizing the special place that mothers play in the life of our nation.

We might also stop and reflect for a moment that despite the unique and powerful role that mothers play in shaping each of our lives, we as a nation spend virtually no time preparing our young women for the role of motherhood.  Certainly the school systems give virtually no attention to helping young women become mothers.  Colleges?  They are interested in degrees and careers but though you can find a Women’s Study major at many colleges, it has nothing to do with motherhood.  The media also offers little in terms of true guidance in what it takes to be a mother.

 And we cannot deny that in Christianity, though the virtues of motherhood are often extolled, especially in relationship to Mary the Mother of God, little is offered in the church schools or even in our New Testament scriptures about motherhood.

 And yet our very understanding of God’s plan of salvation rests upon the notion of God finding a woman to be mother to His Son.   The incarnation could not have happened without a mother.  Salvation, at least as we understand God’s revelation, could not have happened without a mother.  God in his love and wisdom chose a woman, the teenager Mary, to be the Mother of His Son, and thus the Mother of our Salvation.

And the image we have of Mary, the reason for why God chooses her to be Mother of His Son, seems to be found in ideas of her purity, her humility, her love,  her willingness to believe in God’s promises, her desire to hear the Word of God, and her willingness to be God’s servant, to be obedient to the will and word of God, her capacity to accept the fullness of God’s grace.  Her ability to be God’s chosen mother, was found in her desire to be faithful to God. 

 This imagery we might quickly realize applies to us all, not just to women, nor just to those who would be mothers, but to any who would follow Christ and be children of God.

Today in the church we honor the Myrrhbearing Women, those women disciples of the Lord, who also exhibited those same virtues – humility, love, faithfulness, and a fearlessness in the face of those who opposed God, but a total fear of God.   For they were willing to courageously go to the tomb of Christ to anoint his body, knowing full well that they did this in opposition to their Jewish leaders and under the watchful eye of Roman soldiers.   So bold were they to come at dawn in full view of everyone.    Bold, courageous and fearless were they in their faith and love.   And yet when the angel tells them of the resurrection, they flee from the tomb saying nothing to anyone because they were afraid.  Ultimately it is only God who they fear, and an encounter with God, reveals that in fact the only One that they fear is God.  And this godly fear is for them yet another virtue.

One final comment – The Myrrhbearing Women were going to the tomb of Christ, to do what they believed they were required to do.  They were fulfilling a religious obligation.  Yet we also understand that in fulfilling the law, this was a total act of love for Jesus on their part.  Fulfilling religious duty and doing it because of love, are not ideas in opposition to each other, but rather are the signs of true religion. 

For us, our ‘Going to church’ must become a similar work.  Though we might do it in obedience to God and to please God and to fulfill our sense of religious duty, it is most blessed when we also do it out of love for Christ.   Like the Myrrhbearing women, we too are engaged in an act of love, for here we come to proclaim Christ’s death and to meet the risen Lord.  

Going to church becomes for us a journey to the place where we behold our destiny.  Here we come to see what is the ultimate destiny of our lives and of the world.   Going to church is part of that great journey, that magnificent voyage to the Kingdom of God.    Going to church may also be just part of our sense of obligation, but it is also and always is the path to opening the doors of the Heavenly Kingdom so that we might see God.

Christ is risen!