Mothering Sunday, also known as Easement Sunday, is an interesting day in the church’s year, or at least I think it is! Well, come on, it is far more interesting than, say, the 17th Sunday of Trinity! Historically it was the day that domestic servants were given the day off (after making sure they had prepared enough food for the big house to cope whilst they took their short break) so that they could visit their own families and their own ‘mother church'; the church in which they were baptised.
The concept of Mother’s Day is a much later, secular, invention. Mothering Sunday, whilst of course allowing us to celebrate and give thanks for our own mothers, does however allow us a rare opportunity to think of God in the feminine, and this is important when so much of our God talk, our religious discourse, is highly masculine. God, we should remember, can only be described within the confines of language and should not be reduced by the limitations of language. God also transcends all human binaries; the bible makes this abundantly clear. In an increasingly high octane, alpha male-dominated environment it is good to reflect on the nature of the ‘divine feminine', allowing ourselves to be nurtured by the ‘divine feminine'. The church perhaps needs to recapture the essence of the ‘divine feminine’ for, as Augustine of Hippo said, perhaps in a challenge to the male of the species because Augustine was nurtured into the faith by his mother Monica, ‘he who does not have the church as his mother does not have God as his father.’
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus also had an incredibly high regard of his mother; the mother who was literally the God bearer and who raised Jesus and whose fidelity led her to stand at the foot of the cross. If we as 21st century Christians desire to see a bigger and better church, we must like Mary be prepared to give birth to Christ, to make Jesus real, by walking the way of the cross, for it is on the cross that Jesus exemplifies the essence of motherhood through his final act of compassion: his care for his mother and the beloved disciple. It is in this moment that the tradition of ‘mother church’ is born.
So what is this mother church to look like? Or perhaps the better question is how is this mother church to relate and behave? St. Paul provides the answer: we are to be holy, beloved (that is to know that we are truly loved just as Mary knew through Jesus’ words from the cross and that she was truly loved), compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient. And here’s the paradox: when we are all of these things then we are truly strong; strong and resilient, just like Mary, just like the Mary who was there at Jesus’ birth and at his death. When we commit to allowing these virtues to take shape in our hearts under the ‘inspiration of the Holy Spirit,’ then we become the sort of people who love as God would have us love, we become the sort of people who again like Mary can hold all things, even life and death, together in harmony. We become the sort of people who live by a better, grander, more Godly story. We become the sort of people who enable, reconcile and build up. We become wise.
So today let us reflect on the life and ministry of Mary and countless women through the ages, on notions of the ‘divine feminine’ and ‘mother church’. Let us, as St. Paul encourages us, ‘be thankful;’ thankful for all who have nurtured, encouraged and mothered us, and for the example of Blessed Mary, that incredible mother who gave birth to Jesus and remained faithful to him even to the cross. Let us recommit this Mothering Sunday to being compassionate, kind, humble and meek so that we, the Church, can mother a deeply fractured and disjointed world, a world which seems to lack any sense of ‘harmony;’ a world that desperately needs to know that it is ‘beloved;’ a world desperate to live within ‘the peace of Christ.’