Motherly Love.

Icon of the Presentation of the TheotokosAbout a year ago both my wife and I were in a thrift store looking for treasures, and among the many people in the store, there was a young mother with her newborn child. The little lamb was not having any of this shopping, and started to cry, and cry and cry, to the point that it sounded more like a screaming rasp. Despite this young mother’s attempt to calm and comfort the child, the baby kept crying, only magnifying the desperation of the scene.

As a father of four children, I know that kind of crying, and I felt the desire to help comfort the child. Alas, having a strange man walk up and offer to hold a crying child would probably not have gone well.

Now, as disturbed as I might have been by this scene, my wife was absolutely distraught. I noticed how she started to circle this young mother and child, looking for any excuse to ‘help’ as best as she could. As I kept one eye on the assortment of used clothing, and another on the mother and her child, I began to notice a group of women circling around the distraught family. It was strange, but I could tell, (or take an educated guess) who was a mother and who was not in this crowded thrift store. I noticed how some were drawn towards this woman and her screaming child, wanting to do something; anything to help out, and others were not.

The mother somehow did quiet her child. What I was left with was an epiphany of sorts. All of a sudden I sort of understood the role that the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) has in the Church, and with humanity.

In this day and age, the Virgin Mary has somehow become a footnote in the entire economy of salvation (sadly even in the Orthodox Church where her images are everywhere, and she is remembered numerous times). “She was Jesus’ mother, end of story” is the last word on her.

The mother somehow did quiet her child. What I was left with was an epiphany of sorts. All of a sudden I sort of understood the role that the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) has in the Church, and with humanity. In this day and age, the Virgin Mary has somehow become an abstraction in the entire economy of salvation (sadly even in the Orthodox Church where her images are everywhere, and she is remembered numerous times). “She was Jesus’ mother, end of story” is the last word on her.

But if one simply looks at the Theotokos’ life as if it were a historical footnote in the life of Jesus, what does that say about motherhood in general? Is the motherly love offered by Mary for her Child Jesus any different then the love any mother offers to her children: after all she fed Him, changed Him, taught Him, and cared for Him. If it were different, then Christ’s humanity would be simply a biological charade.

I would like to think that motherhood at its heart, is a movement of love that breaks down walls to care and bring consolation to those in need, especially children, much as my wife and those women wanted to do that day in the thrift store. This is the kind of concern and love the Mother of our God offers, the kind of love truly perfected by loving her Son who loved us first  (1 Jn 4:15).

By God’s Grace, humanity has become the kinfolk of Christ (Mk. 3:35), and we have been given to the protection of His mother at the cross, when the Lord commended the Apostle John, (and by extension the whole Church) to the care of His mother (Jn. 19:26). In this, the Theotokos is no longer a solitary figure in Christian history, she is our mother in faith, and she lives that life out in the glory of her Glorified Son.

By God’s Grace, humanity has become the kinfolk of Christ (Mk. 3:35), and we have been given to the protection of His mother at the cross, when the Lord commended the Apostle John, (and by extension the whole Church) to the care of His mother (Jn. 19:26). In this, the Theotokos is no longer a solitary figure in Christian history, she is our mother in faith, and she lives that life out in the glory of her Glorified Son.

As she has boldness to approach her Son on behalf of the bride and groom at the wedding in Cana (Jn.2:3), she even now approaches her Son and Lord on our behalf. She sees and hears our pain, our sorrow, and necessity, and without delay she advocates for our care, and salvation.

This is so beautifully illustrated in the feasts of the Mother of God, of which we serve one on Nov. 21st (her entry into the Temple). We see this in the tenderness of her embrace of her Child Jesus in many of her Icons, as well as in the beautiful Icon “the Joy of all who sorrow”. This Icon and the many other Icons and prayers (especially the Akathist to her Icon “Joy of all who sorrow”) speak of humanity’s struggle for peace, equality, justice and liberty, and the consolation that her prayers and intercessions bring on our behalf before her Son Jesus Christ.

She hears our cries, the cries of real loss and suffering, and acts for us, not simply as one who cares as only a mother could (as powerful as that is), but as one who sees all humanity as her own children by faith.

What a joy and wonder it is that we are not abandoned in our struggles, but have such a refuge in the Mother of our God. She is eternally moving towards us, in the same way my wife and those mothers moved to bring love and care to that mother and her newborn in that crowded thrift store.

All this is summed up so beautifully in the hymn we sing to her throughout the year: “Steadfast protectress of Christians, constant advocate before the Creator, do not despise the cry of us sinners. But in your goodness come speedily to help us, who call on you in faith. Hasten to hear our petition, and intercede for us, O Theotokos, for you always protect those who honor you.”

Joy of all who sorrow Icon of the Theotokos.