The Higher Things: Motherhood
“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only — and that is to support the ultimate career.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
As he hung on the cross, our Lord turned his eyes to his Mother. He bore the weight of sin. Excruciating pain shot through his limbs, he choked in existential agony, and in his fever, he remembered his mother. “Woman, behold thy son!” Turning to the disciples, “Behold, thy mother!” How could God on the cross, at the climax of cosmic salvation, be so human? This was the hero of all time, ready to slay the devil, and his heart beat for mom.
Today, we celebrate the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In many Orthodox churches, a huge icon of the Mother of God looms over the sanctuary. The “Platutera twn Ouranwn” — “More Spacious than the Heavens.” The Blessed Virgin’s outstretched arms encompass the whole world in her embrace. She is the one more spacious than the heavens, because she contained in her womb the uncontainable one. She carried within her God himself, who is larger than heaven. From between her open arms, in this beautiful icon, our Lord Jesus Christ gives the benediction.
Why should the Church give so much importance to the Mother of God? Many accuse the church of idolatry. They say we worship Mary, and that our love for her distracts us from God. To this, the Church has responded with one voice for two thousand years: you cannot love Christ without also loving his mother. You cannot understand Christ without understanding his mother. Our relationship with God is intrinsically linked to our relationship with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.
What happened that day on the cross? “Woman, behold thy son.” “Behold, thy mother.” In his last breath, Jesus Christ gave the Church a Mother. This is the fundamental reality of the incarnation. God became flesh. He became flesh in every way possible. He was no phantom; no spiritual entity disguised as man. He was a true man.
He came into this world with a connection inseparable to his biological mother the way you and I did. For nine months, God’s body was Mary’s body. His ears, eyes, and tiny brain formed together out of the nutrients passed to him by Mary. As a tiny infant, God cried out to Mary for warmth and comfort. As a boy, God obeyed Mary, as the perfect son.
Do a mother and son ever grow apart truly? Did you know that for the rest of her life, a mother carries cells in her body from the babies they have born? Christ was and forever will be within Mary. No one in creation will ever love Jesus Christ the way the His mother loves. A son, however he grows apart emotionally, is always still connected to mother. The bravest soldier cries out for Mom as he lies dying on the battle field — we adults are little changed, really, since we were infants crying out for milk. Christ is no exception. All this is said in the words: “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14).
Why do we call Mary our Mother? Listen to Jesus Christ’s words: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit” (John 15:5). When baptized, we are baptized into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3). We are not only called into a friendship with Jesus, we are called to become his very Body. We are in him. He is in us. His mother is our mother.
The wine jars had gone dry. Everyone was there. The whole town had come out to feast in honor of bride and bridegroom, and they ran out of wine. You remember the story. The Blessed Virgin interceded for the people. “They have no wine,” were her words. Christ replied, “Woman” (the highest word of affection and respect), “mine hour is not yet come.” It was not his time, but because Mother had interceded, our Lord changed water into wine. Christ began his entire ministry as an act of obedience to mother. Can you see it? This first miracle reveals everything else to follow. For eternity, Christ hears the prayers of his mother who intercedes for us all. Is it so scandalous? This is the gospel. God sends us out to do His work. He saves humanity through the Church, his arms and legs. Who better represents the Church than the Blessed Mother? We are all intercessors (1 Timothy 2:1). Who can intercede so powerfully as Mother?
One final point must be said today on the Feast of Motherhood. Our culture does not respect motherhood. A young woman who chooses to be a full-time mother is laughed at. She experiences pressure and snobbery from every direction. If a woman chooses to have two or three, or (good heavens) four or five children, she will get more ridicule. Why is this? Our culture is psychotic. Our priorities are upside-down.
There are all kinds of opportunities today for women to work, and this is a wonderful thing. Building careers and pursuing passions is commendable. But in the end, we must never forget, it is the mother who lays the foundation of society. Science, medicine, education, politics…these are good, but none have ever contributed so much to the world as the humble job of mother. Nothing is so urgently needed today in our world, with all our needs, with all our problems, as the most holy job of mother.
G. K. Chesterton’s words could not be more true or more important for our times:
“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only — and that is to support the ultimate career.”
Through the holy example of His Blessed Mother, may our Lord and God impress in our hearts love and honor for the higher things.