Sunday, May 8, 2016

2016.0508 Sweet Mothering Energy of God and Prayer

I open my eyes each day to images of my children. I murmur: “Dear God, fill me with your love and grace and bless my children, (I name each one) with grace, power, faith, love, and peace. I consecrate myself to thee for their sake they they too may be consecrated in truth—thy word is truth.”

I lifted some words out of Jesus’s farewell prayer in John 17. I don’t pray them so my kids will go to church, although that’s not a bad idea. I pray them that they may know deeply the sweet mothering energy of God in their lives. My children are the soul of my heart.

From the New Testament writings of the Johannine community, I know that the divine mothering energy of God is not restricted to women or biological mothers. Jesus prayed for his “children." They remembered that he prayed for them, and for all of us: I in you and you in me and we in them and all are one—an unbreakable net of en-wombing love—sweet mothering energy of God.

I confess I find our Sunday intercessions to be flat. One person recites and, for the most part, no one prays, or has time to collect their prayers. Perhaps we should simply paraphrase Jesus’s great intercessory plea that we all be one, because we all are in God, say it, then leave a long contemplative silence to let it sink in.

When I kneel at my home altar, I focus on an icon of Mary with Jesus her child. To me it is beautiful, though it’s not. It’s an aging, faded print in a scratched plastic frame which has lost all capacity to stand erect on its own. I pray to Mary: “Sweet mothering energy of God come into the world with wisdom, encouragement and nurture.” These three: wisdom from the mother-root, not just advice, encouragement from its Latin root meaning“heart,” and nurture—feeding, cherishing.  Occasionally these three come together in one moment, and everything changes.
My son John recently told me of such a time for him. He was a young man lying in a hospital gravely ill and awaiting surgery. He said he heard me and another woman reciting Psalm 23 at his bedside. He suddenly felt sure he would live, wanted to live. I have no recollection of such an incident.

Everyone has the capacity to mother and all of us have mothered. Everyone knows what a hard job it is to mother: to slither back and forth between the strong desire to hold close, protect and save and the strong desire to let the beloved be free to grow and go forth to find their own way—or at least get outta your hair.

I learned a lot about divine mothering love and prayer from Mary. Mothering Jesus had to be hell. He was always in trouble, much of it dire and all of it serving God, not his family. Mary doesn’t play a big role in biblical story. I bet that’s because she was all the time in prayer for Jesus.  I bet she taught him to pray, and I bet her prayers made it into his heart, bringing wisdom, courage and nurture.

I first met Mary in Spain where I spent time in the early 1960s with two families, one in Madrid and the other in Santander—then a smallish fishing town in northern Spain…..now my bank. In Spain, Mary was more popular than Jesus. I spent much time kneeling on concrete-hard kneelers praying to María. I internalized the popular piety. It filled some emptiness in my religious soul.

I realized what a loss many Protestant churches have suffered by cleansing their worship, sanctuaries, and prayers of Mary. It is a loss to the full image of divine love.

The Santander Señora was a small woman, a dynamo of religious faith and a fiercely loving madre. Nightly, she’d clap her hands, tiny shofars summoning the family to prayers. We all jumped to attention and hurried to the dining table where we stood around as she prayed aloud—the evening dose of wisdom, encouragement and nurture. All the children were named some version of  María: Mari Pilar (after the Virgen de Pilar) whom we called Pili, Marisuca, and a son, Josemari, a twofer combination of José and María (Joseph and Mary.) Suca  was the nun-designate, quiet, pious and impish.  Pili was wild and free and destined for multiple motherhood. I think Josemari was destined for the care of Mama—till death would them part. All our prayers were to Mary.

In Spain I fell in love with Mary. I came to know her as a primary mediator of the sweet mothering energy of God. From Mary/María, I learned, too, how hard mothering love can be—how hard it is for God. Sometimes you have to stand by and watch your beloved suffer.