Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018.05.13 Sanctifying Prayers on Mothers' Day

Over 100 years after Jesus had died his followers remembered that he prayed for them. He must have prayed aloud or they wouldn’t have remembered and carried it on. Jesus’s intercession must have made a huge impression on them. Over 2000 years later it still makes an impression on me.

I can’t imagine a more awesome feeling than knowing, feeling, that you are being prayed for, aloud and in people’s hearts. Today is officially Mother’s Day. This day is complicated for obvious reasons.

To honor my motherhood I want to free up the word “mother” from confinements like gender, biology, anatomy, sexual preference. Mothering energy is a gift we all have. It is the spiritual capacity to make things holy, sanctify them, with the sweet energy of wisdom, encouragement, and nurture. This to me is how God “mothers”and what I pray for every single day. This seems to be what Jesus the Christ brought—so strongly that the English mystic Julian of Norwich called Jesus “ . . .  our beloved mother who feeds us with his most precious body and blood.”

This is what Jesus the Christ is remembered as doing when he prayed passionately for himself as he faced inevitable death, and when he prayed for his followers as they faced the enormous task of carrying on with wisdom, encouragement, and nurture in a hostile chaotic, plain stubborn world—just like ours right now.

This is what I saw just last week in the park near our house. I stopped to watch two small girls, maybe four years old, as they sat cross-legged on the ground and took turns brushing the hair on a stuffed critter of mysterious identity. They shared the brush, the critter, and their own sheer delight—together. Wondrous! It looked to me like an embodied prayer with an action attached to it.

I come from a long line of praying mothers and grandmothers, so my own praying career began early. It was almost upended by the Church—ironically because I was a MOTHER!

I’d felt drawn to priesthood by the church’s sacramental life. I thought them very motherly: wash, cleanse, bleed, heal, touch, feed—all about bodies. No wonder the Church is called Mother.
But the Church told me I could not be a mother and a priest. By then I had four children, and I needed a mother!

That was back in the 1980s but even today motherhood threatens to upset the ecclesial workplace. Mother Church cannot decided whether it wants women ordained before children, after children, or during children. There is scant provision for maternity leave or time off for child care, and there is an ongoing significant gender pay gap, and attitudinal patriarchy prevails. I remember a male priest angrily saying to me: “I can’t imagine a pregnant woman at the altar.”  I couldn’t imagine a pregnant woman NOT at the altar, NOT in the pulpit, NOT at the font—banned.

I vowed to be active for equality for women and all people. I vowed as well never to let anyone call me Mother, except my own children. I’m not sure the parental model is so good for men either, or even for the image of God. Jesus grew up. We too grow up. I see myself as “beloved” of God, maybe daughter, but not child of God. My Godde, there’s too much very adult work to be done in the church, and especially beyond the church, for us to be sheep or children, even metaphorically. We have our whole Earth to pray about and care for—Mother Earth, no less.
Also, I vowed never ever to stop praying with and for all our children, my own and my present husband’s, just as Jesus prayed for his followers. We all need the prayers of others—all the time. I’m grateful that Christ prays for me, sanctifies himself to God that I too may be sanctified in the truth.

The little girls in the park right now are my icon: giggling with soulful abandon, brushing a ridiculously hairless unidentifiable stuffed critter—sharing critter and brush in turn with utterly untrammeled joy. Together they care for their beloved critter with tenderness, efficiency, and delight. They were mothering. They were prayer in action. Go thou and do likewise.