My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord!
Today in our Civil calendar, we celebrate Mother’s Day, a day set aside to honor our Mother’s and their vital importance in our lives.
One of the most memorable events in the Gospel of John is the scene of Mary at the foot of the Cross, a poignant example of perfect love.
Alone among the evangelists, it is John who informs us that, “standing by the Cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple John, whom he loved, standing nearby, He said to his mother, “Women, behold your Son!” Then he said to the disciple John, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27)
Over the centuries, this scene of immense tenderness and sacrifice, immediately preceding the death of Jesus, has inspired not only a multitude of icons but also a wealth of hymns sung by Orthodox Christians throughout the ages.
The poetry and imagery of these diverse hymns share the common purpose of bringing the Christian imagination into a vivid awareness of the pain and dereliction of Jesus’ mother standing by His Cross as He entrusts her to the care of, “the disciple whom He loved”.
What has prompted Orthodox Christians to think so long and lovingly on the image of a Son’s love for His mother and a mother’s love for her Son!
The obvious emotional impulse is to dwell on the sorrow of Jesus’ mother at the foot of the Cross, rooted in the very love symbolized by the Cross. Simply put, Jesus died and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice because He loved us and such love, sacrificial love, elicited a responding love from the believing heart!
The Most Holy Theotokos was and is the most revered woman who ever lived, because of who she was and the Son that she mothered. Throughout the world, believing Christians offer unceasing prayers to her because her life touched our Lord’s as no others, for she was the Birth giver of God, and ever Virgin Mary! All the greatest things she had given to her son, her Son was about to give back to her through the power of the Holy Spirit! We know the immense gift Mary gave her son, the gift of life that her body would became the living temple of God. As a mother, she provided for his every need like all mother’s do. Her life and His life were bound together forever. Many a mother has realized upon first seeing her baby’s face that she would gladly lay down her life for her child.
And the second crucial thing that Jesus gave back to His mother was His love. A mother’s love and care shape our identity as healthy human beings. Each of us is incredibly precious and worthy of unconditional love. We were created with a deep need for grace – that unconditional love that accepts us with joy in spite of our flaws. Grace is healing. Grace is freeing. For many of us our first taste of grace came through our mother’s love for us! But we will never know grace in its fullest form until we accept it from a loving, Holy God who bought us with a very great price, the price of His own blood.
Jesus’ life was surely shaped by the love of His Most Holy Mother, and following His death, was able to give back to her in abundance the love that she had given Him. The wonderful news is that we all have access to the awesome love that Jesus offers. It is given freely to all those who believe in Him and receive the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Roman’s 5:5)
So as we celebrate this Mother’s Day, may we find ways to give back the love we have received to others!
In the Joy of Pascha,
This hymn was song by the Metropolitan Choir in the ancestral church of Father John’s Great-Grandfather built in 1779. Many of the Parishioners at St. Herman’s are also descendants from this parish and those in the neighboring villages of this region.