This week Project Pomegranate offers our “Prepare Yourselves, Mother’s Day is Coming” Blog series, noting how difficult the Mother’s Day season can be for those who have struggled with fertility grief. Welcome to Wednesday’s blog post!
As with many holidays, Mother’s Day offers an idealized version of life. The TV commercials, the Facebook postings, the greeting cards all promise an experience available to few – if any – of us.
So often we define ourselves in relationship to others: We are someone’s spouse, parent, child. Mother’s Day can be especially bitter for those who yearn for children or for a life partner, for those who have lost a mother through death or estrangement. We may wonder, “Who then am I on Mother’s Day?”
Julian of Norwich, the 14th century mystic, offers us an answer in her reflections. She writes,
This fair lovely word ‘mother’ is so sweet and so kind in itself that it cannot truly be said of anyone or to anyone except of him and to him who is the true Mother of life and of all things. To the property of motherhood belong nature, love, wisdom and knowledge, and this is God.
Even more radical, Julian asks us to see Jesus as “our true Mother.” She writes, “We have our being from him, where the foundation of motherhood begins, with all the sweet protection of love which endlessly follows.” Julian’s words not only elevate maternal love to the divine, but also present the idea that motherhood transcends gender, parenting status, and other societal conventions. In contrast to today’s concept of motherhood as a club you either belong to or don’t, Julian defines motherhood as “sweet protection of love.” As followers of Jesus we are called to both give and receive this type of mothering.
Little is known about Julian before her life as a contemplative recluse. Even her true name is lost to history – The name Julian comes from St. Julian’s church where she sought refuge at age 30. Many historians believe that Julian entered the religious life after losing her own family to the plague of Black Death. She lived the second half of her life in a solitary cell enclosed within the walls of the church. Yet Julian does not speak to us of abandonment and pain, but of mercy, grace, and love.
Who then are we this Mother’s Day?
We are welcomed as a child of God. We are invited to be a mother in God. For, as Julian writes, “Between God and the soul there is no between.”
Whether by happy coincidence or intent, Julian’s feast day falls near Mother’s Day. Roman Catholic tradition celebrates Julian of Norwich on May 13, and Anglican and Lutheran traditions on May 8.
Photo credit: Cynthia Paces