Church of England · Felixstowe · Lent · Sermon

Birth Pains

RHS ChapelBirth Pains

Words for Mothering Sunday – 14 March 2021 – A cyber sermon from the Vicarage

Text: …a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2v35)

God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.

The Lady Chapel, contained in the apse of the larger chapel of St Mary & St Nicholas, at the Royal Hospital School is a riot of glorious mosaic.  There are five panels depicting events in the life of the Mother of our Lord surmounted by an angel befringed crib scene.  Below it, as the centre piece of the Lady Chapel, is a classic mosaic of the Madonna and Child.  So far, so inspirational.

Pelican feeding its young bloodHowever, if you stand in the nave of the chapel, in front of the view of the mosaics on the face of the Baldechino over the high altar, stands a gilded carving of another mother.

The symbol of the mother pelican, who in legend pecks at her own breast to feed her young, is an ancient symbol describing Christ’s love for the church and the cost of that love.  It is also an apt symbol of Motherhood.

Mothering Sunday, and quite rightly so, is all about celebration, greeting cards and flowers (usually forbidden during Lent), a meal out or a special family gathering.  But there is another side to motherhood as well.  The pretty mosaic that makes up the glorious scene of the Nativity is a collage of broken pieces painstakingly matched and brought together.

Level of Birth PainMotherhood is no sinecure.
Motherhood is born in physical pain.
Motherhood holds the pain and hurt of children.
Motherhood means to never be your own person again.
Motherhood is a pilgrimage that does not end in this life, even if mother and child are no longer close to each other.
Motherhood is giving your own life so that another may live.

It is surprising that the church has not made more of the connection between mothering and the ministry of Christ.  Only a few mystics of the faith such as Julian of Norwich and Anselm of Bec (later Archbishop of Canterbury) have ever looked deeply into this and the church is the poorer for it.  The Song of Anselm (now part of Common Worship in the Church of England) gives us a taste of what we have neglected.

1    Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;  
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
2    Often you weep over our sins and our pride,  
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
3    You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,  
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
4    Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;  
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
5    Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;  
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
6    Your warmth gives life to the dead,  
your touch makes sinners righteous.
7    Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;  
in your love and tenderness remake us.
8    In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,  
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

 (Anselm of Canterbury)

The self-giving of Jesus reflects the deep meaning of motherhood.  If only the church was able to imitate the ‘motherhood’ of Christ more, and the judgemental Christ less perhaps those outside would be more eager to enter our fellowship?

This week has been a bad week for mothers and women as once again a woman (one of a list of 118 women in the last year) has been murdered.  It was supposed to be a good week for women.  A week which began with International Women’s Day and ended with Mothering Sunday, should have been about good news for women and mothers.  And good news for women and mothers always bears fruit in producing good news for children and men.  Instead the newspaper headlines fill our hearts with sadness.

How do Christians respond to this?
How do we help our society become a place where women and mothers feel valued and not threatened?
How does our parish become a safe haven for women and mothers and their children?

Romans 8v18 birth pain and joyIn our Ministry Team one step that is being taken is that all of us are being trained next month in spotting the signs of Domestic Abuse and helping support those (overwhelmingly women) affected by it.

In our Parish we will try to be more aware of the great riches that women and mothers have left to our faith and make their stories more widely known and their voices better heard.

Some of us, if we are fortunate enough to be able to be close to our own mother, will aim to cherish them more.  Not just on Mothering Sunday but every day.

And all of us will give thanks that we have the opportunity to ‘mother’ those around us, especially the young in years and in faith.  And in rejoicing at their presence amongst us give thanks for those who ‘mothered’ us in the faith we now hold.


[This blog ‘Birth Pains’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2021 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]

One thought on “Birth Pains

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s