“When you want to get in good with someone,” my father said, “you sometimes talk to their parents. Usually their mom.”
This was the response I got when I asked my father why some Christians speak to Mary or pray to Mary. Now, in my tradition that wasn’t our practice, but it made sense to me. If Jesus wasn’t answering the Divine phone, or if you weren’t sure you even had permission to make the call, his mother may lend you her ear, right?
While my Lutheran tradition doesn’t practice this piety, we have a long, though often hidden, tradition of holding Mary, the Mother of Our Lord in high esteem. Luther himself was known to lift her up as a model of saintliness. The “Theotokos,” the “God-Bearer,” a ship that carried the Christ across the sea of the cosmos…that deserves some reverence and a heartfelt nod, right?
But even apart from her role in history, mothering and motherhood are essential pieces of the fabric of our communal lives.
I’ve had many mothers, by the way. I say that not to dismiss my own biological mother; far from it! I say it more to acknowledge that the ways we mother each other, distinct from giving birth, are essential pieces of care that we extend in this world. The mothers of my friends often watched out for me, provided me with things I needed, tended my wounds and provided care when my own mother was working or not in proximity.
An upper-classman at my university, a young man in the same field of study, would have me over for tea and honey to see how I was doing on a regular basis. He took me under his wing in many ways, mothering me while I was 800 miles away from my biological family.
We are at our best when we mother one another.
And Mary, in her role in the Divine drama, was not only the mother of the Christ, following him all the way to his deathbed (like any parent worth their salt), but also the mother of humanity, on the lips of so many in their hour of need.
When George Floyd called out for his mother, all mothers were summoned. Mary was summoned.
It’s no wonder that St. Paul and St. John of the Beatles noted that “in the hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me…” In our hours of need, we all need mothering.
But not only the comforting mothering, but also the advocate mothering. In John 2 Mary advocates for the power of her son, giving instruction that the wedding attendants should listen to him. This Mary of the scriptures is mirrored in the mothers shaking their fists at the courthouse over their inaction on sensible gun legislation as their babies are murdered in schools and on street corners.
“Listen!” they scream.
Mary is mirrored in mothers shepherding their children across borders into a new life, much like she did when she safeguarded her son in the Gospel of Matthew from that blood-thirsty Herod, fleeing with him across borders from Bethlehem to Egypt to be raised in safety.
Mary is mirrored in the mothers yelling loudly that we must watch out for our children in these days because they are vulnerable to this virus and cannot yet be vaccinated!
Mary was not just tending to her son’s needs, she was fighting for them.
I’m writing all this because this coming Sunday, August 15th, is the Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord, and if I were in a pulpit I’d ditch the common texts for the day and celebrate the feast of this God-Bearer not because she’s Divine, but because she mirrors Divine action in hard times.
And we’re in hard times, Beloved.
Humanity is at it’s best, Beloved, when we’re mothering one another. Mary reminds us of this.
There’s just something about Mary…