It’s Mothering Sunday: So what’s being a mother?
Mothering Sunday, which is a day for special celebration of motherhood and honouring of mothers and mother figures, is one of the noble things the Anglican Church gave to the world. There are now otherA derivatives or semblances, such as the International Women’s Day by the United Nations, which holds on March 8; the Mother’s Day by the United States, which holds on the Second Sunday of May; the Mothers Sunday by the Roman Catholic Church, which holds in honour of the Blessed Mother Mary on the Sunday closest to March 25 (Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Day). Other churches and bodies also celebrate motherhood at different times and occasions. But the mother of all the mothers’ days is the Mothering Sunday, which holds on the fourth Sunday during Lent.
The origin of Mothering Sunday could be traced to the pre-Reformation observation, in the Churches of England, of Laetare Sunday – a Sunday that derived its name from the first words in Latin, of the traditional introit for the service (mass) of the day: Laetare Jerusalem (Rejoice, O Jerusalem), taken from Isaiah 66:10, which speaks of the love for Jerusalem (the original ‘mother church’). Laetare Sunday was a mid-lent special service/mass of rejoicing/celebration within the austere Lententide, when people were encouraged once a year, in the middle of Lent, to return to their ‘mother’ church, which could mean the church where they were baptised, or their local parish church, or the cathedral church (as the mother church of the diocese). In the post-Reformation times, it became customary for domestic servants to be given a day off at this time, so that they could visit their families, when they gave gifts to their mothers and families, including flowers they picked on their way and what they received from their masters. Eventually, this evolved in the Post Reformation Church of England (Anglican Church) into the Mothering Sunday, traditionally marked by visiting and giving gifts to mothers on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It is a celebration of motherhood.
So What’s Being A Mother?
Being a mother means more than giving birth to a child. It is about a very special love for the child, which shows in a sacrificial duty to the child, which starts in carrying the baby in the womb to passing through pains to give birth to him, feeding, nurturing, caring, protecting, providing for, training, teaching and watching him grow. Being a mother is, therefore, mainly in playing a role – a very important role that God has chosen to give to many women. Not all women are mothers. Mothers are women who have children that they lovingly and carefully raise or “mother.” The children can be biological, foster, step, social spiritual, etc. Being a mother, therefore, is being an embodiment of love. It is the love of mother that we celebrate on Mothering Sunday.
Christian women/mothers are enjoined to love their children (Tit. 2:4). The Greek word used here philoteknos (child love) represents a special kind of mother’s love for child that entails caring, nurturing, affectionately embracing, meeting needs, and tenderly befriending children as unique gifts from God. Being a mother means exhibiting this kind of love to a child or children by a woman. Motherliness means being dutifully loving by playing special roles in the lives of their children, whether they are adolescents, teenagers, young adults, or even adults with children of their own. While the roles of motherhood must change and develop, the love, care, nurture, and encouragement a mother gives should never cease. Mothers’ roles include: availability for continued guidance (Deut. 6:6-7); involvement (Eph. 6:4); teaching (Deut. 4:10; Psa. 78:5-6); training (Prov. 22:6); discipline (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12:5-11; Prov.13: 24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15-17); nurturing (Tit 2:4; 2 Tim 1:7; Eph. 4:29-32; 5:1-2; Gal. 5:22; 1Pet. 3:8-9); modelling with Integrity – living what you say, being a model from which a child can learn by “catching” the essence of godly living (Deut. 4:9, 15, 23; Proverbs 10:9; 11:3; Psa. 37:18,37)
Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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