Embracing Our Mother
“Embracing Our Mother” by Rev. Christine 5/10/2015 I’ll begin this morning with a story by Utmutato a Leleknek in Mother Earth News. In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.” The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.” The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.” The first replied., “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet mother and she will take care of us.” The first replied, “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?” The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.” Said the first, “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.” To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice calling down from above.” I thought this a rather cute story for Mother’s Day. The following is some interesting history about celebrating mothers: The early Egyptians held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis. Her head is typically crowned by a pair of bull horns enclosing a fiery sun orb. As the story goes, after Isis’ brother-husband Osiris was slain and dismembered in 13 pieces by their jealous brother Seth, Isis re-assembled Osiris’ body and used it to impregnate herself. She then gave birth to Horus, who she hid among the reeds lest he be slaughtered by Seth. Horus grew up and defeated Seth, and then became the first ruler of a unified Egypt. Thus Isis earned her stature as the Mother of the pharaohs. Isis also held place at the Roman temple. The Festival of Isis was used by the Romans to commemorate an important battle and mark the beginning of winter. It is interesting to note that the Mother and Son imagery of Isis and Horus - in which Isis cradles and suckles her son is strikingly similar to that of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Around 6,000 years ago during Neolithic times we find the Ancient Mother Goddess Cybele. By 600 BC worship of her had been adopted into much of Asia Minor and parts of Greece. She was celebrated as a “Mother Goddess,” whose realm was the earth’s mountains and caverns, natural surroundings, and wild animals. The Greeks also called her “Matar” for “mother.” After a meteor shower and failed harvest seemed to predict doom for the Roman republic, Rome officially adopted Cybele. She was then simply referred as Magna Mater, the Great Mother. She was celebrated around the Spring Equinox. By the 16th Century, as the cultural traditions in Europe gave way to Christianity, these celebrations became part of Laetare Sunday - the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar. This was now to honor the Virgin Mary. In the 17th Century, a clerical decree in England broadened the celebration from one focused on the church and the Virgin Mary, to include all mothers, referring to the occasion as Mothering Day. During this Lenten Sunday, servants and trade workers were allowed to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families. When the first English settlers came to America, they discontinued the tradition of Mothering Day. While the British holiday would live on, the American Mother’s Day would be invented with an entirely new history. The roots of the modern American Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War (1861-65), Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. These celebrations eventually fell away. Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. She had penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic twelve years earlier. In 1870 Howe called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood with the following proclamation: “Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts. Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. “We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. “From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, Disarm!’ The sword of murder is not the balance of justice! Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have of ten forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war. Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress not a Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions. The great and general interests of peace.” At one point Howe even proposed converting July 4th into Mother’s Day, in order to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace. Eventually, however, June 2nd was designed for the celebration In 1873. Next we have the daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis who died in 1905, to take over her cause. Her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis, campaigned the superintendent of the church where her Mother had spent over 20 years teaching Sunday School, for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. Her request was honored, and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia and a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis, having remained unmarried and childless, had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity. By 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized, and resorted to an open campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers. She even lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar. Anna Jarvis died in 1948, and would never know that it was The Florist’s Exchange that had anonymously paid for her care. Mother’s Day in the 20th century became a date for launching feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare. Since the beginning of known history the mother or feminine has been celebrated or honored in some fashion. In New Thought we look at Mother’s Day as a time to reflect on the Divine Feminine or feminine energy that is within everyone. Regardless if you are male or female, with children or not, we all have these attributes to be caring and nurturing of another human being, or animal, or to our Mother Earth. The feminine energy partners with the masculine energy to create in this world. Today we celebrate this creative loving energy in all of us. I’ll close with this prayer from the Native American tradition titled “Mother Earth Teach Me to Remember” by John Yellow Lark North American Ute: Mother Earth teach me stillness as the grasses are stilled with light. Mother Earth teach me suffering as old stones suffer with memory. Mother Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning. Mother Earth teach me caring as the mother who secures her young. Mother Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands alone. Mother Earth teach me limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground. Mother Earth teach me freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky. Mother Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Mother Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Mother Earth teach me to remember kindness as dry fields weep in the rain.