This Christmas, take a moment to view the Nativity scene. Consider the young mother there, her husband by her side. See her kneeling on the plank boards. Knees cushioned by a sparse layer of hay, her hands bracing a feeding trough. Her newborn Son, the object of her loving gaze.
The mother you see in the nativity was an ordinary girl named Mary, with a story that is extraordinary. I am certain you know it. One day, while collecting water at the well, the angel Gabriel appeared, telling Mary that she would soon carry a son. Named Jesus, he would be the Son of God. Mary, though fearful and apprehensive, held faith in God. As such, she was a model of true strength and humility.
Later, Mary and Joseph, her husband, travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Heavy with child, she rode for days on the back of a donkey. In Bethlehem, with no place to stay, the couple took shelter in a lowly stable. There she birthed her precious infant. Wrapping her child in swaddling clothes, Mary laid him in a manger. A humble beginning for the Son of the Most High.
After Jesus’ birth, the Star of Bethlehem shined brightly in the sky, beckoning shepherds and wise men from afar to the manger. The star and manger birth of our Lord, defined Mary as the Universal Mother of Humanity. She was a most humble example of the faith, commitment, courage and deep love associated with motherhood. At once she became the Mother of all mothers, a model of a mother’s selfless nurturance and defense while caring for and aiding her child. Filled with God’s Grace, Mary was gentle in her approach and a Divine example of motherly love. She was ordinary and extraordinary.
Mary’s motherly interactions with her son were ordinary. Her worries and concerns were similar to the concerns that all mothers experience. Yet, her motherhood was extraordinary, in that she was raising the Son of God. At times Mary undoubtedly wept with joy, felt deep sorrow and apprehension. She, a model of strength and conviction, stood firm in support of her Son. The overwhelming powerlessness she must have felt as he was persecuted, whipped and mocked. As she watched him carry the Cross, lose his strength, and die a long, agonizing death. Standing at the foot of the Cross, storms raging, she was his mother – filled with love and compassion for her only Son. As he suffered, she suffered. Epitomizing the purity and selflessness of a mother`s heart for her child.
My journey into motherhood began with a late night vision. On a mid-September night, I dreamt of a heartbeat pulsating deep within me. When I awoke the next morning, I knew I was expecting a baby. Nine months later, on May 28, my son was born. His birth, my first blessing, was my introduction into the deepest of loves humanly possible. There is no equivalent to a mother’s innate love and devotion for a child.
Today, I am a proud mother to three boys. Being a mother has been my greatest source of joy, pride and challenge in my life. The day my first born entered the world, my children’s well-being came first over my own. I felt a tremendous yearning to raise, nurture and cherish each. I have taken them from preschool to boy scouts. From soccer tournaments and football practices to high school graduations. I have bandaged knees, eased over hurt feelings and guided life choices. The sleepless nights with a newborn, were replaced by sleepless nights with sick children and nights I would lay awake, mind racing about a child’s own sadness or deflated moments.
As a mother, I know that mothers do not have favourites. We love each equally. But, as time fluctuates, I understand that one child can seem to poke at my heart and cause more concern or worry than another child. That as life gnashes its teeth, and the reality of life bites at the heels of one child, my heart cannot help but melt slightly more for that child.
My boys may now be older, but my love, concern and worry for them remains strong. I remember how when each started to drive, unbeknownst to him, I would lie awake at night until his safe return home. Even today, when one is not home late at night, I sense his absence in the stillness of the house.
I have come to understand that, at times, a mother inevitably feels the crush of being unable to soothe life’s aches and pains. That at times, a mother must just stand back and allow consequences to take over. Nonetheless, no mother ever stops being a mother. Her love for her children is timeless. It fills her heart.
In the Holy Gospel, Saint Luke writes: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (2:19) Like Mary, as mothers, we carry our children`s burdens, joys, and sorrows in our hearts. We are guided by faith and sustained by hope.
As mothers, we often walk alongside our children. We may wish to help them bear their burdens. Sometimes, we too must simply look on at the foot of their own crosses and pray for intercession.
This Christmas, as I pause, I clearly see that Mother Mary is my gentle guide and spiritual Mother. That I, like you, am her child. She intercedes and directs me during times of darkness.
Over the years, and many Christmases, I have come to see mothers as our first teachers. Making sacrifices. Giving deep devotion. Tirelessly shaping and guiding their children’s lives.
In this way every mother, is like Mary, a blessing from God. Each is part of a great life-giving cycle — grandmother, mother and child. A bond forged in the womb that continues long after our earthly lives are lived. I know. I lost my own mother almost twenty years ago. The wisdom and inspiration she shared with me, I now share with my children.
I was a Christmas miracle in my own right; born on a crisp December morning. My parents were considered too old to have children at the time. Due to medical issues, my mother was told she could never carry or deliver a child. Yet, some how, some way, assuming the risk to her own well-being, she delivered me…five weeks early. I was a tiny bundle, just over 5 pounds. I was their only child.
I grew to be my mother’s daughter, a mixture of ringlets and precociousness. Fiercely determined, I was taught to believe and like myself. Yet, despite being an only child, I was not spoiled. Though my parents could afford the best of everything for me, my mother was adamant that I value things and people. She dressed me in my cousins’ hand-me-downs. Raised me to be humble, empathetic, and compassionate. To always be considerate of other people and their needs. Her greatest gift to me –I was deeply loved.
This Christmas, like every previous one, I think of my mother. As I do, I give thanks for my wonderful childhood. For the loving way she molded, shaped and supported me. Knowing that I am who I am because she was my mother. That because I am my mother’s daughter, my children will be molded, shaped, and supported by me in the way I was by her. And in this way, I experience the blessing of Mary and the beauty of the Nativity.