Church as Mother — Some Reflections

After the synod in Amazonia, I was reading a wonderful article, which speaks of synodality as the way of the Church for the future. As part of theology, I was reading a little bit on the Church. These are the context for this article.

A common phrase that the Christians use is to describe the Church as the mother. It is a beautiful expression that gives a lot of meaning to many people. I am not doing a historical analysis to see who used it first. Cardinal Henri de Lubac would say the church as a mother gives birth to our faith and nourishes our faith.

 

  1. A mother that gives birth to our faith:

2. A mother that nourishes the faith.

In this piece, i want to reflect a little more on the nourishing dimension of mother. Nourishing mother of an enfant child is different from the nourishing mother of an adolescent and that of an adult child. Just like a mother who nourishes the child with different kinds of food at different ages, the church does the same.

Mother-child relationship varies according to the age, culture and period in which we live. This relationship is differently expressed in the 19th century from the 20th century; differently expressed in different cultures; probably all the more important is the age of the child. When the mother needs to do everything for a new born child, the relationship grows to a different level in the adolescence. The mother doesn’t decide everything for the adults; a respectful dialogue occurs. A very important feature to note is that a mother can also learn from the wisdom of the child.

When we see the church as the mother, it is easy to picture the relationship between the mother and the obedient child. But it is occasionally difficult especially with the unruly children, who may be unruly critique, who are in a bad patch of life or who may be a prophet. Whatever is the condition of the child, a mother can never forget her child, or stop loving her child. The child remains the child for her.

Whatever is the condition of the child and since s/he is an adult, the church has a responsibility to enter into a dialogue with her child [This is much more than correcting a child]. Dialogue is not with the aim to reform the child, but to listen and to see whether her master and Lord is saying something through this incident. It may mean reform of the child in some instances. But more importantly, some of these unruly children [sometimes those outside the church too] carry the prophetic wisdom, which are opportunities for the church to be evangelized with that wisdom. [I feel one of the greatest mistakes of the church is not listening to the prophets at appropriate times.]

Definitely it is spoken of the church. What does it have to do with me? First of all, all of us constitute the church and each of us do have a responsibility. And the responsibility for creating a synodal and listening church increases as you have more power in the Church.

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