The Theotokos and Mother's Love

Canadian Orthodox Messenger

The Theotokos and Mother's Love

by Fr Gregory Scratch

To understand the Theotokos, is to understand the love of a mother. To understand the love of a mother, is to understand the Theotokos.

Just after I had moved to Winnipeg ten years ago,  my wife and I were at a local thrift store looking for treasures and all, and among the many people in the store, there was a young mother with her newborn child. The little lamb was not having any of this shopping, and started to cry, and cry and cry, to the point that it sounded more like a screaming rasp. Despite this young mother’s attempt to calm and comfort the child, the baby kept crying, only magnifying the desperation of the scene. As a father of four children, I know that kind of crying, and I felt the desire to help comfort the child. Alas, having a strange man walk up and offer to hold a crying child would probably not have gone well.

Now, as disturbed as I might have been by this scene, my wife was absolutely distraught. I noticed how she started to circle this young mother and child, looking for any excuse to ‘help’ as best as she could. As I kept one eye on the assortment of used clothing, and another on the mother and her child, I began to notice a group of women circling around the distraught family. It was strange, but I could tell, (or take an educated guess) who was a mother and who was not in this crowded thrift store. I noticed how some were drawn towards this woman and her crying child, wanting to do something; anything to help out, and others were not. Thankfully this young mother eventually did quiet her child, and those mothers continued back with their shopping; yet, what  I was left with was an epiphany of sorts. All of a sudden I sort of understood the role that the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) has in the Church, and with humanity.

In this day and age, the Virgin Mary has somehow become a footnote in the entire economy of salvation (sadly even in the Orthodox Church where her images are everywhere, and she is remembered numerous times). “She was Jesus’ mother, end of story” is the last word on her.  But if one simply looks at the Theotokos’ life as if it were a historical footnote in the life of Jesus, what does that say about motherhood in general? Is the motherly love offered by Mary for her Child Jesus any different then the love any mother offers to her children: after all she fed Him, changed Him, taught Him, and cared for Him, and tragically mourned for Him when he was on the Cross. If it were different, then Christ's humanity would be simply a biological charade.

I would like to think that motherhood at its heart, is a movement of love that breaks down walls to care and bring consolation to those in need, especially children, much as my wife and those women wanted to do that day in the thrift store. This is the kind of concern and love the Mother of our God offers, the kind of love truly perfected by loving her Son who loved us first  (1 Jn 4:15).

By God’s Grace, humanity has become the kinfolk of Christ (Mk. 3:35), and we have been given to the protection of His mother at the cross, when the Lord commended the Apostle John, (and by extension the whole Church) to the care of His mother (Jn. 19:26). In this, the Theotokos is no longer a solitary figure in Christian history, she is our mother in faith, and she lives that life out in the glory of her Glorified Son. As she had boldness to approach her Son on behalf of the bride and groom at the wedding in Cana (Jn.2:3), she even now approaches her Son and Lord on our behalf. She sees and hears our pain, our sorrow, and necessity; and without delay she advocates for our care, and more importantly our salvation.  This is something to consider as we celebrate the secular holiday of Mothers day. In understanding and honouring the love of our mothers,  we can better understand and realize the motherly role of the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary in our lives.

In all the feasts of the Mother of God, we see the tenderness of  Mary's motherly love for her Child Jesus. We see this  in many of her Icons, as well in the hymns of the Church dedicated to her (especially the Akathist to her Icon “Joy of all who sorrow”). Her life as proclaimed  in our prayers, icons and hymnography, speaks of humanity’s struggle for peace, equality, justice and liberty, and the consolation that her prayers and intercessions bring to  her Son Jesus Christ on our behalf. She hears our cries, the cries of real loss and suffering, and acts for us, not simply as one who cares as only a mother could (as powerful as that is), but as one who sees all humanity as her own children by faith.

All this is summed up so beautifully in the hymn we sing to her throughout our Paschal season.  "The angel cried to the Lady Full of Grace: Rejoice, O Pure Virgin! Again I say: Rejoice! Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb! With Himself He has raised all the dead! Rejoice, all you people! Shine! Shine! O New Jerusalem! The Glory of the Lord has shone on you! Exalt now and be glad, O Zion! Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos, in the Resurrection of your Son!"


What a joy and wonder it is that we are not abandoned in our struggles, but have such a refuge in the Mother of our God. She is eternally moving towards us, in the same way my wife and those mothers moved to bring love and care to that young mother and her newborn in that crowded thrift store, with the assurance love moves us with compassion and mercy, sacrifice and intercession in the face of pain and sorrow, uncertainty and abandonment; to that mother, to all our mothers who strive to love and care for their children, to all humanity. Bringing to all, the consolation  of her Son's victory over sin and death.  "Exalt now and be glad, O Zion! Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos (and all of us), in the Resurrection of your Son!"