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Center for Action and Contemplation

“Mothering” God

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


“Mothering” God
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Christmas, Feast of the Incarnation

Here, in time, we are celebrating the eternal birth which God the Father bore and bears unceasingly in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature. St. Augustine says, “What does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters.” We shall therefore speak of this birth, of how it may take place in us. —Meister Eckhart (1260–1327) [1]

You might be a little surprised to hear a celibate medieval friar make such a shocking statement about God giving birth, but his question is a good one for Christians to grapple with. Matthew Fox, a theologian and a personal friend, gives us a more contemporary version of Eckhart’s words and offers this commentary:

What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God 1400 years ago and I do not give birth to the Son of God in my own person and time and culture? . . . We are all meant to be mothers of God.

With typical bluntness, Eckhart seems to be asking us to reconsider Christmas. For Eckhart, Christmas is not just about celebrating the birth of Jesus as the son of God; it loses meaning if it doesn’t also celebrate our ongoing birth as [children] of God. Moreover, Mary is not unique. We are all meant to be “other Marys,” or mothers of God. We all birth the Christ in our work and in our being and personhood. This teaching makes for a very unsentimental Christmas but one filled with responsibility. [2]

Responsibility, yes, but also, I might add, joy and possibility. What a privilege it is to be asked by God to manifest, or “incarnate,” God’s very presence on this earth! The full and participatory meaning of Christmas is that this one universal mystery of divine incarnation is also intended for us and continuing in us! It is not just about trusting the truth of the body of Jesus but trusting its extension through the ongoing Body of Christ—which is even an even bigger act of faith, hope, and charity and which alone has the power to change history, society, and all relationships.

That is so much to contemplate, and we have so much to enjoy and experience on this day, I’d like to just stop at that!

[1] Meister Eckhart, Dum Medium Silentium, Sermon on Wisdom 18:14. See The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, trans. and ed., Maurice O’C. Walshe (Crossroad: 2009), 29. Meister Eckhart also reflects on God and Mary as birthing Christ in Mandatum novum do vobis, Sermon on John 13:34. See Walshe, 427-430.

[2] Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011), 148.

Image credit: Flight into Egypt (detail), Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1923, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and that God can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything becomes an occasion for good and an occasion for God. —Richard Rohr
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