Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Flames of Creation

Now that our sweet boy has finally arrived we are learning to live with a new normal. I am forced to slow down and rest more. This slowing down and taking time to recover from birth has been so good for all of us. There is a peace in our home at this time that is precious.

Much has been written about how important it is for the mother of a newly arrived baby to lie in and take time to recover and get to know this new person to whom she has given birth. The Church, in Her wisdom, has always observed this. For forty days after giving birth a mother does not attend church. Thus I have not been to church since the baby was born. In a few weeks I will go again for the first time.

The practice of churching is about the awe and mystery surrounding childbirth. A woman who has brought a child into the world has been in a holy place. The emergence of a new human being from another is truly an "awe-full" event. As one of my friends put it, a new mother has come close to the flames of creation and the effect of the purifying fire of those flames takes awhile to fade.

Those words, "the flames of creation", have been rattling around in my head over these weeks. There is something powerful there. The primal, earthly, raw energy and physical grit and grime that attend birth go hand in hand with the transcendental, heavenly and otherworldly experience of bringing forth life. Heaven and earth are united in this event. It's incredible and so humbling to be a participant in this act.

A new mother, having been in this holy place, is still covered in this glory, this radiance. I think of how Moses had to cover his face after coming down from the mountain where he had been privileged to see the back of God as He passed by. He had been so close to the Uncreated Light, without even seeing Him face to face, that the Israelites could not look upon him.

Now I am not shining with light. People can still look at me without needing to shield their faces. However, the point I'm making here is that, to much lesser degree, something holy has been experienced and touched and this time spent away from the communion of church and from the Eucharist is not necessarily a punishment or a penance. It has more to do with the blessing that comes with childbearing and the joy that attends it.

Most importantly, we mothers are called to be imitators of the mother par excellence - the Most Holy Theotokos. She followed the Mosaic Laws and presented Christ in the temple at forty days, and so we follow her example. The word Theotokos literally means "God-bearer". She is the one who bore God. Think about that for a minute. We say the prayer

Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos
Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. 
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
For thou hast borne the Savior of our souls.

She is "full of grace" - so full of the grace of the Holy Spirit that she bore God Himself. What an example she sets for us! What a model for us to try to imitate!

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, through the prayers of Your Most-Holy Mother, the Lady Theotokos, save me a sinner.