Posts Tagged ‘Laetare Sunday’

“(The Church) is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God”

(The Large Catechism, from Luther’s teaching on the 3rd Article of The Creed)

I was reminded in my studies today that this Sunday, 4th Sunday in Lent, Laetare,  (“Rejoice with Jerusalem!”, from the Introit, Isaiah 10a and 11a, for this Sunday)  is in the United Kingdom, “Mothering Sunday”. It was on this Sunday when everyone  in the UK would return to the church in which they were baptized, their “mother church” and it eventually became the UK’s Mother’s Day, but unlike our Mother’s Day, I like the direct connection of their Mothering Day with the Church, Baptism and Lent, and the family. I came across this article by Pr. Ristau, (he has a different theme  than this article: worth reading!) in which he extensively quotes Meditation XXIII, “The Dignity of the Church”, from  Sacred Meditations, by Johann Gerhardt in which Pr. and Prof. Gerhardt uses the Biblical imagery of the Church as our mother:

The holy Church of God sustains the relations of mother, virgin, bride. She is as a mother because she daily bears spiritual sons to God. She is as a chaste virgin, because she keeps herself pure from all unholy alliances with the devil and the world. She is a bride, because Christ hath betrothed her to Himself by an eternal covenant, and hath given to her the pledge of the Spirit.

Our mothers and fathers are of such importance that the Lord sanctified such by the 4th Commandment and being born of His Mother, with Joseph as His faithful stepfather. Luther in his explanation of the 4th Commandment, tellingly wrote this of the crucial nature of mothers and fathers, so much so that,

“…even if we had no father and mother, we ought to wish that God would set up wood and stone before us, whom we might call father and mother. How much more, since He has given us living parents, should we rejoice to show them honor and obedience, because we know it is so highly pleasing to the Divine Majesty and to all angels, and vexes all devils…”

I would suppose those who are orphans, either by death or divorce of their parents might achingly  know this.  Likewise, without God as our Father, and the Church as the Lord’s Bride, our mother, we DO set up “wood and stone before us”, as idols, false gods and are lost. “No man will have God for his Father who refuses to have the Church for his mother upon earth” (Gerhardt).  And this mother does not abort her children nor despise her womb. Just the opposite:  The Lord makes us His own through the waters of rebirth (!), as we are baptized into His Body, His Church (cf. 1 Corinthians 11: 1ff).

Indeed, Laetare! And the rejoicing will be consummated when He comes again.  I close with another portion of Pr. and Professor Gerhardt’s Meditation:

Meditate, O devout soul, upon the worthiness of the Church, and take heed lest thou do anything unworthy of her.  The Church is thy spiritual mother; take care that thou despise not her voice as she speaks to thee. She is thy mother, and through word and sacraments thou oughtest draw all thy spiritual nourishment from her. The church is as a chaste virgin ; if thou then wouldst be true to her, abstain from the embraces of the world ; thou belongest to her, see then that thou dishonor not thyself nor her by any unholy alliances with the devil. The Church is the bride of Christ, and so is every godly soul ; let it take heed then not to cling to Satan in an unholy union. Thou, 0 my soul, art the bride of Christ; see to it that thou lose not the earnest of the Holy Spirit which Math been given unto thee; thou art the bride of Christ, pray unceasingly, that thy heavenly Bridegroom may hasten to lead thee unto the marriage feast above. Thy Bridegroom may come in the quiet and security of the midnight hour (Matt. xxv. 6); watch therefore, that when He cometh He may not find thee sleeping, and shut the door of eternal salvation upon thee. Let thy lamp be filled with the oil of faith and be brightly burning, lest at the coming, of thy heavenly Spouse thou sbouldst seek in vain for oil for thy lamp (Matt. xxv.).

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