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Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

“(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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O God, our refuge and strength, You raised up Your servant Katharina to support her husband in the task to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your  Word. Defend and purify the Church today and grant that, through faith, we may boldly support and encourage our pastors and teachers of the faith as they proclaim and administer the riches of Your grace made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Katharina von Bora (1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague. Today is the anniversary of her death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Just think:

  • The Luther household began with the marriage of  a PRIEST and a former NUN and had  children openly because there is nothing in the Bible to preclude it!  This was one of the first pastor’s families in probably a thousand years in the western Church!  (The eastern Church, the Orthodox, have always allowed for a married priesthood and this is pointed out in the Lutheran Confessions)  There was a superstition at the time that the child of priest would be Satan’s spawn and would be  born deformed.  If their first child  had any physical abnormalities the Reformation might have stopped then and there!
  • Parents would put their young daughters in a convent.  It was a crime against the state to leave a convent.  Katharina and several fellow nuns were hidden in pickle barrels and snuck out of the convent because of the freedom of the Gospel. Luther was charged with finding them husbands and played matchmaker!  One woman was left: Katharina!  But she had her eye on one of Luther’s colleagues.  Luther did not want to marry for at least one simple reason:  being declared a heretic, he could have been executed if not protected by his ruler, Frederic the Wise.  He thought this would not be fair to a wife.  But he consented to marry Katharina. It was not a marriage based at all on romantic love but it is clear from his writings he learned to love her dearly.
  • Read below that they lived in Luther’s former monastery!  (picture  below)  And they needed the rooms for all the guests.  At any given time they had at table 30-40 people!  Some were permanent guests, others were refugees of persecution of the Lutherans, visiting pastors and theologians and of course:  college students!  Many of them recorded Luther’s conversation at table which became his famous “table talks”.
  • Now they had servants and Frau Luther  ran the entire household.  There were no grocery stores.  She planted an extensive garden and grew her food.  She brewed their beer which her husband loved.  They  had to make clothes, mend them, start fires to cook every day, etc.

There were so many people at one given time, Luther would preach in their home! Read the quotes below.  In a 3 volume edition of Luther’s Hauspostils is a little bit more about Katharina von Bora:

The HAUSPOSTILLE, or house postils or sermons, need to be distinguished from Luther’s KIRCHENPOSTILLE, or church postils. The term “postil” itself derives out of the Latin phrase post ilia verba textus, “after those words of the text,” and refers to the commentary or homily which followed upon the reading of the standard pericope, the Gospel or Epistle, by the preacher at the service of worship…The house postils or sermons, on the other hand, which constitute the volumes of our translation, were delivered by Luther in the intimate circle of his family members and a few others. The Luther household was often quite extensive—a real test for Katie’s ingenuity at balancing the family budget!—because of relatives, students, and associates who were domiciled there or regularly present at Luther’s elbow for one reason or another.

We have narrowed our focus on the so-called HAUSPOSTILLE of Luther, the sermons which he delivered in the famous Lutherhalle, or Luther house, in Wittenberg, the old monastery of the Augustinians. Luther had been a member of this monastic order since 1506 when he completed a one-year probationary novitiate, and in a sense he really felt he had not left it until June 13, 1525 when he married Katharine von Bora, who had been a nun. Luther had lived in the old monastery ever since joining the faculty atWittenbergin 1511. Here he had his living quarters, often preached for the Augustinian chapter, and eventually also delivered his lectures as professor of Biblical theology at the university. Elector Frederick the Wise had designated the old monastery to be the family home for Luther and Katie, as Martin affectionately called his bride. She was up to the challenge, and with him established a model parsonage family and home. Together they rejoiced over a circle of six children that gladdened their hearts, but then also saddened them when Elizabeth died as an infant and Magdalene as a vivacious teenager.

Reflection: Katharina von Bora was by no means a modern or a post-modern woman.  She is the antithesis of the so-called ‘liberated’ feminist.  She did not seek to “find herself”.  She did not “shop till she dropped”.  She probably could not even fathom an abortion.  She was not  “self-fulfilled” and yet she could run a household the size of a small business.  But she was not looking to smash “glass ceilings”. And what the woman today looks for in this zeitgeist is also what men look for in our so-called ‘enlightened’ age  and it is certainly not what our Lord says:  deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me.  And she was no nun and neither was the Virgin Mary.  You can not find a word about nuns in the Bible but much about wives and mothers who were heroes of the faith in Old and New Testaments:  Sarah, Mary, Eunice etc.   Frau Luther was not ‘holy’ by her self-chosen ‘spirituality’ and holy deeds  but made holy by her faith in Jesus Christ lived out  in her domestic vocation.  She is the model of woman that pertains to most of humankind and those of the household of faith:  fathers and mothers and their children  within  the 4th and 6th Commandments.  We need to look more at a saint like Katharina.   I think Frau Luther  epitomized the last chapter of the book of Proverbs which ends with the icon of the faithful woman:

10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands.
14She is like the ships of the merchant;
   she brings her food from afar.
15She rises while it is yet night
   and provides food for her household
   and portions for her maidens.
16She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17She dresses herself with strength
   and makes her arms strong.
18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
   Her lamp does not go out at night.
19She puts her hands to the distaff,
   and her hands hold the spindle.
20She opens her hand to the poor
   and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21She is not afraid of snow for her household,
   for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22She makes bed coverings for herself;
   her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23Her husband is known in the gates
   when he sits among the elders of the land.
24She makes linen garments and sells them;
   she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
   and she laughs at the time to come.
26She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27She looks well to the ways of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29“Many women have done excellently,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the gates.

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It seems to me strange that a mom would be honored just for being a mom.  Yes, her son was important.  Augustine was one of the great fathers in the Lord’s Church.  Monica was devout Christian but her son and husband were not Christians.  Augustine had a child out of wedlock.  He was pagan philosopher with an incredible intellect.  Monica is so remembered for her persistence in prayer for her family, as a mother.  Parents would do well to think on such parental persistence in prayer.  She personifies the widow in our Lord’s parable:

 1And (Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'” 6And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18)

Monica was persistent in prayer for many, many years.  She also personifies Proverbs 31:

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29“Many women have done excellently,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the gates.

In my opinion, this day would be appropriate as Christian mothers’ day!   (Just as  I would nominate  March 19, the Festival of St. Joseph, Guardian of  Jesus, as Christian fathers’ day with a special emphasis on adoption).

Let us pray:  O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through  spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son.  Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, wh with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Bio (from   http://cyberbrethren.com/ ):

Today we honor and remember St. Monica, beloved and blessed mother of St. Augustine. Her experiences as a wife of a man who was a harsh pagan, but who was converted eventually due in large measure to her loving patience with him, are immortalized for us by St. Augustine himself, chiefly in his deeply introspective work of spiritual autobiography, Confessions. Her ardent and continuing prayers for her son and her constant love and support for him saw him move from paganism, to heretical Christianity, while living outside marriage with a woman who fathered him a child, to eventual orthodox Christianity and service as a bishop. Here is The LCMS biographical note about her.

A native of North Africa, Monica (A.D. 333–387) was the devoted mother of Saint Augustine. Throughout her life she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son, Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some church year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4.

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