Saturday, 14 March 2015

Mothering Sunday: There's No Place Like Home

Today is Mothering Sunday or as it is more commonly known these days Mother’s Day. For most of us it is a day of joy; a day set a-side to celebrate the gift of motherhood. That said this is not the case for everyone. For some it will be a day tinged with sadness as they remember the mum’s they have lost, who are no longer here. For some mothers it is a time to remember lost children, either through un-reconcilable differences or deaths dark shadow. This day I will be remembering those mothers too.

I will also be remembering those mothers’s whose children are far away from home and who worry about them every day. I will also think of those of us who have never born children who have never experienced that gift, due to a variety of circumstances. I will also remember those, who for whatever reason, find their relationships with their own mothers or their own children difficult, for who today may bring up painful and difficult emotions...I will pause this morning and hold those for whom today will be a difficult and painful day. I will then celebrate motherhood, perhaps life's greatest gift.

I recently came across the following:

“Where the Heart is” by Jo Ann Passariello Deck

“I used to laugh at my Italian relatives who always wanted to sit in the kitchen. They even built houses without dining rooms. Big kitchens were all they wanted. They lived their whole lives in those kitchen, around the stove, eating, talking, playing cards, reading newspapers, drinking coffee. When they weren’t around the stove, they were in church, in God’s home, but that’s another story.

Home is where the stove is. When I think of all the places I’ve lived, I think of what I cooked in the kitchen: cheese tarts in Cambridge, beet soup in Berkeley, and shrimp curry in Singapore. Home is where I saute the garlic and chop the onion, where the frying pan makes music.

An old Russian proverb says, “The oven is the mother.” Food, warmth, acceptance, I can find it all at the stove.”

Home and food are two places that always conjure up images of motherhood. I don’t wish to get shot down for appearing un-politically correct but that sense of maternal love always brings to my heart images of being fed and of feeling at home in the company of people. People so often express their love through food, they make you feel welcome by feeding you. They offer hospitality by offering food and room at their table. Or at least that’s what they’ve always done with me.

Mothering Sunday, whatever its actual true origins is enshrined in this image of returning home. Whether that is of children returning to the family home having been working away or of people returning to the mother church. Either way it’s about returning home to a place of safety and I believe sustenance, whether that be actual physical food or spiritual food; whether that be Simnal Cake, or the bread of heaven.

They say that home is where the heart is and they also “There’s No Place Like Home”.

Now this instantly brings up two images into the heart of my mind. One is of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. In the film she begins by singing of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” a place away from the drudgery, of the mundainity, of life where she could be set free from the confines of home, but at the end she clicks those ruby slippers and says those immortal words. "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like like home.” Dorothy has been on a spiritual journey and encountered all manner of fascinating friends along the way. She has also fought off enemies who wanted to destroy her. She has experienced and learnt so much, but in the end she just wants to return home.

Home is where your heart is and it is also where your hearth is. I remember Yvonne Aburrow once telling me that the ancient Romans “viewed the hearth as the centre or focus of the home. It was where the family offerings to the family gods were made.”...she went on to say...”I think a room is incomplete without a hearth or an altar to focus it and in some rooms, the TV is the focus instead of the hearth-fire.”

For many home is the embodiment of safety and acceptance, the heart and the hearth of a loving family. Robert Frost wrote that “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

Home is a tiny word but a powerful word and one so rich in meaning. It is a word that can hold such dreams of possibilities or nightmares of hurt. It is more than a physical place it is an idea, a feeling, a vision. It is something that we carry with us as we journey through life; it is not just something that we seek. For some it is a place that they are fleeing from, a place of repression and not a place of loving possibility. That said whatever it is we are fleeing from in the end we all must return home, just as Dorothy did.

The other image that home brings into the heart of my mind is something that has adorned many homes over the years, something that is usually sown, it’s the following simple words “There’s No Place Like Home”. Now the source of these simple words is the song titled “Home, Sweet Home” from the words of John Howard Payne’s nineteenth century operatta “Clari, or the Maid of Milan”. The full verse reads as follows

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which seek thro' the world, is ne'er met elsewhere.
Home! Home!
Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home
There's no place like home!

These are the words that Dorothy repeats as she clicks her Ruby slippers and wishes to return to that place of safety.

When I think of Motherhood and or the Mother Church this is what I think of, of returning to a place of sustenance of nurture where one feels that they can recharge and renew in safety. These do not have to be physical places or even people. Actually the truth is you need not go anywhere. This place of nurture of sustenance can only really be found in the ground where you stand, in fact the truth is what we really need to do is find ourselves at home within our own being.

This got me thinking of the following I recently came across...

“God Moving Through the Day With Me” by Macrina Wiederkehr

"As the stars again become visible tonight, I am reminded of a feast of leisure from my childhood days. I remember, on summer evenings, sitting outside on a quilt with Mama waiting for the stars to come out. Looking back at that moment with my adult eyes, I understand that God is Someone who has taken the time to sit on a quilt with me waiting for beauty. She is a Mother of Presence. I need only invite her into my moments of leisure. Her presence will empower my presence.

"As I tried to bring a deeper quality of presence to all my works this day, I found God moving through the day with me, like a Mother, opening my eyes to beauty, quietly, joyfully, gratefully, without complaining, I welcomes all the beauty that crossed my path."

“She is a Mother of Presence. I need only invite her into my moments of leisure. Her presence will empower my presence.” These words really struck me as I read them the other day. They sank deep into the soul of me as I thought about the last few weeks of my life. As any regular follower of my blog will know I’ve suffered a couple of bouts of ill health this year, something I’m not used to. In so many ways it has knocked me for six and certainly humbled me as I have not been able to do the things I normally would do. I have had to physically isolate myself for periods of time. I have spent hours, nay days completely physically alone. Do you know what it has done me the power of good as I have sought those deeper resources in the soul of me. I have had to sit, well actually lay with uncomfortable lonely feelings and in the discomfort of this I have connected to those aspects of myself at the heart, at the hearth of my being. It has brought me closer to the God of my own limited understanding as I have not tried to fill the hole in the soul of me with people, places and things. It has brought with it a deeper sense of belonging both within myself, this life and God. It has been a time of nurture and love.

When I think of motherhood and the mother church and mother God for that matter it is nurture that comes into the heart of my mind. For so long I sought in life to feed this hole within when all that I needed was already here I just needed to allow it to come alive, to feed it, to nurture it, to bring it to life. Eileen Caddy of the Findhorn community has said “All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself. All you have to do is to be still and to take time to seek for what is within, and you will surely find it.”

At the beginning of Lent I committed to spending time in the wilderness within; I committed to allow myself to spend time alone so as to come to terms more deeply with who I am and then to be better prepared to truly use the gifts I have and to be of better service to the world in which I find myself. 

Now what Mothering Sunday teaches me is that this needs to be done in a loving and nurturing way. It also reminds me that when I do so I am not really venturing into the wild alone, that eternal love is always present in my DNA, in the marrow of my soul, everything I need is already there. So that if things get too much I can always do a Dorothy and click my own ruby slippers and be transported to the loving arms of “Warm Mother God”.

In “Anam Cara” John O’Donohue wrote “The heart is the inner face of your life. The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful. It is here that love gathers within you. Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to yourself. When you learn to love and let yourself be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered.”

It seems to me this is what is at the heart of “Mothering Sunday”. This idea of coming home of truly finding shelter in your own home, which is your own heart. Of returning to that love that is Divine, that is truly a part of who we truly are, of recognising the truth spoken during “The Sermon on the Mount”, that we truly are the light of the world. That we are here to nurture that light from which we are formed and to bring that loving light to life as a loving mother would do.

My simple message this “Mothering Sunday” is let’s learn to truly be at home within our own hearts and our own hearths. Let us learn to truly welcome, love and nurture our own lives. Let us truly recognise that we are the light of the world and let us enable that light shine over all our world. When we let our little lights shine we truly can be of service to this our love starved world.

I will end this little chip of a blogspot with the following words of prayer...

"Prayer for All Who Mother" By Victoria Weistein

We reflect in thanksgiving this day for all those whose lives have nurtured ours.

The life-giving ones
Who heal with their presence
Who listen in sympathy
Who give wise advice ... but only when asked for it.
We are grateful for all those who have mothered us
Who have held us gently in times of sorrow
Who celebrated with us our triumphs -- no matter how small
Who noticed when we changed and grew,
who praised us for taking risks
who took genuine pride in our success,
and who expressed genuine compassion when we did not succeed.
On this day that honours Mothers
let us honour all mothers
men and women alike
who from somewhere in their being
have freely and wholeheartedly given life, and sustenance, and vision to us.
Dear God, Mother-Father of us all,
grant us life-giving ways
strength for birthing,
and a nurturing spirit
that we may take attentive care of our world,
our communities, and those precious beings
entrusted to us by biology, or by destiny, or by friendship, fellowship or fate.
Give us the heart of a mother today.


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