A Mother’s Christmas Epiphany: Part II
A heretic bears witness to the Sacred Maternal in the heart of Bohemia
Our salvation does begin with a mother and child.
It is my child. Of that I am sure down through my heart and bones.
And it is her child. And hers. And yours, if you have one.
And it is true that the very wisest of men and women will choose to assemble, and offer these babies and mothers invaluable gifts. Like health care. And child care. And affordable rent.
And it is true that angels and healers and saint-like figures have watched over us. Midwives. Grandmothers. Osteopaths. Men who wordlessly take up the burden of our stroller to ferry it over vast U-Bahn station stairways that we would otherwise find impassable.
And it is true that I know my child to be golden and divine, and the work of something much greater than I - though he is absolutely made of me, as well. And that I know other men will not recognise his value - or indeed their own - and will cause him great and needless suffering. And that I must hope he stays true to himself, for his essential self is beautiful, and righteous. While the society around him is often… less so.
And it is true that I am inclined to forgive many a failing in others if they show him kindness. And will be unimpressed with their characters if they do not. That their greeting of him will be the fact on which I assess the state of their souls.
And it is true that his love has been the greatest gift of this life. And that I experience each of his hugs as a blessing.
And it is true that if history were to remember me only as his mother, that would not at all be the whole story of me, but it would be the part I am boundlessly proud of.
And it is true that I knew nothing of any of this, until his coming was announced to me, and I felt his spirit move within me - in the form of heels kicking hard within my ribs.
And it is true that I am not a faultless mother, because there is no such thing. But it is very much the truth that I love my child wholeheartedly, and that his father does, too, and that we are doing our best each day to give him a loving home. And it is with perpetual gratitude and joy that we watch him growing, hearty and radiant, snug within our crude-but-cozy social housing, while plague and war and other truly terrible calamities roil in the distance. I wish that all of us could grow up safe and fed and embraced as he has been all through these strange early years. It isn’t easy to manage, under any circumstances, and often seems to be made harder than it needs to be. It is hard to fathom why this - the building of the bodies, minds, and relationships of our species’ future - is not seen as the work of all work, the main point of civilisation. Can you imagine anything more important? Can you imagine what humanity might become, if such sacred work was our clear priority?
The above is a lightly edited version of a sort of revelation that came to me this fall in The Church of Mother of God Before Tyn in Prague. It felt as near to a religious experience as someone who isn’t actively religious is likely to have. Prague is already such a startlingly beautiful place to be; to have this startling and beautiful experience as well while I was there was just extraordinary.
Christmas seemed like the best time for sharing these sentiments, for two reasons. First, because of the setting and subject matter. And second, because this was one of a handful of key experiences this year that motivated me to start this Substack, and gives a good indication of the spirit in which I intend to keep building it in the new year ahead.
I hope these words find you well, and that they have landed well with you. Please pass them on to anyone who might be gladdened by them.
Merry Christmas. Take care of yourselves, and see you next year. x
Honestly, I struggled to read most of this. As a woman struggling with infertility, undergoing IVF, but acutely aware of the odds against me, I found this more triggering than I should have.
I should've known to expect and brace myself for that, even. I did read Part I, so I knew the topic at hand. Why it hit me so unexpectedly is surely my own lack of foresight and caution. But I'm sharing it nonetheless, because it is my truthful first reaction.
There's a lot more there, but I'll need to introspect & journal more personally before I can even begin to articulate the connecting thoughts that extend from this... like how women have no value *beyond* their ability to bear children, how glorified mothers already are in society, the moral & ethical ramifications of the biases that come from putting your child on a pedestal - which you noted is a byproduct of motherhood...
I want to also add though, that while the bulk of this post was difficult for me, the end resonated completely:
"It is hard to fathom why this - the building of the bodies, minds, and relationships of our species’ future - is not seen as the work of all work, the main point of civilisation. Can you imagine anything more important? Can you imagine what humanity might become, if such sacred work was our clear priority?"
I've long wondered about this and struggled with this dilemma. It seems counterintuitive and self-savotaging to society that we DON'T give more priority to children, childhood, education, childcare, etc.!
I've long worked with children (though the pandemic ended that), & often grappled with this illogical fact. It's never made sense to me how little society cares for its youngest members -- alas, many times even parents themselves don't fully appreciate the beauty & potential of childhood (even in their own children)! Maybe that's an American phenomenon, but it never ceases to amaze me how other people (& societies) treat children (their own & others).
Children *are* the future; our salvation or destruction will be largely in their hands, just as our actions now determine the legacy we leave for them to deal with.
I wanted to share these reflections, because they were so polar opposite each other. I felt so strongly against one part, but so completely in agreement with the other... which is an odd dichotomy!
I have no point to any of this, save to share my perspective. 🤷🏻♀️ Thank you for writing yours!