Yesterday one could see an outpouring of love and affection on Facebook dedicated to mothers. Whether it’s a Mother’s Day or not, our moms and our holy Mom-St. Mary the Theotokos always protect us with their prayers and intercessions to the Lord!
Perhaps this is an apt time to share the ministry of the Church Mothers or ‘Ammas’ about whom we know so little about and this very much ties to the topic of women and their role in Church.
When we think of ministry- we think it’s just ‘priestly ministry’ and assume that the lay and more importantly, the females have very little role to play in the life of Church. But we are hugely mistaken. The role that a woman plays is very critical in determining the growth of Church; which is well attested by the life and works of these Church Mothers who in their silent ministry yielded wonderful fruits for the Church.
The role and ministry of Church Mothers/’Ammas’:
1) As Mothers: Helping the young to give birth to Christ in their hearts
For those who are in the medical field know what a mid-wife does. She helps the soon to become mother to give birth to a baby. Similarly our Church mothers stood as mid-wives to the young men and women with whom they interacted so that Christ would be born in their hearts.
St Gregory of Nyssa says that we all supposed to become like Theotokos. She gave birth to Christ physically and in today’s times we need to give birth to Him spiritually in our hearts.
Today if the Church boasts of the Cappadocian fathers-St Basil of Caesarea and St Gregory of Nyssa, its Macrina their sister, who enabled them to be like that. It won’t be an exaggeration to say Macrina helped Basil and Gregory to become the St Basil and the St Gregory! This young woman only had her prayerful life to be imparted to her brothers and we are still reaping the fruits. Imagine if one Macrina could give the three wonderful Church Fathers – St Basil, St Gregory and St Peter (of Sebaste), who in turn could influence so many generations, how wonderful it would be if every young girl tries to emulate Macrina.
Another inspiring woman is St Monica, the mother of St Augustine. As a youth, St Augustine was involved in youthful pleasures of the world. What saved him, or what helped Christ to be born in his heart was his mother’s tearful and fervent prayers!
Below are two excerpts from St Augustine’s work- ‘The Confessions’, which beautifully portrays the role of the tears of St Monica in St Augustine’s life:
“And You sent Your hand from above, and drew my soul out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Your faithful one, wept to You on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from You, and You heard her, O Lord. You heard her, and despised not her tears, when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed; yea, You heard her.”
“For Your hands, O my God, in the hidden design of Your Providence, did not desert my soul; and out of the blood of my mother’s heart, through the tears that she poured out by day and by night, was a sacrifice offered unto You for me; and by marvellous ways did Thou deal with me.”
What was so beautiful about the ministry of St Macrina and St Monica is that they genuinely cared for their young ones- be it siblings or children- with an only aim that the hearts of whom they pray for be transformed. They never cared whether their ministry be acknowledged or not.
No matter how many real and Facebook friends we have, deep down we are always seeking for a someone who would listen to our sorrows, pray with us and pray for us. The ministry of St Macrina and St Monica encourages us to give the biggest gift we can possibly give to the ones we meet- a moment of prayer!
(To be continued)