We gathered in Easter darkness around a fire and lit a candle that will carry the fire of this Holy Night throughout the year.
We carried the candle inside and lit many, many candles from this one flame, this one light, until the inside of the church was aglow with our baptismal light.
Bathed in this warmth, we listened as the solemn proclamation of the Lord’s rising was sung; ancient, poetic, unrestrained in praise of the resurrection, and demanding as it commands the hosts of heaven to exult and blow the trumpet of salvation; demanding as it commands the earth to be glad and allow glory to flood her.
Finally, demanding in its command to the People of God, “Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.” There is a great deal of power in these commands, glory that arrives like lightning, buildings shaking with joy and filled with mighty voices.
Yet, there is a small touch of peace in the midst of this wild storm of exultation, a touch of gentleness; the word “Mother.”
We often hear the word “mother” in connection to the Church, but rarely does it have the same meaning as it does on this Holy Night. It is impossible to hear that word and not look at those lined up at the Easter Vigil, awaiting the new birth of their approaching Baptism. It is impossible not to pause and ponder the love of a Church as she prepares to give birth to them through water and the Holy Spirit.
Certainly this new birth is at the heart of the understanding of “mother” in this proclamation, yet motherhood is more than just giving birth. Countless women, who have not given physical birth to their children, bring their children to life through their devoted love. St. Augustine, in reflecting on the annunciation to the Virgin Mary, reminds us that motherhood flows, not so much from the womb as from the heart.
There is a wonderful beauty in knowing that you are loved and nourished, cared for and known, a beauty that brings us to life. Each time we come to the Church for a transformative encounter, Marriage, Holy Orders, Confirmation, Baptism, we are always called by name, we are cared for and known.
We come to this same community to know forgiveness, to find grace to unite our sufferings to Christ, to be fed by His Word and His Body and Blood, we are loved and nourished.
A few weeks ago I had the happy privilege of attending the annual Roncalli Ball with my family. Each year since I have been back in Aberdeen I have attended this wonderful evening fund raiser with my parents, my sisters and brother-in-law.
This year the dinner was highlighted by Beef Wellington but, alas, I had given up eating meat for Lent, so I checked the menu mailed out with the invitations and realized most of the appetizers had some meat in them, and most also contained gluten, which left my sister out as well.
We both prepared ourselves for an evening of dining on a side salad.
As we sat at table, talking and enjoying our salads, the entrees were brought around. They smelled great and then the waiter asked, “Who gets the vegetarian and who gets the gluten-free?” My sister and I looked around confused and our mom pointed us out.
“What’s up?” I asked her.
“I called ahead to make sure you two had something to eat,” she said; a delicious and wonderful surprise.
So there I was, 56 years old and still her boy; come what may in my life, I will always have that.
This is what the Church means when she calls herself “Mother.”