Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Redux

One thing that I found peculiar in my early years attending an Episcopal church was that there was nothing really in the way of celebration for Mother's Day, other than a line or two in the Prayers of the People.  It probably should have been a relief, and it certainly was more sensitive to all those who for one reason or another might not want to or need to celebrate, especially in the time-honored traditions of the corsage, brunch en famille, and whatever else it might take to make Mom feel like Queen for a Day. But at the time I felt somewhat short-changed.  There I was well into middle age, in my early 40's, with two young children in tow, having finally earned my stripes and, I thought, deserving of some recognition for doing the physical and emotional work of mom, dad, cook, wash woman, babysitter, pet caretaker, teacher, recreational director, negotiator of neighborhood playtimes, places, and playmates, and full-time worrier about how we would pay the bills and have enough left over to eat the next week.  Nevertheless, pretty much what I got out of it was a regular Sunday at church and home to do what I could to make my own mom, who ordinarily was visiting, feel fussed over herself. (The dad in this picture was usually off taking it easy).

Several years later,  I discovered that the absence of the full regalia of Mother's Day festivities in church was not so much an Episcopal thing as what I sensed was the jaded view of the rector hidden behind a lead-encased safety wall of "It's NOT in the Book of Common Prayer" and hence a Hallmark holiday, not a religious one.  I never had much reason to question it, as he knew I was easily silenced by the spectre of the Liturgically Correct -- except that I made it clear after we were married that I didn't much care if only the Aussie side of the family believed in honoring mothers as "different but equal" -- once we were in the privacy of our own home, I wanted my cards and flowers all the same, thank you very much.  He went along ("submitted" might have been the word he would have used), and I did my best not to stir up his ghosts of mothers past.

Well, this was the first year without my favorite curmudgeon, and although I do miss him terribly every day, I must say that this Mother's day was really no different than any other, perhaps a bit better.  My daughter not only got up and took me to church, but rather than make me hobble on crutches through the snow and sleet to a restaurant, she went shopping and bought and made some of my favorite foods - scallops, crab cakes, and creamed spinach - gave me a beautiful card, which she bought herself (with no stepdad to remind her), an azalea plant (my favorite from the time I kept one alive all one semester in London), from my son as well, who remembered to call.  So, indeed, it was Mother's Day as usual....

Except, by golly, it was Mother's Day in church, and Liturgically Correct, no less, having walked right through the door of Common Lectionary for Easter 6C, Acts 16:9-15, Lydia's Conversion.  Although I was not unmindful of the difficulties the day poses for many, especially some close to my heart, it was after all lovely to hear an honest and straightforward acknowledgment of the contributions women make, at home and elsewhere, with no sticky Hallmark sentiments or the idolatry of American civil religion -- a fine and welcome sermon.

At the same time, it was wonderful to know and hear that Easter was still in season, with these extra touches: Sursum Corda (S 120) (Ambrosian Chant), Sanctus and Benedictus (S 128) (W. Mathias), The Lord’s Prayer (S 119) (Plainsong), Christ Our Passover (S 152) (Ambrosian Chant), and Agnus Dei (S 165) (W. Mathias).  Yes, "God" and "King" and "Lord" and "Mercy" "Father" "Son" and... all those words.  I loved them all, finally beginning to hear and understand the different parts of the liturgy in ways I had not for a long time, it gradually coming back to me.

And what a glorious hymn we sang on that snowy day to our God and King:
All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voices, let us sing:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beams,
thou silver moon that gently gleams,

O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
ye lights of evening, find a voice, (R)

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
make music for thy Lord to hear,
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
that givest man both warmth and light, (R)

Dear mother earth, who day by day
unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise him, Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
let them his glory also show: (R)

And all ye men of tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
praise God and on him cast your care: (R)

And thou, most kind and gentle death,
waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
and Christ our Lord the way hath trod: (R)

Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, Three in One: (R)

Words: after Francis of Assisi (1182-1226); paraphrase of "Canticle of the Sun" by Francis of Assisi.
Lasst uns erfreuen  - Oremus Hymnal

Extraordinary photos:

With full choir:

1 comment:

Muthah+ said...

Some of us do acknowledge Mother's Day. I gave out blessings and flowers to all women, even the girls because it is a wise and wonderful thing to acknowledge that God made us different--male and female he made made them in God's image.