As we approach Mother’s Day this weekend, I believe we discover a lot about the Church and Her role in light of this quote by Cyprian. The quote is taken from a larger treatise called On the Unity of the Church that Bishop Cyprian wrote to a Church rent by schism and persecution in the 3rd century (read more about it here). As the Church became more stable, many who had fallen away from the Faith due to false teaching, or even denied it due to persecution, were met with varying degrees of receptivity by the Faithful upon their return to the Church. Cyprian championed a forgiving approach, which still had some stringent stipulations for return but ultimately sought to reinstate all who desired it. And from such a heart and teaching arose this quote.
His phrasing in noting that the Church is our mother is a striking image, and one that draws upon the imagery of the Church being the bride of Christ (see Ephesians 5:22-23). His analogy is a rich one which served in all ages, including our own. We do well to recall that the Church, like a mother, is forgiving, warm and welcoming, but also maintains order, decency and discipline. These all flow forth from love and a desire that we grow and are nurtured in a knowledge and love of the Lord.
Having such a frame of reference may also help us in how we approach the Church. At times we can bring our expectations to Her (as we do with our earthly mothers), hoping She will either be a source of entertainment, fellowship, an activity director, or short order cook. Yet, like a good mother, the Church desires that above all else Her children grow, are well equipped, fed, and spiritually healthy. Some of which may be exciting and fun at times while at other times it may feel akin to eating our vegetables! All of which, by God’s grace and leading, grow us up in Christ Jesus so that we may be found more in His image when He returns.
So as we approach Mother’s Day we give thanks for our moms and the mother figures in our lives, and we give thanks to God for the gift of His bride, the Church. As we spend time with Her, may we submit ourselves to Her loving care so that we may continue to grow and mature as God’s children.