I’ll never forget the weekend my mother got on a plane and flew out to Seattle to help me shop for the wedding dress of my dreams. It was here the motherly heart and the daughterly spirit embraced and rejoiced among flowing dresses and veils.
My mother first clothed me as an infant, dressing my naked body as I screamed into this world. She wrapped me in a white blanket, enfolding me with her love and acceptance. “Clothe the naked,” Christ said. And so she did.
Now I am 29 years old and she has put a new garment over my head, a wedding gown, a symbol of purity and innocence. Gazing at myself in the mirror, I see beyond myself and into his eyes as I imagine my groom beholding me with rapture. And so, tears of joy and anticipation well up inside of me. I am grateful we have waited for the one. In this dress “I’ll thee wed,” and then, mysteriously and miraculously the bride will become a babe again, known to another kind of love. I’ll be tenderly held and fondled and known for the first time as I was known once upon a time on a winter’s day, January 2nd, a babe with fresh pink skin and a beating heart, desperate for love.
“Feed the hungry,” Christ taught, and so Mom did. During her visit, she fed us lambs with her motherly presence and assured us by her prayers. We’d had a stressful few weeks leading up to her visit, but then she waltzed in, bringing a breath of fresh air and positive reinforcement when we needed it most. It wasn’t about the advice she had to give or any problems she solved; it was just being there for her daughter, and for her future son-in-law that made a difference. These were moments full of grace. Her unwavering belief in us and her prayers were a little miracle that dried up the rain and brought us together simply by being “our mother.”
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…” And we felt the Lord with us as Mom and I spotted rainbows almost every day of her visit, each one reminding me of God’s promise long ago to never let flood waters destroy the earth again. One rainbow touched down so close to the earth, reflecting off the lake, that it looked as if we could dance right through its rays! Bask in God’s goodness to us!
A Yogi tea bag reads “Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.” To me, this quote finds beautiful expression in motherhood, physical, spiritual and emotional, the act of carrying life inside of you and bearing it out to the world, emptying yourself in the process, giving your very heart, mind and soul to help others, nurture others, love others.
I think of the Blessed Mother Mary for she in fact, and most dramatically, let the Creator of the Universe fill her so completely as to become man inside of her. Mary submitted in prayer to God’s mysterious plans and then emptied her life in raising the Messiah, encouraging him to initiate his ministry at the wedding at Cana and courageously following her Son to the Cross, standing there, accepting into her arms all of humanity, who He married on the Cross, as her own children. For Scripture says, “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you” (Is. 62:5) and “For he who has become your husband is your Maker” (Is. 54:5). And she takes us into her arms now like adopted children in law, sealed in Christ’s blood.
And the wonder of it all is that somehow, it is in this “becoming babes” to each other that man and woman become parents to another generation. Marriage is a mystery, or a series of veils being lifted over time, from the altar to the death bed.
“No life is happy without mystery, and the greatest of all mysteries is love. Great are the joys in marriage, as there is the lifting of progressive veils, until one is brought into the blazing lights of the Presence of God,” wrote Fulton Sheen.
In his book Three to Get Married, which I think could be the most beautiful book on Christian marriage ever written, Sheen unpacks the different stages of marriage and family life as they evolve:
“In a true marriage, there is an ever-enchanting romance. There are at least four distinct mysteries progressively revealed. First, there is the mystery of the other partner, which is body-mystery. When that mystery is solved and the first child is born, there begins a new mystery. The husband sees something in the wife he never before knew existed, namely, the beautiful mystery of motherhood. She sees a new mystery in him she never before knew existed, namely, the mystery of fatherhood. As other children come to revive their strength and beauty, the husband never seems older to the wife than the day they were married, and the wife never seems older than the day they first met and carved their initials in an oak tree. As the children reach the age of reason, a third mystery unfolds, that of father-craft and mother-craft – the disciplining and training of young minds and hearts in the ways of God. As the children grow into maturity, the mystery continues to deepen, new areas of exploration open up, and the father and mother now see themselves as sculptors in the great quarry of humanity, carving living stones and fitting them together in the Temple of God, Whose Architect is Love.” (pg. 71)
The wedding is only the beginning, the lifting of just the first veil. And so I echo with Mary, a song of gratitude rejoicing in unknown but promised mysteries: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name”! (Lk. 1:49)
Thoughts to ponder: Mother’s Day is this month. What lasting memories do you have with your mother? What does motherhood mean to you? How can you foster your relationship with the Blessed Mother?
Copyright 2016 Christina Novak
About the Author: Christina Novak lives in Seattle, Washington, where she writes about faith and life on her blog at asiwentwalking.blogspot.com. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.