I dedicate this to my mother, Susan Maria Curry Duffy, and her mother, Margaret Mary Omlor Curry. I feel myself to be nested in the love of them, my mother-line, and give thanks for their passing on the traditions of devotion to the Divine Mother.
When I was a little girl, every May we would crown the Blessed Mother, Mary. My mom would dress us up and gives us each important duties for the ritual procession. I always wore her wedding veil for my most special role of placing the crown of flowers on Mary’s head. Two of my brothers bore lit candle sticks. Another carried the train of my veil. My sister held the small sweet pillow with the crown of flowers until it was placed on Mary’s brow. My youngest sister was instructed to sing the loudest, as we all crooned to some Marian devotional. “Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms to-day! Queen of the angels, queen of the May!…”
We would process through the house, singing and smiling and solemnly place the crown of flowers upon our Mother. Then, we would all kneel around my parents’ bed, beads clasped in small fingers, to pray. Each evening in May, we would gather to pray the rosary—mom faithfully getting us all there, dad always remembering the Mysteries and how to say the Apostle’s Creed, each of us taking turns leading the Hail Marys and Our Fathers, my littlest sister Caitlin always charged with rounding out each Hail Mary with the all-important fruit of Mary’s womb—“Jesus!” To this day when I pray the rosary I hear her high sweet voice proclaiming the name of our Lord.
Somewhere in my baby book my mom recorded that sometime in my early childhood I said, “Mom… I really love my mommy on earth AND my mommy in heaven.” As a very little girl, I knew that I had two moms—one in this life, and one… somewhere else, always loving me, always helping me, always there for me.
I remain, to this day, deeply grateful for this awareness. The more I learn about Mother God—the way She loves, the way She fills and nourishes, the way Her heart encompasses all pain and all joy, the way Her presence nourishes and sustains my life, I am more and more grateful.
When I was twenty-two I began teaching in Dallas, TX, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help school, a tiny Catholic parish elementary school. It was home to a community of first and second generation Mexican Americans with a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. My kids were ten years old, energetic and filled with questions and chatter. I loved this, most days, about my classroom—the vibrancy of childhood free to expand and learn. But as every good teacher would, knowing I had to teach a hefty curriculum, I also needed some order in the chaos.
In the early weeks of teaching, I called my grandma Curry, my mom’s mom, to tell her about my school, my classroom, my kids, about how my heart was expanding and I was falling in love with sixteen ten-year-olds. I told her about their Mexican culture, and their love for Our Lady of Guadalupe. My Irish-German grandma in Ohio said, “Oh, Eri… I have a statue of Her, and I’m going to send it to you.” Sure enough, a few weeks later, a box arrived at my classroom.
My kids crowded around me, exclaiming and noisy, as I opened the first layer—candy and cookies for my kids. There were woops and excited reaches for the contents. Then I peeled back a layer of newspaper to reveal the face of La Lupita—the Virgin of Guadalupe. A hush fell over them, then total silence. They immediately leaned back from the crowded huddle and stared at her with pure love. I watched in awe at the power of this Lady! Whispers began to travel around the circle… “It’s La Morena… Ms!… it’s the Virgin.” Needless to say, “the Virgin” from that day after held a prominent place in the front of the classroom, where she was invoked anytime I needed the quiet reverence that sprang so purely from her devoted little ones.
What is the power of this Lady? Of Her love?
For a while it was enough for me to think of her as the Mother of Jesus—the Blessed Virgin. I easily accepted the teachings of the Church Fathers—she never had sex to be a holy vessel, she was the “handmaiden of the Lord”, passive and obedient. She silently, her entire life, held “all things in her heart.” We do not worship HER, we worship her Son, etc., etc.
Now I know the truth. Now I see the light, shining on Her beautiful face.
The ‘teachings’ themselves reveal it, like a window into a Truth that cannot be obscured, that no matter how much you try to bury it, is still there, shining her radiant love.
We learn, as good Catholic kids, that Mary is the “Mother of God.” Hmm. If she is the Mother of God, then she gave birth to God, which means she existed… before God? If it wasn’t for Her, for Her YES, there would be no Jesus of Nazareth. The hierarchy makes much of her “fiat” but usually as a sign of the necessary obedience of women. Now I look and I see it as a sign of HER tremendous power and sovereignty. Her yes reveals the power of a woman’s consent, the power to fully participate in Divine Will, to Co-Create with the Creator. Now I see Her for What She Is—Creatrix, Womb of God. Mother God.
I realize that for many, this is outright blasphemous, especially if you grew up in western Christianity or Catholic Christianity. But to me, what is truly blasphemous, antithetical to the human heart and creative world, is that somewhere along the way, most of western culture has lost the central devotion to and understanding of the Feminine Face of God.
Before patriarchal religion and culture, there was a deep understanding of the Motherhood of God, of the Great Cosmic Mother. It was a natural link—women gave birth to human life; the body of Mother Earth gave forth food to sustain that life. Without reverence of the power of femininity, the cycles of fertility in both women and earth, life made no sense and could not continue. Divine Action, Love, was very much seen as coming from The Mother.
Mother Mary, a Jewish woman, alive in the understanding of the Shekinah, the feminine face of God, would have very much understood the Mothering presence of the Divine. Every Sabbath, she would have participated in the lighting of the candle, filling of the cup and breaking the bread that reminded her and her people that the Divine Breath of Life, ruach, filled them, even when they forgot. They would have given thanks for the abundance of the Earth, lived in thanksgiving to the Mother-Father God.
In Aramaic, the word Jesus would have used to understand and speak of the Divine One would have been “Abawoon”—more literally translated as Mother-Father than the Greek patriarchal “Father.” This “Abawoon” would have felt earthy, cosmic, giving birth to All That Is. For a people directly connected to the earth, God as Mother would have been familiar and trusted, alongside the Fathering Presence.
How have we lost Her? Why is it now so alien for a Christian to consider, and truly be in relationship with, God in Her feminine form? Why is it so hard to bring Her back to Him, especially in a world so in need of Her Love?
The ‘teachers’ of the tradition say that you cannot “worship” the Mother of God because somehow that is a threat to the Father God that continues to maintain a culture where the male is, indeed, god. Yet who is the one who continuously shows up, over and over again for Her people?
Mary, Mother God, has appeared over and again through the years to countless faithful, and Her visits are only increasing. Every time her message is simple—You are Loved. I am with you. There is NOTHING outside of my love.
She comes to love us with a Mother’s love because, right now, as humans on planet earth, WE DESPERATELY NEED A MOTHER’S LOVE. We need someone to trust without question or doubt or fear, a Presence of Love we will turn to without hesitation, without having anything figured out. We need a Love we can fall into, a lap we can crawl onto when we are a mess. We need strength and power woven into gentle grace and unending love.
The images we’ve been sold of Father God are not cutting it, and in fact, in so many cases, the abuse of this image makes it nearly impossible to really know and feel the truly unconditional Love of the Divine One. We need to know that there is nothing, NOTHING, we could ever do to lose Love. That this Mother loves Her children no matter what. That She asks and wants us to feel so filled and empowered by this love that we, like Her, are able to say YES to the will of Love that lights all of life, to become, like her, bearers of the Christ Light.
We have been taught and come to expect that the Father will judge us or condemn us or make us “pay” for our sins. This is not the way of the Mother. In Her, there is no judgement, no condemnation, only more love. Her love heals every wound. Her love constantly creates the new earth and asks for all our gifts, without limit or condition. All are welcome at Her table, all the time. We need, and we are given, in Her endless Grace and Love, the heart-womb of the Mother. We are given the kind of love that can only spring from a place deep inside Her Own Body —from the place that has endured great pain, endless change, and trusts the life coming through.
“This is my Body, this is my Blood, given for you.” Who knows that better than Woman—bleeding, birthing, giving-everything-over-for-her-children woman. How could God, in all the goodness and grandiosity we say He has, NOT bear the Feminine Presence?
Look around. In springtime, Her love is everywhere! May is Mary’s month because it is the month of spring, of life bursting forth. Before Mary, it was the month of Beltane, of fertility, of reverence of the Goddess of all Life, of the Earth Herself.
I am not saying that in the effort to reclaim and live into the Love of the Mother we need to get rid of God the Father. I hope not—it would not help for the pendulum to swing completely in the other direction. What I am saying is that we are so far out of balance as a people and a culture, especially our religious cultures, that it would probably do us good to focus on and receive the Love of the Mother for a VERY long time. To come to know her, as She is. To experience in our own lives and hearts how much She balances the Love of the Father. How Divinity, as well as Humanity, functions best in Wholeness—whole heart, whole body, whole soul—masculine and feminine as One.
I know the Love of the Mother. For me, she has the face of Mary, holy one of Nazareth, Mother of Jesus. But sometimes she has the face of Kali or Durga. Sometimes she is the pregnant body of Earth. Sometimes she is the Great Cosmic Mother, God in all Her greatness and over-arching glory. Sometimes I see Her heart shining through the one we call Jesus. Once in a while, I catch Her in my own reflection in the mirror, this woman, this sovereign one, called in holiness and wholeness, and in service to Her people, in this female form.
The Way of the Mother gives Life and She gives it Abundantly. I pray you know Her love. I pray you see her in yourself, in your mother, and in all the mothers before her and in all the daughters to come. I pray you know Her, always.
These days, this offering of writing is a central part of my ministry. As I tune in to the flow of all that is Moving, I give thanks for the space and time to follow my heart in this way. If you feel moved to support this ministry, you can do so at paypal.me/ErinDuffyBurke. I am humbled and grateful!