“Holy mother church”—historians are not certain who first said it. The statement has been attributed by some to Cyprian, by others to Augustine. The assertion has survived since the early centuries of Christian history—”Who does not have the church as his mother does not have God as his Father.” From its earliest days, the church was given the appellation “mother.”
The use of paternal and maternal language is an intriguing phenomenon in religion. We cannot deny the virtual universal tendency to seek ultimate consolation in some sort of divine maternity. We have all experienced the piercing poignancy that attends the plaintiff cry of a child who, in the midst of sobs, says, “I want my mommy.” Who of us, when we were children, did not utter these words? Among those who are parents, which of us has not heard these words?
The nurturing function of the church most clearly links it to the maternal image. It is in the church that we are given our spiritual food. We gain strength from the sacraments ministered to us. Through the Word we receive our consolation and the tears of broken hearts are wiped clean. When we are wounded, we go to the church for healing.
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Spend some time reflecting on the nurturing function of the church. Is this evident in your church fellowship?