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Long Island

Asking the clergy: How does your religion honor moms?

Henrietta Fullard

Henrietta Fullard Photo Credit: African Methodist Episcopal Church

Mother’s Day, while not a religious holiday, is an opportunity to celebrate the woman who brought you into the world or raised you, and in many cases introduced you to the tenets of her religion. This week’s clergy discuss why mothers are not only revere by the world’s great faiths but also are central to their religious beliefs.

The Rev. Henrietta Fullard

LI District presiding elder, AME Church

Moms are God’s fruit to humanity. They are the foundation upon which God created the world, the universe, as well as time and reality. We need only to look at the models of moms in the Bible. In Genesis, God told Abraham that his wife Sarah shall have a son to be named Isaac. God said he would establish an everlasting covenant with him. The Gospel of Luke records Mary’s profound response to God’s selection of her to be the Mother of Jesus: “Blessed is she that believeth for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:45) Mary believed an unbelievable promise from God: that she would have a child even though she did not know a man. Moms are expected to be faithful enough to believe the word of God even in adverse situations. Therefore, it is necessary for the household of faith to honor moms like God does. Moms have been chosen by God to lead the faithful in a belief that there is a God who can perform miracles by his spoken word. The household of faith should honor moms for who they are. That is, they are the embodiment of the creation, made in the image of God for the purpose of ensuring the manifold life of God’s creation. Moms must and should be an integral part of the worship services, devotions, holy celebrations and sacred liturgies. The sacred words of the Lord Jesus who was dying on the cross for the church and for salvation were to “Behold thy mother” (John 19:27).

The Rev. Maxine Barnett

Curate, The Church of St. Jude, Wantagh

The Church’s views on the role of women throughout history have been complicated and often limiting. However, the importance of mothers cannot be denied.

Those who are mothers, whether by giving birth, through fostering, adopting or mentoring; whether married, widowed, divorced or single; are central to the well being of humankind. This is because, despite their differing situations, skills and personalities, mothers are most often the first teachers, nurturers and role models — guiding, forgiving, comforting, protecting, challenging, and supporting their children as they learn about the world and faith. In fact, the qualities attributed to mothers are also associated with God and the mother church.

Christians of many denominations also honor Jesus’ mother, Mary, for her willingness to follow God’s plan. Despite many challenges, she provided her son with love, care and devotion, playing a part in our salvation history. Mary is considered an example to Christian mothers.

The Episcopal Church honors mothers in various ways. At St. Jude, we open our doors weekly to a toddlers’ play group, and have offered baby-sitting, social events and educational seminars to help those caring for children. During Lent, we celebrate Mothering Sunday (a precedent to Mother’s Day) with a special luncheon for families to recognize mothers and those like mothers in our lives. St. Jude also supports mothers through The Mother and Child Ministry at our Mission Center, providing supplies and support for the less fortunate. Additionally, mothers — indeed, all women — are encouraged to be active involved members of our community.

Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum

Congregation Beth Tikvah, Wantagh

The Bible tells us to honor and revere our mothers every day of our lives. For this reason, the custom Americans have of going out of their way to show gratitude on Mother’s Day rings false from a Jewish perspective. If we don’t cherish the value of honoring our parents on a constant basis, and instead use a single day to show our appreciation for the rest of the year, Mother’s Day actually diminishes in purpose. Judaism does not credit this one-day affair, because it believes we should honor our parents every day of the year. Doing something singularly tends to weaken its intensity. Eventually the dramatic can become tedious, the glory can become rote. And so it is with Mother’s Day, which, according to Judaism, is a pseudo-holiday.

Jewish holidays are fundamentally different from secular holidays like the Fourth of July or Presidents Day. Such holidays commemorate events, while Jewish holidays are portals in time when we can re-experience the spiritual forces that were unleashed in the past. Our holidays allow us to concentrate on a vital component of our spiritual lexicon. We do this for a day or a week, but then we transmit that idea into our essence for the rest of the year.

So if you celebrate Mother’s Day, try to maintain an attitude of consistency afterward. Show Mom your appreciation, sure — buy the card, the roses, the chocolate, and take her out for dinner — but make sure these displays of gratitude and affection are not just annual occurrences. Mother’s Day should be a day full of love and endearment that helps you continuously experience such feelings year-long. That’s how we conceive of Mother’s Day, Jewish style.

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