The Importance of Serving, The Blessing of Self
God of Love, help us to remember
that Christ has no body now on earth but ours,
no hands but ours, no feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world.
Ours are the hands with which to bless everyone now.
Ours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
~atr. Teresa of Avila (1515-82)
I ran across this prayer in my text research for Sunday. This week there are an overabundance of possible Scripture passages to focus on because while Sunday is the seventh Sunday of Easter, three days before is a feast day, the Ascension of Jesus. Each of these designations has four possible scripture passages of their own. The seventh Sunday of Easter is simply that - the count starts on Easter itself as number one, this Sunday is number seven. The readings focus on Jesus' revealing himself to the disciples after he rose from the grave, preparing them for whatever may come next. Ascension marked Jesus' bodily ascent into heaven carried on a cloud, which surprised the poor disciples because they were not expecting Jesus to actually leave again. This prayer I found poetically expresses the reality of Jesus' physical absence from us, with a call to action: Ours are the eyes... the hands... the feet. We are called to serve; this prayer poem is just further reinforcement of that mantra.
My studies this week also focused on Mother's Day. At a recent clergy luncheon a heated topic of discussion was celebrating "Hallmark holidays" in church - Mother's and Father's Day being the prime two examples. There are people who avoid attending church on these two Sundays because their own experiences of the relationship between mother or father and child are too painful. It is good to celebrate mothers and fathers. Every person in this world is here through some combination of these two relationships, be they by blood relation or by heart. Whole essays and books have been written about celebrating Mothers and Fathers Days in places of worship, so for this week, I researched the origins of Mother's Day, and found a surprising thematic connection to the prayer poem attributed to Teresa of Avila.
Mother's Day was started both as a Mother's Work Day and as a Mother's Day for Peace. On Mother's Work Day, women's groups and organizations focused on cleanliness and sanitation, improving conditions for poor mothers as a way of helping reduce the infant and child mortality rate. Anna Jarvis, who's own mother died in childbirth, began this practice and encouraged anyone participating to wear or display white carnations, her mother's favorite flower. The Mother's Day for Peace was an anti-war protest calling all women, especially mothers of sons, to call for an end of all wars as a way of protecting their families. Mother's Day - a day for women, and men, too, to be the eyes that see the needs of the world, the hands to bless, and feet to carry out the good works.