This Christmas song video celebrates a prominent biblical female name and image of the Divine, coming in diverse races and cultures. The talented musical group Spiral Muse sings “Our Mother Within Us” to the tune of “Away in a Manger.”
Our Mother within us, so holy and blessed,
You nurture our spirits with comfort and rest.
O give us Your wisdom and strength for each day,
and fill us with love for all people, we pray.
Our Mother within us, so many Your names,
revealing our power, You help us to claim
our voices of courage to speak against wrong,
and joy overflowing to sing a new song.
O Mother within us, forever abide,
with blessings unfolding and arms open wide;
You give us new visions of life full and fair:
Your angels surround us with tenderest care.
Maternal divine names and imagery occur throughout the Bible. The prophet Isaiah pictures God as a loving, comforting Mother: “As a Mother comforts Her children, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). Isaiah also reveals that God is like nursing Mother whose relationship with Her children is so strong that nothing can ever break it. (Isaiah 49:15) Biblical maternal images also include “Mother Eagle” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12), “Mother Rock“ (Deuteronomy 32:18), “Mother Bear” (Hosea 13:8), and “Mother Hen” (Matthew 23:37).
Church fathers and mothers also celebrated “Mother” and other female divine names and images. John Calvin stated that in “no other way than by maternal names and images can God’s ardent love for us and tenderness of affection be expressed.” Earlier, St. Anselm of Canterbury commented that “since the Bible refers to God and Christ as ‘Truth’ and ‘Wisdom,’ both feminine nouns, we could call them ‘Mother and “Daughter.’” Anselm prays to Jesus as Mother, using the imagery of Matthew 23:37: “But you also, Jesus, are you not also Mother? Are you not Mother, who are as a hen who gathers her own chicks under her wings? Christ Mother, who gathers your chicks under your wings, this your dead chick throws itself under your wings.” Fourteenth century mystic Julian of Norwich described visions she received of the Trinity: “As verily as God is our Father, so verily God is our Mother. God is our kindly Father; and God, All-Wisdom, is our kindly Mother; with the love and the Goodness of the Holy Ghost.”
Although many churches limit God to male names and images, Scripture and Christian tradition do not limit the Divine to maleness. In the Bible and in church history we find a multiplicity of divine names and images, including maternal and other female divine names and images.
The song “Our Mother Within Us” also draws from a prayer by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, professor of liturgy, worship, and spirituality at Hartford Seminary. New Wineskins Community has used this empowering prayer in our liturgies since the beginning of our community 25 years ago.
Our Mother who is within us,
we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come; Your will be done,
unfolding from the depths within us.
Each day you give us all that we need.
You remind us of our limits, and we let go.
You support us in our power, and we act with courage.
For you are the dwelling place within us,
the empowerment around us,
and the celebration among us.
As it was in the beginning, so shall it be now.
“Our Mother Within Us” refers also to the biblical call to sing to God a “new song” (Psalm 96:1; 144:9). This new song to a familiar tune is my response with the hope that singing new songs that include female names and images of the Divine will contribute to a new story of love, peace, and justice in the world.
Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton
two photos from Equity for Women in the Church “Calling in the Key of She” events
Katie Ketchum: Sing of Peace album cover