Conceived within the womb of Christ

* This hymn for Mothering Sunday comes from the conviction that ‘Christ’s love makes mothers of us all’.


Conceived within the womb of Christ.midi


Some people attending  a service for ‘Mothers’ Day’ were baffled by this hymn’s insistence that it is not only biological mothers who mother.

The image behind this thought is of ‘Christ our Mother’, of whom Julian of Norwich wrote:

‘Our faith is a light, coming to us naturally from him who is our everlasting Day, our Father, and our God. By this light Christ, our Mother, and the Holy Spirit, our good Lord, leads us through these passing years…’[1]

The image of ‘Christ our Mother’ is expressed by means of an opening couplet, ‘Conceived within the womb of Christ by life that longs for birth…’ What is brought forth from Christ is more than biological life (from the Greek ‘bios’): it is life that is becoming the life of the new age, eternal life (from the Greek ‘zoë’). St Paul wrote in the same vein that the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God[2]. Thinking in this way recognises the destiny of humankind within creation, inseparably linked with Christ as the incarnation of God: Creator, Redeemer and Enabling Leader of all.

In recognising our destiny we recognise all creatures (which includes all humans) as our sisters and brothers. In the spirit of Christ incarnate, none of them, none of us, is ‘under-priced’; and this spiritual message carries the implication of judgement on those who have the power to bring people out of poverty, yet who for their own reasons choose not to do so.

The second stanza quotes Colossians 3.12 word for word: As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…The reason for quoting in this way is that Colossians 3.12-17 has no narrative, no ‘story-line’; it is pure exhortation, and as such may for some be instantly forgettable.

There is a further reason, in that the quality of meekness is widely despised, and with good cause. Meekness is taken to mean vulnerability, and many vulnerable people are exploited and abused. Yet, since Jesus taught that the meek are blessed, for they will inherit the earth[3]; we cannot shy away from the prompt to clothe ourselves in meekness.

The words associated with the New Testament word for meekness are ‘mild’, ‘soft’; of animals, ‘tame’; and of sounds, ‘gentle’, ‘low’, ‘soft’. In the hymn these qualities are implicitly linked to ‘souls formed by the call to grow both good and strong’. The outcome of responding to this (divine) call is that ‘life quickens in love’s flame’. Meekness is therefore like an essential protein for the development of healthy living.

ALBANO is chosen as the music for this lyric for two reasons. Its simplicity makes it an ideal vehicle to carry some weighty theological ideas. And, since it is commonly sung to two Passiontide hymns – ‘Once, only once, and once for all His precious life He gave’ and ‘O Dearest Lord, thy sacred head with thorns was pierced for me’ – and, with Passiontide being only a week beyond Mothering Sunday, a subliminal message is implied: that going with Christ, being ‘to peace aligned’, entails daily facing the cost involved.

[1] The Revelations of Divine Love, chapter 83.

[2] Romans 8.19

[3] Matthew 5.5