Celebrate the women of sacred texts this Sunday
In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to highlight some mothers in sacred texts as a reminder of the roles that women have played and can play in world religions.
❚ In the Hindu tradition, Durga is one of the most common forms of Devi, the Supreme Mother Goddess. She’s a warrior whose divine anger is directed toward evil. She rides into battle on a lion and carries a special weapon on each of her eight to 10 arms. According to stories in the Devi Mahatmya, a sacred text, she was the only divinity powerful enough to slay the demon Mahisha.
❚ Yemaya is a mother goddess in Santeria, a religion that emerged out of the slave trade in Cuba. Over the centuries, belief in Yemaya was slowly melded into Roman Catholicism. Yemaya is now associated with the Virgin of Regla, one of the many titles associated with the Virgin Mary. Practitioners of Santeria believe life on Earth wouldn’t be possible without Yemaya, who is a protective, wise and brave mother who rules over the seas.
❚ Sarah was the first Jewish matriarch who, according to the Torah, was both chosen and named by God. She was a seer whose gift of prophecy is said to have been greater than that of her husband, Abraham. When she heard the prophecy that she would bear a son in her old age, she responded by laughing. Sarah is an example of a woman who learned how to find joy in tough times.
❚ Both Christians and Muslims honor Mary for being the mother of Jesus. According to the Christian Gospels, when an angel told Mary that she’d been chosen to be the mother of Christ, she accepted the message with a great deal of faith, even though she risked being accused of adultery. Mary is known for her Magnificat, a song in the Bible in which she praises God for bringing down the mighty and exalting the humble. The Rev. Broderick Greer, an Episcopal priest, calls Mary’s Magnificat her “rebel anthem.” “It may be worth our thought to think that maybe the revolutionary, prophetic side of Jesus was inherited from his mother.”
❚ Mahapajapati Gotami is Siddhartha Gautama’s adopted mother and maternal aunt. After Siddhartha became the Buddha, Mahapajapati asked of him to be ordained as a nun. The Buddha initially refused, but Mahapajapati wasn’t deterred. She and several of her female companions cut off their hair, put on yellow robes, traveled by foot to where the Buddha lived and repeated her request. This time, after some persuading, Buddha agreed. Because of her persistence, Mahapajapati is remembered as the first woman to be ordained into Buddhism. She is a woman who wasn’t afraid to stand her ground.
❚ Khadijah bint Khuwaylid was the wife of Prophet Muhammad and mother to six of his children. Islamic tradition teaches that Khadijah was a sharp and successful trader who held her own in a business world primarily dominated by men. She used her wealth to lift up the poor. She was the one who asked for Muhammad’s hand in marriage and the first person in the world to convert to Islam. Writer Yasmina Blackburn calls Khadijah “Islam’s first feminist.” “She is one of the people that I think about when I face or debate issues surrounding women today.”
These are stories of women from our religious heritage that have given us Golden Rule Moments to live by. May they be a helpful reminder that blesses everyone this special day of the year. Have a blessed Mother’s Day filled with love and family.
The Rev. Larry Fultz is the executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.
Golden Rule Moments
Larry Fultz Guest columnist