BY REV. DR. VAHAN H. TOOTIKIAN
There are all sorts of mothers. There are good mothers and not so good mothers; there are virtuous mothers and wicked mothers. Producing children does not make a woman worthy of honor. Some of the most despicable people have been mothers
An eloquent example is Queen Jezebel of Israel. An ambitious, strong-minded woman, the former Phoenician Princess Jezebel became an active partner of her husband, King Ahab of Israel. She brought the worship of Baal, the chief deity of Canaanite religion. She raised her children in idolatry, tried to destroy all God’s prophets in Israel, threatened to kill Prophet Elijah, falsely accused, convicted and killed Naboth, a Jew who owned a vineyard in Jezreel Valley adjacent to the country palace of King Ahab. The latter desired the property for a vegetable garden, and Naboth refused to sell it on the grounds that the property was a family inheritance (I Kings 21:3-4). Jezebel plotted Naboth’s murder. Her name became associated with wickedness.
John the Baptist criticized Herodias, wife of King Herod Antipas, who left her husband Philip to marry Herod. Infuriated by the Baptist’s accusation, Herodias sought to have him killed. She involved her daughter Salome in the murder of John. Athaliah, the idolatrous widow of Jehoram, King of Judah, exercised great political influence during her son’s reign of one year and encouraged idolatry in the country. At her son’s death resulting from battle wounds, Athaliah tried to gain power for herself by having all the male heirs killed.
Mothers are special people. But they are people. And to be a mother is not necessarily to be virtuous. For this reason we should beware of idolizing motherhood. The Scriptures remind us to honor the good and virtuous women who have worn, and who wear, the title “mother.”
In contrast to the above-mentioned notorious women in the Bible, there are many good and virtuous mothers. The fact that God would use a human mother to bring His Son into the world has bestowed upon motherhood its greatest honor. Mary, the mother of Jesus, exemplified the best qualities of motherhood. She was full of all virtues throughout her life, loving her Lord God with her whole heart and mind. Her greatness lay in her willingness to be an instrument for God’s plan and to be able to say: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke1:38). Mary not only gave birth to Jesus, but as his mother contributed to his upbringing.
Another virtuous mother was Hannah, mother of Samuel. She vowed to the Lord that if she should give birth to a son, she would dedicate him to God. Subsequently, she gave birth to the child Samuel. She fulfilled her vow by bringing her son to the sanctuary at Shiloh, where Samuel served the Lord under the direction of Eli. Samuel, grew “in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (I Samuel 2:11), later became a great prophet, priest and judge in the Jewish nation.
Still another exemplary mother was Mary, the mother of the earliest Gospel writer, John Mark. A woman of sterling qualities, whose home became a gathering place for the early Christians—a source of inspiration to her son and other Christians.
Mother’s are just people like all the rest of us; but to most of us, they are very special people. With all their human frailties, they have come to symbolize those qualities of life that we admire the most in others and desire the most for ourselves.
Virtuous mothers are towers of strength, loving and caring people. They are unselfish. Their hearts beat in harmony with and for their children.
Like all human beings, mothers are not perfect. They have their faults and foibles, shortcomings and sins. In spite of all these, however, they are the makers and molders of their children’s character. They are the greatest teachers in the first and foremost school of life—the home. If the most impressive and long lasting lessons occur in the formative years of life, then mothers hold the fate of humanity in their hands.
The Bible extols motherhood and motherly virtues. A good mother is described as one who is “clothed with strength and dignity; she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also praises her” (Proverbs 31:25-28).
It is wisely said that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. This is especially true in the case of Armenian mothers.
The Armenian mothers have always done their share in their family and community’s lives. During the turbulent history of the nation, Armenian mothers have seen great tragedies, wars and massacres, and yet these trials and tribulations have not, in any way, deterred them in their historic devotion to their family, their community and the nation as a whole.
Tested in the furnace of centuries of affliction, Armenian mothers have demonstrated their inherent worth. They have proven to be longsuffering, devoted and loyal. They have developed the capacity to face adversity and suffering. Perplexed but not driven to despair, they have maintained their poise and have not lost their faith.
Great religion and good homes are inseparably bound up together. The fortunes of the church and the fortunes of the home have been almost one and the same. What happened to one, inevitably happened to the other.
From the beginnings of Christianity in the Armenian nation, Santoukhd, Khosrovidukht and thousands of unnamed women have given their lives so that the Armenian Church and the Armenian nation might live. Yeghishe, the fifth-century Armenian historian, speaks eloquently of the spiritual strength and courage of the Armenian women in the Vartanantz War and tells of the role of women in continuing the war and contributing to the ultimate victory and glory of Vartanantz by their tireless work and faith after the men had fallen. It was not only the men who fell in battle, but the women who continued steadfast in their faith and toiled in the place of the fallen and imprisoned men who made possible the victory.
There is no doubt that Armenian women, especially Armenian mothers, have been central to the community and to the concept of religion in Armenia. Armenians have attached the name “mother” to their most cherished institutions and values. They have called their country “mayr Hayastan” (mother Armenia), “mayr lezoo” (mother tongue), “mayr yegeghetzi” (mother church). Today, in Armenia, there is a huge statue called “Mayr Hayastan.” With sword drawn, standing guard over her land and her children, the statue symbolizes the decisive role the Armenian mother plays in the life of the Armenian nation.
In conclusion, it should be underlined that the family is the building block of society. No nation can ever be stronger than the homes of its citizens. Mothers are the main pillars of our homes. Should the home life of a nation decay, nothing can stem the tide of the collapse.
May God bless all virtuous mothers. May He guide them and keep them vigorous in their sacred calling and service.
Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian is the Minister Emeritus of the Armenian Congregational Church of Greater Detroit and the Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council.