A church which is forgiven learns forgiveness, and one that is cursed learns to curse. A church that loves ikons loves a profusion of them, and does not make one of them an idol. Our favourite ikons in the Christian community are those of Mother Mary with the Child Jesus in her bosom, and the Good Shepherd, with a lamb in his arms. But many ikons can invoke these truths. The traditions teach us that caring and mothering and nourishment, protection and intimacy, are the calling of all people. Motherhood is a vocation for the human race, not just for the female gender.
That image, that ikon of tenderness and concern teaches us that motherhood is more than giving birth to babies, but is the Sophia, the Wisdom of the Eternal God, just as fatherhood is more than siring offspring.
Jesus used as well the image of the Gatekeeper, the one who stays at the sheepfold and makes the decisions about pasturing the sheep, and to whom they will be entrusted. In our time, the ghastly and unbelievable epidemic of child abuse - both sexual and disciplinary abuse - has drawn our shocked attention week after week to the vacuum of caring, the failure of attention that permits it, the collapse of episcopé - the shepherd's oversight - that should have safeguarded the weakest of the flock from the predators of danger and abuse. Too much has become anonymous in our capitalist consumerist society, where the episcopé proper to parents and grandparents and godparents and true friends is peddled away to strangers.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."