Mother is a Place

Mother is a Place

The New Jerusalem from The Bamberg Apocalypse German manuscript c. 1000


I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.

They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”


Revelation 21:2-3


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In Regina Doman’s picture book Angel in the Waters an unborn baby speaks with its guardian angel:

“She wants you to come out,” the angel said.


“Mother,” the angel said.

“But I thought Mother was a place.”

“She is more than a place,” the angel said, “You will find out soon.”

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In the small hours I am wakeful, thinking, reading. A door opens and shuts. A small form shuffles into the kitchen where I hear a glass being filled. And then dropped with a splash. And then crying. I hurry in and wipe up the floor and the sleep four-year-old. Once she’s had her fill of water, I scoop her up and she melts into my chest. “Do you want me to tuck you into your bed, or do you want to cuddle for a few minutes?”

“I like to cuddle with you,” she mumbles into my shoulder.

In my bed we snuggle under the blanket, my body wrapped around her tiny form. How many many nights have we slept this way? She stills herself in that space.

Mother is a place.

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For nine months she rested beneath my heart and then for more months she nestled in my arms, waking and sleeping, always close to me. Eating, waking, sleeping. Alway happiest when I’m there.

Mother is a place.

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The waters of a river give joy to God’s city.

God is within, it cannot be shaken.

–Psalm 46

God dwells in the city. The city is the place of his dwelling.

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and Zion shall be called Mother
for all shall be her children.”
–Psalm 87

Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her. . . 

So that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
That you may drink with delight
at her abundant breasts!

. . . You shall nurse, carried in her arms,
cradled upon her knees;

Isaiah 66

In the Old Testament the psalmist and the prophet Isaiah refer to Zion/Jerusalem as a mother. 

Mother is a place.

+ + +

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!
–Revelation 21


In the book of Revelation St John has a vision of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. If the earthly Jerusalem is Mother, then how much more is the heavenly Jerusalem Mother of us all? For the earthly city is a mere shadow or reflection of the heavenly one, all earthly things are shadows of heavenly things.

Mother is a place. 

Jerusalem is the dwelling place of the Most High God. 

Jerusalem is our mother.

God Incarnate had a mother. Her name was Mary.

Mother is a place.

Mary is a mother. Mary is a place.

Mary is the New Jerusalem, she is the Bride who was overshadowed by the Spirit.

She became the dwelling place of God incarnate. For nine months she was the tabernacle, the tent where God made flesh humbled himself to make his home.

The Word was made flesh and pitched his tent among us. And the name of his dwelling place, the tabernacle where his glory was enthroned, the Ark of the new and everlasting covenant… was Mary.

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From the Cross Jesus speaks to John and to Mary, standing near the foot of the cross and he gives his mother into John’s care with the words: “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”

Behold your mother.

What does John see when he looks upon her? What do we see?

Years later Jesus comes to John again, speaking to him in a vision. Behold your Mother. 

In his vision John sees her again and again in different guises.

In Revelation 11 she is the Ark of the Covenant:

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.”

In Revelation 12 he sees her as pregnant woman about to give birth:

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 

 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

“She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”

And then in Revelation 21 she appears as the New Jerusalem.

What do we see when we behold the Mother?

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In the lovely picture book The Donkey’s Dream the sleepy donkey that carries Mary to Bethlehem has a series of visions. He imagines he is carrying a rose, a ship, a city, a lady full of heaven.

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Why? Why should Zion be referred to as a Mother? Why should Mary be envisioned as a City?

Because Mother is a Place. We know this from our earliest moments. Not actually something we know as we know the 2+2=4, or that leaves are green, or that the sun rises in the east. We know it as we know the rhythm of our own breathing and the beating of the pulse in our veins. As we know her breathing and the beating of her pulse. Because Mother is the place we long to return to, the home we yearn for, the lost paradise we feel bereft of. Mother is the first place. Where else can we ever feel so safe, so secure, so loved?

And so when we contemplate heaven, the closest we can come is to imagine return. When we contemplate union with God, total oneness with the One who is Love, what image comes closer to that which we long for than the oneness we once had, two bodies that are somehow one. We long to be held and cherished and fed and nurtured in a way that only a mother can love us.

We know that the earthly reality of Mother, like all earthly realities, must be echoed in heaven. And thus if there are mothers on earth, there must be a heavenly Mother. And yet God has revealed himself to us as a Father and as a Son. So the mother of the Son is an earthly mother who has herself become a heavenly image of Mother. She who once cherished God made flesh will also cherish us. In her all find their home.

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