Motherhood and Armenian Mothers

There are many types of mothers. We have seen from the Bible that 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 the Canaanite religion. She raised her children in idolatry; tried to destroy God’s prophets in Israel; threatened to kill the Prophet Elijah; and 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 because 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 one-year reign and encouraged idolatry in the country. After her son was killed in battle, Athaliah sought power 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” (Luke 1:38). Mary not only gave birth to Jesus, but 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. 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) and later became a great prophet, priest and judge in the Jewish nation.

Another exemplary mother was Mary, the mother of the earliest Gospel writer, John Mark. Mary was 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.

Mothers are just people like 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; they are 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.

Armenian mothers have always done their share for their family and community. During Armenia’s turbulent history, Armenian mothers saw 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 long-suffering, 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, Santoukhds, Khosrovitoukhds 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.

Armenians have attached the name “mother” to their most cherished institutions and values. They call their country “mayr Hayastan” (mother Armenia), their language “mayr lezoo” (mother tongue) and their church “mayr yegeghetzi” (mother church). Today, in Armenia, there is a huge statue called “Mayr Hayastan.” With a 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.

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 Tootikian

Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian

Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian is the Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council.
Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian

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