Mother and Father

I’m just thinking…

Cottrell points us to the maternal image in this picture (p86).  God as mother hen gathering her chicks and keeping them safe.

He quotes Anselm as saying

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you; you are gentle with us as a mother with her children

(quoted from ‘A Song of Anselm’ in Common Worship, Daily Prayer)

By Steve Evans from India and USA (Sri Lanka) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Cottrell also quotes Mother Julian saying

God chose to be our mother in all things

I can see that in this painting.  We do lose the feminine traits of God at our peril and detriment,


I also wonder if Spencer’s painting offers us something else – a picture of a man nurturing, caring, and giving safety?  Does Spencer’s picture offer us a picture of fatherhood that our society needs?  That it is ok for fathers to give that gentle, loving care?   Is Jesus here offering us a different view of masculinity?  That it is possible for a man to be vulnerable and gentle? Something that is still seen as unusual by some.  (In proof of point, when I looked for a picture of man with a child, they were mainly ‘doing’, taking part in exciting activities, not men just holding and caring)

Cottrell speaks of Jesus’ vocation and self-understanding (p87).  His great love for the earth and all that is in it.  Jesus love is one that is gentle enough to gaze on a flower, to hold a scorpion in his hand so as to do no harm to it and to wrap his arms of love around the hen and her chicks.  As we will come to see in the next days, his love is also strong enough to stand up for all that is right and to die the death of love…

He is showing us a way that all people can be.  Amongst other things he has shown us that it is possible to hold all those qualities in one person.  It is not either or, but can be both and.  It is ok to be gentle and protective, whoever we are.  Possibilities are offered for us all.

This is an old song now, but it does encapsulate the two sides of Jesus’ nature

Just me wondering.  What do you think?  Does Jesus in this picture offer us a helpful view of manhood as well as showing the motherhood of God?

34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you. I have often wanted to gather your people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you wouldn’t let me. (Luke 13:34)

These thoughts are reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s painting The Hen (seen here).

This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.

I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts

~ by pamjw on March 18, 2013.

5 Responses to “Mother and Father”

  1. oh, I like your inclusive take on this… new insights. 🙂

  2. no – I thnk you are right on target. In the beginning God created man in His own image – male and female created He them. All aspects of gender are included in the Godhead and as we allow the fulness of God to dwell ever more deeply in us so we will find that breadth of being – of Being – expressed in and through us also. We limit God – and ourselves – when we ascribe narrow gender roles to ourselves and to each other and to God who is neither He nor She but both, and greater than both. He is Being. God calls us constantly to open our eyes and see the glorious breadth and depth and height of His Being and to become ourselves as He is.
    or maybe now I’m the one who’s way off beam… 🙂

  3. Well if you are, we’re there together 🙂

  4. […] return to where Cottrell was before I wandered off on a tangent, he continues, relating to Jesus’ vocation and […]

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