Theology of Motherhood… By Actual Mothers?!

Eve Tushnet | 11/19/2019 | Staff
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That’s what Carrie Frederick Frost hopes to provoke with her slender new book, Maternal Body: A Theology of Incarnation from the Christian East. Frost is an Orthodox theologian and mom of (checks dedication page) five, and her book is not a treatise but an attempt to suggest possible paths for future theological work. It’s introductory, but I in fact did need and want an introduction, and Frost makes several smart choices about how to begin.

Many Christians East and West have written beautifully about the nature of motherhood–Frost quotes St Ephrem the Syrian, I’d throw in St Bernard of Clairvaux, you’ll doubtless have your own favorites–but virtually none of them have actually, how to put this gently?, been literal mothers. (Even the women who have shaped Christian theology have tended to be virgins.) Melinda Selmys wrote a cri de coeur a while back about how Catholic theology evades or distorts the realities of pregnancy and birth; this book agrees with that criticism of much Christian theology more generally, and explores the resources we do have in order to begin a theology of motherhood.

Criticisms - Frost - Silences - Theologians - Images

I have two major criticisms, but let me first say what is done well here. Frost addresses the silences of the theologians by looking to iconography and liturgy, where images and understandings of motherhood are worked out in greater depth. I don’t think she wants us to stop at simply noticing the theology of Mary’s contemplative, reclining posture in many Nativity icons. I don’t think she even wants us to stop at noticing and then reflecting on Mary’s contemplation. She hopes (I think) that theological work, the exploration of the implications and consequences of the truths of our faith, can draw us closer to the mysteries of Creation and Incarnation. Possibly most of the specific Orthodox icons, hymns, and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Eve Tushnet
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