Every passing year May seems to hold more significance to me.

I’ve both grieved a dead child and welcomed a living one in this beautiful month. One short year after we lost our baby Gabriel, our daughter Elizabeth, “gift from God,” appeared. What a joyful day that was, welcoming new life after loss.

And then there’s Mother’s Day, which just passed. I appreciate this day so much, for motherhood is among my most cherished roles.

It should be said, though, that motherhood does not mean only earthly motherhood, for all women have the capacity to mother; spiritual motherhood is very real and significant, too. Motherhood in any form is often an underappreciated gift to the world.

Recently, I’ve contemplated motherhood anew through a study based on women in the New Testament by Elizabeth M. Kelly. In “Jesus Approaches,” Kelly, who is not an earthly mother but mothers many in the spiritual sense as a university professor, aunt and friend, writes exquisitely about this vocation, noting that motherhood “invokes a kind of selflessness that little else does.” Those of us who live this need little extrapolation.

In the Christian story, we find motherhood exemplified especially well in Mary, Jesus’ mother, who said “yes” to bringing us the savior of the world through her bodily sacrifice.

Kelly writes that “The Incarnation was the coming of the Messiah, but it was also the birth of a baby.” As such, “The answer to all the fears, hopes and anxieties in the heart of a people rest on a baby — and therefore on his mother.” Stay with that thought a moment. Motherhood is significant, for through it, we are saved.

Even in these pandemic times, babies continue to be born, and what a hopeful thing that is each and every time. Mothers bring fresh hope to our world.

But, as Kelly also says, motherhood is “more mystery and less mysticism.” Or, more plainly put, perhaps, more messy than magnificent most days.

Yet despite the sacrifice and even pain involved in mothering, there is something so sublime about being “keepers of life,” as Kelly calls women in general and mothers in particular.

“Deeply rooted in our role as mothers… is a holy confidence in the blessedness of the child… and the import of their vocation,” she astutely says. As the keeper of life, she adds, a mother wishes to see “a fullness of life” in her child. “She wants to see blossoms in full bloom. She believes in it. She trusts in it.”

Mary, she says, carries in her the hope in her Son, a divine hope, “a heart willing to receive the gift of God.”

The world, Kelly concludes, is in desperate need of strong mothering from mothers who understand their dignity, their majesty, and, through this, can “reclaim all that has been lost to a culture of death.”

Women — and mothers in particular — humanize the world, Kelly notes. What an exquisite thing to celebrate and affirm this lovely month of May.