On Being Saved Through Childbearing

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1108

Not childbearing alone, but rearing them up… It is evident that a woman being virtuous is raising her children in virtue. Now if a virgin is being virtuous, doubtless she is being saved… Since the woman has been hindered from teaching… if she desires to be teaching, let her teach the children. But some say that the “childbearing” [1 Tim. 2:15] means that of the Theotokos. For she gave birth to the Savior, saving, they say, the women. (P.G. 125:364 BC [col. 40])


On the Death of Infants

Holy Innocents from Uncut Mountain Supply

Lenten Triodion

When baptized infants die, they enjoy the paradise of delight, whereas those not illumined by baptism and those born to pagans go neither to paradise nor to Gehenna. (Saturday before Meatfare; Matins. Synaxarion at the Sixth Ode of the Canon)

On Secularism, the Church and Family Life

Fr. Peter Heers

The Reverend Fr. Peter Heers, who received his doctorate from Aristotle University, Thessaloniki and has several children of his own, speaks from both personal experience and broad study on some of the most important issues in the Church today–spiritual life and salvation of the family in an age of secularism.

h/t to Ad Orientem


On Burdening One’s Ancestors

St. Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

It is a very sad thing those people who live a sinful life constantly adding more weight to the souls of their departed ancestors. For, these souls are burdened with guilt for having been the cause of their birth and of them living estranged from God and the fact that eternal hell awaits them after the small hell of their present life, which they live in sin. (Epistles p. 196, Fourth Epistle)

On Marriage and Procreation

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

For I think I have perceived clearly from the Scriptures that, after He had brought in virginity, the Word did not altogether abolish the generation of children; for although the moon may be greater than the stars, the light of the other stars is not destroyed by the moonlight.

Let us begin with Genesis, that we may give its place of antiquity and supremacy to this Scripture. Now the sentence and ordinance of God respecting the begetting of children Gen. 1:28 is confessedly being fulfilled to this day, the Creator still fashioning man. For this is quite manifest, that God, like a painter, is at this very time working at the world, as the Lord also taught, “My Father works hitherto.” But when the rivers shall cease to flow and fall into the reservoir of the sea, and the light shall be perfectly separated from the darkness,—for the separation is still going on,—and the dry land shall henceforth cease to bring forth its fruits with creeping things and four-footed beasts, and the predestined number of men shall be fulfilled; then from henceforth shall men abstain from the generation of children. But at present man must cooperate in the forming of the image of God, while the world exists and is still being formed; for it is said, “Increase and multiply.” Gen. 1:28 And we must not be offended at the ordinance of the Creator, from which, moreover, we ourselves have our being. For the casting of seed into the furrows of the matrix is the beginning of the generation of men, so that bone taken from bone, and flesh from flesh, by an invisible power, are fashioned into another man. And in this way we must consider that the saying is fulfilled, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Gen. 2:23

And this perhaps is what was shadowed forth by the sleep and trance of the first man, which prefigured the embraces of connubial love. When thirsting for children a man falls into a kind of trance,  softened and subdued by the pleasures of generation as by sleep, so that again something drawn from his flesh and from his bones is, as I said, fashioned into another man. For the harmony of the bodies being disturbed in the embraces of love, as those tell us who have experience of the marriage state, all the marrow-like and generative part of the blood, like a kind of liquid bone, coming together from all the members, worked into foam and curdled, is projected through the organs of generation into the living body of the female. And probably it is for this reason that a man is said to leave his father and his mother, since he is then suddenly unmindful of all things when united to his wife in the embraces of love, he is overcome by the desire of generation, offering his side to the divine Creator to take away from it, so that the father may again appear in the son.

Wherefore, if God still forms man, shall we not be guilty of audacity if we think of the generation of children as something offensive, which the Almighty Himself is not ashamed to make use of in working with His undefiled hands; for He says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; ” Jeremiah 1:5 and to Job, “Did you take clay and form a living creature, and make it speak upon the earth? ” and Job draws near to Him in supplication, saying, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me.” Job 10:8 Would it not, then, be absurd to forbid marriage unions, seeing that we expect that after us there will be martyrs, and those who shall oppose the evil one, for whose sake also the Word promised that He would shorten those days? Mat. 24:22 For if the generation of children henceforth had seemed evil to God… for what reason will those who have come into existence in opposition to the divine decree and will be able to appear well-pleasing to God? And must not that which is begotten be something spurious, and not a creature of God, if, like a counterfeit coin, it is moulded apart from the intention and ordinance of the lawful authority? And so we concede to men the power of forming men. (Banquet of Ten Virgins, Discourse 2.1-2)

Upbringing Commences at Conception

Elder Porphyrios 1906-1991

A child’s upbringing commences at the moment of its conception. The embryo hears and feels in it’s mothers womb. Yes, it hears and it sees with it’s mother’s eyes. It is aware of her movements and her emotions, even though it’s mind has not developed. If the mother’s face darkens, it darkens too. If the mother is irritated, then it becomes also. Whatever the mother experiences — sorrow, pain, fear, anxiety, etc — is also experienced by the embryo.

If the mother doesn’t want the child, if she doesn’t love it, then the embryo senses this and traumas are created in it’s little soul that accompany it all it’s life. The opposite occurs through the mother’s holy emotions. When she is filled with joy, peace and love for the embryo, she transmits these things to it mystically, just as happens to children that have been born.

For this reason a mother must pray a lot during her pregnancy and love the child growing within her, caressing her abdomen, reading psalms, singing hymns and living a holy life. This is also for her own benefit. But she makes sacrifices for the sake of the embryo so that the child will become more holy and will acquire from the very outset holy foundations.

Do you see how delicate a matter it is for a woman to go through a pregnancy? Such a responsibility and such an honor! (Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios pg. 195)


On Victorious Bridegrooms

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Hear this, you fathers, bring your children up with great care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6:4 Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors… Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will he be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. All bread, it is said, is sweet to the fornicator. Sirach 23:17 Crowns are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the crown, since he has been subdued? (Homily 9 on 1st Timothy)

On Educating Children

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk 1724-1783

God will not ask you Whether you taught your children French, German or Italian or the politics of society life – but you will not escape divine reprobation for not having instilled goodness into them. I speak plainly but I tell the truth: if your children are bad, your grandchildren will be worse…and the evil will thus increase…and the root of all this is our thoroughly bad education. (On The Duty of Christian Parents to Their Children and of Children to Their Parents)

On Children Participating in the Holy Mysteries

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 1st cent.

Now the fact that even children, not yet able to understand the things Divine, become recipients of the holy Birth in God, and of the most holy symbols of the supremely Divine Communion, seems, as you say, to the profane, a fit subject for reasonable laughter, if the Hierarchs teach things Divine to those not able to hear, and vainly transmit the sacred traditions to those who do not understand. And this is still more laughable — that others, on their behalf, repeat the abjurations and the sacred compacts. But thy Hierarchical judgment must not be too hard upon those who are led astray, but, persuasively, and for the purpose of leading them to the light, reply affectionately to the objections alleged by them, bringing forward this fact, in accordance with sacred rule, that not all things Divine are comprehended in our knowledge, but many of the things, unknown by us, have causes beseeming God, unknown to us indeed, but well known to the Ranks above us. Many things also escape even the most exalted Beings, and are known distinctly by the All-Wise and Wise-making Godhead alone. Further, also, concerning this, we affirm the same things which our Godlike initiators conveyed to us, after initiations from the early tradition. For they say, what is also a fact, that infants, being brought up according to a Divine institution, will attain a religious disposition, exempt from every error, and inexperienced in an unholy life. When our Divine leaders came to this conclusion, it was determined to admit infants upon the following conditions, viz.: that the natural parents of the child presented, should transfer the child to some one of the initiated, — a good teacher of children in Divine things, — and that the child should lead the rest of his life under him, as under a godfather and sponsor, for his religious safe-keeping. The Hierarch then requires him, when he has promised to bring up the child according to the religious life, to pronounce the renunciations and the religious professions, not, as they would jokingly say, by instructing one instead of another in Divine things; for he does not say this, “that on behalf of this child I make, myself, the renunciations and the sacred professions,” but, that the child is set apart and enlisted; i.e. I promise to persuade the child, when he has come to a religious mind, through my godly instructions, to bid adieu wholly to things contrary, and to profess and perform the Divine professions. There is here, then, nothing absurd, in my judgment, provided the child is brought up as beseems a godlike training, in having a guide and religious surety, who implants in him a disposition for Divine things, and keeps him inexperienced in things contrary. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 7.11)

Elder Paisios on Young People

Blessed Elder Paisios of Mount Athos 1924-1994

You should know that young people today who remain pure will be counted among the martyrs of our Church on the Day of Judgment. (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac pg. 294)

St. Gregory the Theologian on Infant Baptism

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Have you an infant child? Do not let sin get any opportunity, but let him be sanctified from his childhood; from his very tenderest age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Fearest thou the Seal on account of the weakness of nature? O what a small-souled mother, and of how little faith! Why, Anna even before Samuel was born 1 Sam. 1:10 promised him to God, and after his birth consecrated him at once, and brought him up in the priestly habit, not fearing anything in human nature, but trusting in God. You have no need of amulets or incantations, with which the Devil also comes in, stealing worship from God for himself in the minds of vainer men. Give your child the Trinity, that great and noble Guard.

Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses. For it is better that they should be unconsciously sanctified than that they should depart unsealedand uninitiated.

A proof of this is found in the Circumcision on the eighth day, which was a sort of typical seal, and was conferred on children before they had the use of reason. And so is the anointing of the doorposts, Ex. 12:22 which preserved the firstborn, though applied to things which had no consciousness. But in respect of others I give my advice to wait till the end of the third year, or a little more or less, when they may be able to listen and to answer something about the Sacrament; that, even though they do not perfectly understand it, yet at any rate they may know the outlines; and then to sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of our consecration. For this is how the matter stands; at that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers.

But, one says, Christ was thirty years old when He was baptized, Lk. 3:23 and that although He was God; and do you bid us hurry our Baptism?— You have solved the difficulty when you say He was God. For He was absolute cleansing; He had no need of cleansing; but it was for you that He was purified, just as it was for you that, though He had not flesh, yet He is clothed with flesh. Nor was there any danger to Him from putting off Baptism, for He had the ordering of His own Passion as of His own Birth. But in your case the danger is to no small interests, if you were to depart after a birth to corruption alone, and without being clothed with incorruption. And there is this further point for me to consider, that that particular time of baptism was a necessity for Him, but your case is not the same. He manifested Himself in the thirtieth year after His birth and not before; first, in order that He might not appear ostentatious, which is a condition belonging to vulgar minds; and next, because that age tests virtue thoroughly, and is the right time to teach. And since it was needful for Him to undergo the passion which saves the world, it was needful also that all things which belong to the passion should fit into the passion; the Manifestation, the Baptism, the Witness from Heaven, the Proclamation, the concourse of the multitude, the Miracles; and that they should be as it were one body, not torn asunder, nor broken apart by intervals. (Oration 40.17, 28-29)

On The Importance of Godly Upbringing

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Neither must that be forgotten, which the servant of God before mentioned, called Probus, used to tell of a little sister which he had, called Musa: for he said that one night our blessed Lady appeared unto her in vision, shewing her sundry young maids of her own years, clothed all in white: whose company she much desiring, but yet not presuming to go amongst them, the Blessed Virgin asked her whether she had any mind to remain with them, and to live in her service: to whom she answered that willingly she would. Then our blessed Lady gave her in charge, not to behave herself lightly, nor to live any more like a girl, to abstain also from laughing and pastime, telling her that after thirty days she should, amongst those virgins which she then saw, be admitted to her service. After this vision, the young maid forsook all her former behaviour: and with great gravity reformed the levity of her childish years: which thing her parents perceiving, and demanding from whence that change proceeded, she told them what the blessed Mother of God had given her in commandment, and upon what day she was to go unto her service. Five and twenty days after, she fell sick of an ague; and upon the thirtieth day, when the hour of her departure was come, she’ beheld our blessed Lady, accompanied with those virgins which before in vision she saw to come unto her, and being called to come away, she answered with her eyes modestly cast downward, and very distinctly spake in this manner: “Behold, blessed Lady, I come, behold, blessed Lady, I come”: in speaking of which words she gave up the ghost, and her soul departed her virgin’s body, to dwell for ever with the holy virgins in heaven.

PETER. Seeing mankind is subject to many and innumerable vices, I think that the greatest part of heaven is replenished with little children and infants.

GREGORY. Although we ought not to doubt, but believe that all infants which be baptized, and die in their infancy, go to heaven; yet no point of our belief it is, that all little ones which can speak do come unto that holy place: because some little children are kept from heaven by their parents, which bring them up wickedly and in lewd life. For a certain man in this city, well known to all, some three years since had a child, as I think five years old, which upon too much carnal affection he brought up very carelessly: in such sort that the little one (a lamentable case to speak of) so soon as anything went contrary to his mind, straightways used to blaspheme the name of God.

This child, in that great mortality which happened three years since, fell sick, and came to the point of death: and his father holding him at that time in his arms, the child (as they say, which were then present) beheld with trembling eyes certain wicked spirits coming towards him: at which sight he began to cry out in this manner: “Keep them away, father, keep them away”: and crying so out, he turned away his face, and would have hid himself in his father’s bosom: who demanding why he was so afraid, and what he saw: “O father,” quoth he, “there be blackamoors come to carry me away “: after which words straightways he blasphemed God, and so gave up the ghost. For to the end God might make it known to the world for what sin he was delivered to such terrible executioners, he permitted him at his very death to iterate that sin, for which his father, whiles he lived, would not correct him: so that he which through God’s patience had long lived a blasphemer, did at length, by his just judgment, blaspheming end his life, that the father might both know his own sin, and also how, by neglecting the soul of his little son, he nourished and brought up not a little sinner for hell fire. But now to surcease from further speech of this sad and melancholy matter, let us prosecute, as we have begun, our former joyful narration. (Dialogues Bk. IV:17-18)

St. John Chrysostom on Abortion and Birth Control

“[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live” (Homilies on Matthew 28:5 [A.D. 391]). – John Chrysostom

The so-called “birth control” pill – shown above – is indeed an abortifacient. It actually performs an embryonic abortion. This has been proven by medical doctors across the world. Randy Alcorn has a short article on it here.

There is what some in the west call Natural Family Planing, which is perfectly ethical and godly. It has to do with identifying the signs of a woman’s fertility. Here is information on that.

Regarding how Chrysostom ties receiving inheritances to abortion, I would say that the same thing is happening in our day but from a different angle. Many couples now would rather NOT have children so that they can enjoy the inheritance of their culture – hobbies and luxury. There are legitimate reasons for not having children but I think that the “we cannot afford them” clause is grossly abused today. What I think many people mean to say when they refer to not affording children is that they cannot afford the lifestyle of their choice if they have children.