Monday, July 27, 2009

John Chrysostom: Motherhood means Raising not just Bearing Children

For you to learn that it is not the bearing of children that makes a mother, and that the reward does not come from that, Paul spoke in similar terms elsewhere in talking of a widow, "If she raised children." He did not say, If she bore children, but "If she raised children:" one thing comes from nature, the other from free will. Hence in saying here as well, "She will be saved through child-bearing," he did not stop at that point, but in his wish to bring out that it is not bearing children but raising children well that brings us this reward, he went on, "If they continue in faith, in love and in holiness along with self-control." What he means is this: You will then receive a great reward if those begetting the children continue in faith, in love, and in holiness. So if you bring them up to these things, if you encourage them, if you teach them, if you advise them, a great reward for this care will be laid up for you with God. Let not women, therefore, consider it beyond them to care for both the girls and the boys. Gender made no difference in these instances, note: he simply said in the one case, "If she raised children," and in the other, "If they continue in faith, in love, and in holiness." And so care is to be taken by us of both lots of children, and especially by the women, to the extent that they also stay at home more. After all, traveling, public affairs and business in town often falls to the husbands, whereas the wife enjoys exemption from all such concerns and would be in a position to look after the infants more easily, enjoying much free time as she does.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Homilies on Hannah, Homily 1, in St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume 1, pp. 72-73 (2003), Robert C. Hill translator.