Sunday, August 2, 2009

John Chrysostom: Barrenness Even More Intolerable in the Old Testament

Blessed is she, therefore, even on on this account, not for being a mother, but for becoming one after not being one: while the former is a common attribute of nature, the latter was the woman's commendable achievement. While she is blessed, therefore, even for those pangs, she is no less blessed also on account of everything before the pangs. I mean, you are all assuredly aware, women and men both, that nothing could be more intolerable for a woman than childlessness; even if she experienced satisfaction in countless other ways, she would never be rid of the pain coming to her from this affliction. Yet if it is so intolerable these days when we are called to much higher values and are on our way to heaven, when no thought for present realities affects us, and instead we are preparing ourselves for a different life and the esteem for virginity is high, think of how great an affliction the matter was considered in those days when there was not the slightest hope of a future nor any conception of it by people of olden times, and instead they did everything with an eye to present realities, and being barren and childless was a sort of curse and death sentence.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Homilies on Hannah, Homily 2, in St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume 1, p. 83 (2003), Robert C. Hill translator.