Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Powerful Influence a Mother Has Over Her Child (Part 5)

On account of their supreme calling, it is necessary for future mothers to
receive the appropriate upbringing from the onset of their infant years. A suitable
upbringing for them consists of instruction that targets the mind and heart. Both
these parts together comprise the two centers around which man’s intellectual
and ethical education revolve. If either one of them is neglected, education
becomes imperfect and impaired. Even though the mind and the heart are
members of the same soul, nevertheless, they are in need of different means of
education. The heart, on account of its sensitivity belongs to the metaphysical
realm; the mind, on account of its intellectual capacity belongs to the physical
world. Consequently, each one of them requires to be taught its individual and
particular truths.
The truth specific to the mind is education, while that of the heart is
religion. Therefore, it is necessary for us to provide education and religion to our
daughters, so that they will be capable of transmitting these to their own children
later. Education and religion are two brilliant lighthouses that guide man as he
travels in the ocean of this present stormy life, guard him from shipwreck, and
distance him from every dangerous reef. They are the two eyes of the soul, which
she uses to examine the things that surround her, and which enable her to walk
without stumbling toward blessedness and salvation. They are the two spiritual
organs that perfect man and render him worthy of his sublime descent and his
supreme position in creation. Only mothers educated in this manner are capable
of producing good children, useful citizens, and courageous men.
Hence, we must provide our daughters with both religious and intellectual
instruction, in order to render them worthy of their calling. It is necessary for godly
education and cultivated religion to coexist because these two components
constitute the only secure provisions in life that can help man in a variety of ways.
A one-sided upbringing, being deficient, leads to one of the following two
improper sequela: superstition or indifference for God’s law. Each one is a
natural outcome and a direct result of the type of upbringing.
Intellectual and religious instruction are two different trees planted in the
same field, which require equal care and attention in order for them to grow
equally. Unequal cultivation will result in disproportionate development and,
consequently, one tree will thrive and flourish, while the other one will wither and
atrophy. If we concern ourselves with the mind alone, man’s religious feelings will
inevitably become impoverished. If we give all our attention solely to an
uncultivated form of religion, man’s intellectual powers will shrivel and be
arrested. Ill consequences of the former are irreligiousness and atheism, which
are followed by countless evils; of the latter, superstition. These are the results
when our daughters receive one-sided, partial education and incomplete

—by St. Nektarios—

The Powerful Influence a Mother Has Over Her Child (Part 4)

The mothers of all great and virtuous men serve as brilliant examples for
us. Such shinning models are the mothers of the three great hierarchs, St. Basil
the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom.
Desiring to give their children the best possible education and to refine
their mind through Hellenistic wisdom and science, they did not hesitate to hand
over their sons to idolater instructors, in order for them to suitably develop and
grow intellectually. They were not afraid of the professors’ heterodoxy because
they had self-assurance: they were certain that (through their personal example)
their own love for true education and their own fervent zeal for the Christian faith
had entirely been channeled into and completely inundated the hearts of their
children. They knew that nothing would be capable of shaking the principles and
convictions their sons had concerning the Christian faith because they had been
diligently established and built upon a rock!
Consequently, Nona and Amelia, the good and virtuous mothers of St.
Basil and St. Gregory, sent their sons to Athens: to the center not only of
education and enlightenment but also of idolatry—where the religion of the
Gentiles with all its accompanying grandeur was firmly rooted. And indeed, their
convictions were not proven wrong. Both young students had within the depth of
their hearts the flame of faith in Christ, and they remained uninfluenced
throughout the entire duration of their studies. They were neither shaken by the
teachings of the sophists who systematically battled Christianity nor allured by
the magnificent ceremonies of Gentile worship. On the contrary, they remained
firm and strong in their religious beliefs and returned home to their mothers,
offering themselves as a reward to them for their didactic efforts, their maternal
care, and their virtue.
Similarly, the good and virtuous mother of St. John Chrysostom, named
Anthousa, who became widowed at the age of twenty, completely devoted
herself to raising her one and only son; for she considered this to be of greater
importance than a second marriage. Like the other two mothers, she was not
afraid to hand her beloved and cherished only child (when he came of age and
needed higher education) into the hands of an idolater instructor. Her
assuredness in her own faith was assuredness in her child because she was
convinced that she had deposited all of her faith into the soul of her beloved son.
She too was not proven wrong. A short while after completing his studies and
practicing law, John gave himself to serving the Church. Livanios, St. John’s
professor, filled with disappointment after failing to proselytize John to his own
religion, sorrowfully exclaimed: “Woe! What type of women does Christianity
produce!” This is how he pointed to the reason for his failure.
Truly, how beautiful! What brilliant examples these pious mothers are for
us! What magnificent images! What wondrous role models! Who can deny that
mothers give rise to great and virtuous men! Thus, Jacques Rousseau makes the
following observation in his work Emile: “Men will always be whatever women
want them to be. If you desire to have great and virtuous men, teach women the
meaning of righteousness and virtue.”
Therefore, we must educate and instruct our daughters (who will later
become mothers) according to the examples set forth above, attending to this
assiduously from their early childhood years, so that we can be assured of fruitful
and beneficial results to come.

—by St. Nektarios—

The powerful influence a mother has over her child (Part 3)

Due to the influence that each mother exercises upon her own child,
mothers are capable of molding children after their own character, just as a potter
molds clay in the manner he wishes.

Diogenis would say the following concerning the easily pliable years of
childhood: “The education of children can be likened to potters’ vessels. Just as
they shape and form clay as they wish while it is still soft, but are unable to shape
it once it is fired, similarly children who are not painstakingly disciplined cannot
be changed once they grow up.”

Plutarch further asserts: “youth is easily pliable and workable, and while
such souls are still tender, teachings are embedded deep within the soul.”
Hence, during the tender childhood years, mothers are capable of
effectively and profoundly impacting a child’s soul, mindset, feelings, nous,
imagination, and ethos.

 After this age, the youthful heart begins to harden, and
instruction becomes—if not impossible—very difficult, as the divine Chrysostom
correctly attests: “it was necessary right from the beginning when you noticed
these evils developing, while your child was still young and obedient, to restrain
him rigorously, to make him grow accustom to the essentials, to regulate and
chastise the ailments of his soul.

 You should have removed the thorns when it
was easy to do so; when it was easy to uproot them on account of the tender
age. Now it has become difficult to do so because, due to negligence, the
passions have multiplied and increased. For this reason, it is written: ‘bend his
neck while he is still young,’ when discipline is easier to implement.”

—by St. Nektarios—
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