This post has been reblogged from Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy
“Motherhood is what makes us the carriers of what life was intended to be in the garden of Eden. It was betrayed by Adam and Eve and then redeemed by the Virgin Mary when she gave birth to Life, when she accepted, as everyone should, and must and can except the will of God to give life. she is the ultimate actually, life-giver, she is she created life in a fallen world that is so often just coping with existence. The difference is quite clear and quite obvious between between a person who exudes an aura of living faith living allegiance, living belonging, living acceptance and the person whom forgets this calling. It is a calling, it is a mission, it is a duty and just exists. So motherhood is giving life to everything, to everything you touch.”
“Women who have or have had the privilege of giving life, and women who did not, all have this potential virtue, this talent of giving life.”
Also see: “THE JOY TO SERVE” by Matushka Juliana Schmemann which offers a fresh perspective concerning the role of women in the Church and, more germane, in the context of our modern world. Available from Alexander Press
(unedited)Mother Christophora: We’ve been very blessed this week, Matushka arrived on Wednesday and spent some time
among the sisters and really our life
has been enriched by your presence. When I
quite a few months ago that we need to choose a speaker after this year
I did mention that, without any particular reason that we hadn’t had a
woman until now, so
I put three or four names on a
possibility list and there was really no question
we wanted to ask, and everyone
all the sisters really wanted to invite Matushka Schmemann
and we’re very glad we did and we’re really glad she accepted.
That was part number two is the waiting for
her acceptance. So thank God she’s with us I know
many you have come to hear her and hear
this topic. I anticipate we will all be enriched.
She’s speaking I assume from a lot of experience
more than from books on this topic because
matushka is a mother of three, grandmotherhood of
nine and great-grandmother of 13. Spiritual
mother to many many all over the country
and just a little
little few facts that you’re able to and discerned from
conversations we have had this week without having a
formal interview but she told one of the sisters that she was
married at nineteen and by the time she was 21 she was now a
matushka, a priest’s wife and had two children by that time…three by that time
and she came to the United States at the age of 29 with her three children and father Alexander who was
invited to come to St Vladimir’s Seminary. She didn’t know any
English except yes and no and she started
teaching French, since Matushka grew up in France.Thank God we’re all enriched by her and
she served also as a… in a
school in New York as teacher and as headmistress for 27 years
in that profession and also she’s
Matushka has been a widow for quite some time now, I think 15?
15 years. That is also
something also she has to offer
from that but thank thank you for coming and
we’re all anxious to hear your talk…Matushka Juliana Schmemann: Your Eminence, Fathers,
Mother Christophora, sisters,
gentleman, Do I have the right sequence
I hope. I’m extremely thankful to
Mother Christophora and to all the
members of this hospitable community to have invited
me…when I come here i’ve come
quite a few times because my granddaughter and her children
live at the bottom of that hill
and I always find peace
here, maybe because I live with two great grandchildren who are a eight and four
that’s what you can say. But nevertheless it’s a different kind of peace it’s a peace that
stays with me no matter what is the surrounding noise later on
so thank you for inviting me. To speak about motherhood of course is very dear
to my heart and you know in a world of
fight for freedom, of individual choices,
and often an erroneous concept to what freedom means,
or of negation of genders,
everything is permitted as long as I fulfill my likes.
total confusion about what freedom is
it is not very fashionable
to speak about motherhood, somehow
it has become more accepted in the outside world
establish that motherhood
is one choice, one
option made by an individual woman
and that with carefully limitations.
The husband, the father has to compromise, he has to help,
not in order to be helpful but in order that things would be fair and
that there would be some semblance of equality…
not always, thank God, butt it’s quite often like that
and it’s rather frightening
occurrence, so it is specially, it is especially precious
to speak about motherhood now a days.
it’s more than just speaking about it,
it’s a vocation, it’s a mission,
what you want to do today with all of you
who obviously are here, because you share with me and with
this respect and love
and acceptance of the beauty of motherhood.
What you want to do is to contemplate
with all of you the figure
of the woman mother.
what is very important to say, to begin with
is that not all of us, obviously, our
biological mothers. Many won’t actually give birth
but motherhood is not only,
not only a biological fact of
life. It’s a talent, in the Gospel sense of the word
it’s a talent, it is state of being
a state to be sought after, to be nurtured
to be acquired, to be multiplied,
to be given back to the creator.
First we were all given
life by a mother. So the first
awesome quality of motherhood
is life giving. Women who have
or have had the privilege of giving life,
and women who did not, all have this potential
virtue, this talent of giving life.
Be to an infant
or to a Godchild or to a spiritual friend,
or anyone around, with whom the woman is put in contact.
To exude life
not just exist, not just to be.
But or even to
cope with life, this fretful, blasphemous, actually
expression…”I’m coping with life…life”
so even with the best intentions but live
fully, ensued energy, action and movement.
Ascent and never stoping, never stop that acsent
upward to the kingdom, to the kingdom here
and now and forever which is
the only goal in life. the only goal.
so this life-giving which is the proper of
motherhood is actually not just
not only giving birth to life once or twice or three times four times
but it is a continuous mission
it is a continuous mission, it is a vocation of women.
Actually as well as men’s, but to create
a living presence, to keep
in life presence, being herself
in their children, in the community, in the
presence. What presence? The presence
of the Lord, the presence of Christ, of
a constant moving, active life,
communion with Christ and of preserving
alive the life that was created
by the Lord on the seventh day of creation in the Genesis,
and “that was very good”
so this is the kind of life that we want to that the woman
has the talent to give and to
continuously to continuously provoke
Motherhood is what makes us
the carriers of what life was intended to be
in the garden of Eden.
it was betrayed by Adam and Eve
and then redeemed by the Virgin Mary when she gave
birth to Life, when she accepted,
as everyone should, and must and can
except the will of God to give life.
she is the ultimate actually, life-giver,
she is she created life in a fallen world
that is so often just coping with existence.
the difference is quite clear and quite
obvious between between a person who
exudes an aura of living faith
living allegiance, living belonging,
living acceptance and the person whom
forgets this calling, it is a calling, it is a mission, it is a duty
and just exists.
so motherhood is giving life
to everything, to everything you touch.
not just, not just following rules,
rules of prayer, rules of behavior, what I should do? what I must do?
rules of fasting, how much? when? how?
but making a prayer alive,
making a meal, a conversation,
a job, an encounter, whatever, making it all
alive. be able to see at all times
in any circumstances, to see,
like we sing during presanctified,
“To taste and see that the Lord is Good”
at all times and then
and then comes, comes joy
and gratitude at being allowed
when one realizes this,
this mission, this calling, at being alive,
at being called to instill life
in the other one. To in fact
partake in God’s creation, to do what God
did in the beginning, to create life in the world.
That’s the joy that makes the difference, that makes it
absolutely impossible, impossible to look at motherhood
as a choice, as an option,
as only, as only as a,
to look at it only as a talent, a
talent in the Gospel sense, a talent
that everyone has. Joy
in developing, is thankful for
because it’s a divine talent.
It’s not there just for a chosen few,
but everybody has it in a different measure,
a different capacity, a different way of
For instance a completely silent person
next to whom one might
find ones self standing to in church,
can be and often is a source
of inspiration, of life,
of hope, for the one
who has trouble, who is troubled, and who stands next to that
person. So even in that sort of silence
there is that giving life. In what way
can a mother or a woman
establish contact with the child or the godchild or the spiritual child
without just by giving and not stifling and not crushing
which is quite often a temptation of
motherhood that might be too good quote unquote.
I’ll give you an example actually from
the gospel, the Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Saint Luke
Chapter 2 was going from back
from Jerusalem to Nazareth and
assumed that her son aged twelve,
was walking with some acquaintances and some friends
but when she looked for him
after a whole day’s journey
she could not find him and as a
normal mother would do she rushed back to Jerusalem
frantically looked for him and found him
after three days search.
any mother, any person can imagine the panic…
found Him in a temple seeking in the midst of
the doctors both hearing them and asking them questions and His mother asking
“How could you do this to us? your father and to me?
we were worried.” Quote
“and He said to them how is it
that you sought me, did you not know that I must
must be in my Father’s house?”
and they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and
was obedient to them His mother kept
all these things in her heart
and Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
I love that passage among many others for
its intense humanity. we usually think
well this was Jesus. Of course were supposed to let Him be
but He calls for everyone in a way.
“Let go” let the child or the spiritual son and daughter,
be himself or herself which essentially means
respect them. so after
that call to give life continues
but I never talk enough about respect, which is shown lacking
in the world nowadays
and we assume that respect comes from young to old but it
should come from old to young, from one another
to the other. Respect,
whom one is trying to direct, to support you.
They have to, they have to follow their own way.
what we can do is just to show
in our own vision, to make our own vision alive and there
for them to see, and hope for the best.
let them be inspired, let them be, let them find that
way to God which we are trying to sort of show them
let then get to love it
through our example. so motherhood is really too love
and to give, give endlessly
and look to seek ever one’s own satisfaction
one’s own particular and ambitions, wishes,
plans for for the other, but
realize that the child or the other, or the adult, or whoever
does not belong to the mother.
But has his or her own particular talents, ways of growing,
ways of communing with the world.
so often women,
mothers and actually quite often spiritual fathers,
want to dictate in the most minute details
what a child’s or a person’s life should be like.
where as when the Lord created the world,
He saw that it was good, He saw that it was very good
and having created the man and the woman,
resting after the seventh day
He let them be free and He only loving
them and giving them and when they went astray He,
He sent His Son to save them,
but never forced anyone. That
is the ultimate, the ultimate example
of the freedom that
out of respect
we have to give to one another. There is never forcing, I don’t mean
not telling the child to wash his hands before dinner,
I don’t mean that kind freedom, should not be there
but a real
respectful freedom for the child and for the other.
If I make, if I understand it right,
if I make mine this idea of motherhood
as a sort of life-giving talent,
a joyful active way for women to be,
to be a victorious leader like the Virgin Mary,
the inspiration for others, the world’s view
motherhood might change.
so our mission is not just to be mothers and to sort of
multiply our own talent, but its
to try to change the world’s view which is so catastrophic of
what motherhood is. Whether a spiritual mother or a godmother or a mother
or a friend, the womb, the woman
tries at all times to make
unnecessary obstacles, to make disappear the
dust of daily cares, instead of sort of being submerged by it and to live every
hour of the day seeing
the banquet prepared for those who love Him.
Missing and have compassion and
generate hope and light to make
by enhancing life, light,
by making light brighter,
this is motherhood, it gives life
to what lost it.
Somehow make life appear,
especially nowadays when life is treated with such
total neglect, make life appear as the greatest and the unique
gift where there is suffering, whether in suffering or loss or despair
or death. Shoulder one’s
own attitude towards life, not necessary in words, I don’t mean to preach
as I’m doing, but just in being,
being alive, in being on fire, in being by closely singing and sharing, in song and feeling,
“Taste and see that the Lord is Good”. That’s all.
It is so simple, it is so simple
but it is really simple,
believe me, we are so entangled in confusion,
false sophistication, in complexities, in
psychological lingo which is used, I’m not against it, but that which is
used with such neglect, a web of words
that we do not settle for simplicity.
Simplicity being to Taste and
see that the Lord is Good.
That Lord is good.
It’s really motherhood’s responsibility which goes
much further than just giving birth
is to give life to the basic acts of
life. The morning the alarm clock,
snow and ice falling, a hopefully runny nose,
hopelessly a spilt chocolate milk on a
freshly laundered shirt, two minutes before the school bus comes,
and the list can be very long. The list is endless, every mother could supply and we
would never get out of this rood by supplying the possible details of life
that make it difficult difficult
to to sometime to see life
and to lay aside all earthly cares
and all these can obscure
or annihilate and shouldn’t. A firm inner
peace and gratitude, and a sense of
life, joy, thanks
life, joy, thanks
it’s up to motherhood to transform,
to transform a meal
for being just a way of getting fed
into a light. A sacred
event of being together, of singing a hymn of praise
through noise and mess and nevertheless
it’s a tiny miracle to see it as such,
quietly. A job for the woman who works
outside of the home who does not have children
which is often the case nowadays,
can be only a salary making affair or can be the scene of
not ever preaching at others
but by being oneself and quietly and firmly
in an almost tangible way
being a source of peace
and joy any presence.
Not one’s own presence but the Divine Presence inside.
It can make the million little details of the job
meaningful and satisfying. Because a job well done
consciously and joyfully, conscientiously and joyfully
will be to the glory of God.
and make your whole office or where ever one works reflect
the vision of the world that was created
very good. Every encounter, every
conversation can be filled with the spirit
or just be crass,
add to the endless idle things
that happen instead of the pure,
clear and spirit filled event.
[Speaking to a mother in the audience] That’s ok.
It’s up to us mothers and women
to change the world, the Society’s conception,
concept of life as only existence that has to profit me,
that has to fulfillmy rights, that has to
get the most of my own existence,
into realizing the extra-ordinary
responsibility of the talent
to create life.
What should we
develop in ourselves?
what to to to achieve that?
First be an example.
You need to be… one has to be an example never say
or teach or push something that I’m not doing myself.
We say be honest and we cheat.
We say be obedient and we are not.
We say go to church and we are late.
Never push that
role model down people’s throats.
The sort of “see how I am and follow my example.” Just be
and mainly respect,
as I said before, respect first, not analyzing how
and what for. The breaking danger is that.
Deeply respect the fact
that he or she is created in God’s
likeness and this sounds like an
abstract thing. God’s life, to be created in God’s life in God’s image
what does it really mean?
sometimes it strikes me that, what does it really mean?
it could exercise would actually consist in
in seeing. Truly seeing in the most impossible dirty disobeying
and hopelessly inadequate person, to see a child of God.
Who has all the traits that make him
or her a potential saint.
a person who will please the Lord and add to the beauty into the harmony of
the world instead of being, just
a burden of heavy indifference.
And even when we don’t understand like Mary who did not understand but kept in her heart these things, trust and respect. Trust and respect are the most powerful means of communicating with a child or with the other, with a friend, with a spiritual son or the spiritual daughter, with the other in general. Even in the presence of a lie or some sort of nasty concealment of truth, whatever it is. Trust consists in firmly believing that behind the lie, behind the hiding there is the true nature of the child or the adult or whoever. If we only could manage to sort of getting to the heart and to the soul and to kill the upper cross and see a need to true human being and that image of God then we could open up.
We could open up the child and he or she could start believing in himself. They lie because we don’t and actually convert and change this metanoia repent, repent through trust as Christ endlessly again and again and certainly undeserving trust each one of us. To be a mother besides giving life, besides trusting and respecting is the one who celebrates. It’s very simple. We are given life, we thank for it and we celebrate it. Giving life, thanking, celebrating, the only worthy response to the Lord. How can we thank, just say thank you? No, celebrate. That’s what we do constantly. That’s why I personally love any kind of celebrations because it’s always is a reflection.
What everyone celebrate, birthday, name day, whatever, holidays. It’s a reflection of celebrating life. Motherhood is to be in charge of celebrating daily life by being again and again grateful and give thanks and through everything be grateful and thinking came to praise and create around yourself a climate of prayerful thanks and confidence. It sounds like a lot of cliché just words, what about reality? That’s just it, we say reality and remain a car that doesn’t start. Slippery roads, a lay off at the factory, sick children, death maybe. All of these indeed have to be dealt with and much much more. They have to be dealt with.
One has to do what one has to do whether In the outside world or within the world of retreat house or a monastery or family house, whatever. Escaping is not the answer. But when caught in some tangle and some knots, always maintain inside a firm, silent, unbreakable, indestructible haven of peace. Very simple, maintain it where Christ is. Whatever happens we say yes, we will overcome, we deal with it, we will do it and you are with us. Lord, you will show us the way. We see this presence, we feel the joy in all circumstances when seeing it. The Lord who on the seventh day saw the world he had made was very good, we see it with you, Lord. We will transform.
We will transform, we promise, we will transform temptations and grief and sorrow and depression into a hymn of glory. How to do it practically? How do do it? One will ask, well, by saying to each one can find one’s on the way, by saying “Hallelujah, hallelujah,” just a short hallelujah. The word itself is a miraculous breaking through grayness into light. God, it is good to be here with you. This image of the Lord which I keep on referring to because I love it and it says in the first chapter of the Genesis and on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done and rest on the seventh day from all his work that he had done and behold it was very good.
For me, personally, one can have different images, the most inspiring vision and this is reality. This is what’s really real. So with this celebration through thanks and comes to celebration through acceptance, the basic, the most total state of mind of heart and of will, the yes, the amen. Where can a woman or a mother find the strength, the food for this inspiration? Where can she find a source of peace and joy for all around? In Mary, in prayer, in continuous prayer. If this hold to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, in everything give thanks.” I don’t mean prayer, I don’t mean only the services in the church.
Some do attended, some can’t, some don’t, my own Patron Saint Juliana for years did not, that’s only single service because she simply too far away, live too far away which she prayed. Blessed be the Lord if one can submerge oneself into peace of the church surfaces and be lifted by all the readings and the Eucharist, of course, which is absolutely essential focus of any church life. What I mean when I say prayer is a state of prayer, and emptying of oneself. It’s to be learned always. It’s a laying aside of earthly cares. It’s a making room for the Holy Spirit and when the Holy Spirit finds room and space for him, ready for him, he feels it. He really does come and abiding us and cleanse us for any impurity.
We say again and again, and we have to say it again and again, like when a room is stuffy, it’s too hot, not enough air, when opens the window. And there’s a draft and it’s a gentle flow of air but it comes like a tiny, still voice of the Spirit that comes in a same way if one create a draft, that rule, that emptying and readiness for the Spirit he comes and in a gentle, tiny, still voice fills the whole atmosphere. That’s where I find my strength. If we only let him, if we only open our windows and our doors for him. Then it’s like on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. Just knowing the knowledge, our head knowledge, our intellectual knowledge becomes transformed into a vision by the Holy Spirit into a vision of real reality, of what life is with the Lord.
And this is prayer, and this is a state of being, a state of prayer, continuous prayer. I do know that all the little details of life pull us down but we want to be worthy, to be worthy of the wonderful gift of being a mother, godmother, spiritual mother, grandmother, maybe the most difficult thing is to be a spiritual mother. Because one doesn’t have the tools that a house mother have but then what a joy to achieve a tiny little thing to know that one has tried and love and to be spiritual mother consists uniquely in giving. A godmother has taken up on herself to be a responsible in prayer, in concern, in care and love, to help whenever possible the godchild to along the way to the kingdom.
A mother has of course the greatest responsibility to be acutely and greatly aware of the gift of having a child and to know that in a way she ceases to exist for herself by herself but is the moving force of the family. She realizes that through thick and thin she is the one who will the set the child on the course to the kingdom, sometimes will set the husband to the course of the kingdom, and who will set herself on the course of the kingdom. Loving the child enough to be aware that the main thing that she can give is to let him find joy and the way to the kingdom, and to make that kingdom now tangible in all the details of the life.
To be a grandmother, a great grandmother is a continuous and undeserved joy. I mean, of all gifts, this is the ultimate gift. What a grandmother has to do is to age gracefully and thankfully, and to showing her life and in her deeds and in her vision, to show the approaching opening of the gates. One can almost hear the creaking of the gates as they are slowly opening and beckoning. “I’m not ready,” says a grandmother. But I want to be ready and soon we’ll get to the banquet, prepared for those who love him. I want to taste and feel. I want to say for my whole life hallelujah, amen. Thank you. (Clapping)
Question:I have a question. Many who can say a word for those mothers who are facing really serious, like a serious illness in her child either to physical and emotional and mental illness? They’re not things that will just go away like ice that melt or chocolate milk that you can wash out but if you have some words that you can say to help a mother who’s facing something like that?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:I knew I will tell you a very concrete example of someone that I know. Not just one but several actually but I know of a mother who has two children. They are both autistic, completely. And she managed and is an example, not only for her family but for everybody who know her or who know about her. She managed to have that and to present it as a gift to the Lord. And the way she talks about is the Lord was Christ was crucified, suffer it, his mother suffered. I was in Jerusalem lately and somebody was showing me the idea of the Lord, that Christ when he was carrying the cross, and the person who was with me showed me that place and said, “This is where the women were allowed to stand and where Mary could see for the first time her son, Jesus,” after he was judged, after he was condemned, after he was given the cross.
I will always remember the physical reaction that I had imagining exactly here, or about here, where she saw a child, her child innocently suffering. It goes for any and she accepted it, and she gave it back. What did Christ do when she saw Lazarus, that we has dead? He cried. He had tears. There is no saying death, there is no suffering and death, after the whole suffering is just no suffering, is their suffering. But if one things of suffering as a sort of taking-in-Christ suffering, in Mary suffering. That’s a part of, yes, I will do it for you because you did it for all of us. Why shouldn’t I also in my minimal way and then find friends who will love and give.
That person who has that sort of attitude when faced with a real suffering and so many, so many but it can be so intensely beautiful. And when we are finally, all of us sitting at the banquet that’s when joy will be full. I will never try to say, to try to comfort and say, well, yes, it’s okay, you know. No, it’s not but it can be made into a gift. It can be made into an hallelujah by since. Yes?
Question:I wanted to make a comment about motherhood as servanthood. You spoke where our society is. It’s very new focus, Satan is having a field day with the female and male roles in our society. I’ve got to say and confess I fell into a lot of that and the Lord is working to pull me out of it. One of the things is that motherhood, it’s a great honor, it’s a higher calling than being a professional woman in a working world. I heard someone say that a woman was promoted to motherhood and I thought how nice to hear that from the working world. That a mother’s job a lot of it is servanthood. It is to put herself last and that is not our culture at all.
It’s something that I’m still learning, still struggling with because I came out of that culture. I came out of the professional world. The Lord will bless and honor what he’s put in motion. The motherhood is a high calling and that the mother serve.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:Service indeed. I could not agree with you more, service, as well as respect. I’ve too forgotten you serve yourself nowadays and that’s what the whole quite often badly understood feminism is about. Instead of having respect with the high calling of being a woman, of being a mother. This is the fight of equality, this is a fight for it which is based on respect for me that was lacking in the world before, etcetera. This is precisely what. Especially the idea of service. The idea of service is considered demeaning. It’s not considered as the highest calling at all. It’s, well, you have to do it and do we really have to stand behind a stove and that’s all there is to it because service is misunderstood as a demeaning thing whereas with who is the sort of the one who serves more than who served us and we serving, that is Christ, it’s God, it’s Mary.
The idea of service is precisely the most noble calling that one can have. Serve without but I wouldn’t say necessarily that there is no other calling, there is the calling of motherhood is always there which consisting giving life and respecting and celebrating but there could be other talents that women have. For instance, an artist or a writer or a nurse or whatever, the little things and if you’re putting that, the idea of service, if you do it that calling, if you fulfill that calling as service, this is what makes it noble and beautiful in fulfilling and real. That’s what Jesus did at the last supper but he showed when he washed the feet, he did it not as a sort of ultimate and most, this is what we do for each other and this is the highest calling.
Question:What does the mother do if she have an adult child and has not follow the example?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:First of all you think I’m not the only one. (Laughing) That’s, well, immediately put things in perspective and it’s very important, by the way. I don’t want to force you into speaking but I can’t sort of guess what you want to share if a child, so many of them do. This is maybe the challenge to understand, first of all, where it comes from. It comes from their outside world, from based on what they see, they read, from what they are taught, what they are taught in schools. What they are taught and that example. An example is not just something that you set and then you have a child follow it and we live happily ever after. It might take years, you might have to die first but then it will still be there.
It’s a live thing that remains so tenacity. Well, one idea that might be comforting for you is do we really follow Christ’s example for us. We don’t and he never gives up. He never gives up on us so we don’t give up no matter. Don’t think ahead of what will happen, don’t give up, just that is what you can do. Then, add to that thy will be done. Add to that, always, thy will be done and continue doing and live with it. Think that one sort of confused thing is to realize that this is what’s happening with us who are disobedient to Christ in our maybe little things that are not too serious. We still go to church, we still give vows, we are very decent people but nevertheless, we are not that faithful. We don’t follow. First of all, you are not the only one. Second, continue, tenacity and joyful tenacity. I still love you, I still trust you. Very difficult. I still love you, I still and thy will be done.
Question:Does Satan embrace them or does God protect them?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:If what?
Question:She’s asking is Satan has the children or if God is protecting them.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:God is always protecting them. God made them. Satan tries his best, always and by the way, he tries his best with me and with you by being discouraged, a tiny way. That’s part of Satan’s work. Never for one second stop thinking that, of course God is protecting them and God suffers as much as you do. We’ll help you in your suffering to feel that it doesn’t work. Well, continue, go and maintain more than other people who have lesson just pour it on them and don’t realize it. Maintain that from big piece in you and ask for friends to pray for you, to pray with you. Have friends talk. It’s important.
Question:I have a spiritual son who’s doing drugs and I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying about acceptance and trust and then wondering how I can accept this behavior and trust him when he walks out the door at night.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:No, not that kind of acceptance because it’s not good for him, that acceptance. When I say acceptance, it’s acceptance of God’s will for us which includes grief and that kind of happenings which I accept it all but it doesn’t mean that you have to accept that kind of behavior. You accept the fact that for some reason instead of saying, no, why do you send me that, why do you do that, you say, yes, Lord, I will do my best. Then, you sometimes you kick that miserable person if necessary. The acceptance is more of the acceptance of the will of God, thy will be done by the will of God is not for the child to kick and to slam the door and do that sort of thing. To accept your own life without recriminations with knowing that you can and should and must go on and on.
It’s extremely difficult, those parts but mainly never lose yourself in it. From that point of view. Not necessarily always defending my rights, etcetera, but in that respect. To maintain in you, in yourself and sort of persons of hope no matter what, of continuous prayer no matter what, of thanks no matter what, any added to that in spite of everything, hallelujah to life. Don’t ever lose that. Through thick and thin, whatever happens, death, accidents, dreadful things but hallelujah to life.
Question:Yesterday was the March for Life in Washington.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:Yes.
Question:She was there and she’s just trying to put her feelings together with what you said today.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:I’ve been personally in contact with two very close people who had abortions. I do not under any circumstances, any possible explanations, excuses, etcetera, find a word or even a momentous thought of condoning or excusing abortion. I think that the fact that you went with the march you probably felt the same way. You will be told, one will be told that there are some cases when it’s this and that, whatever. No, this is maybe why I started and made such a big point and hoping about life giving because if a woman kills instead of give life then she’s not a human being. There is no possible excuse, no possible reason, no possible, and this is just widely accepted now. It needs a march and its threshold week of I don’t know, and even so. Every state one after the other allows it and justifies it, etcetera.
This is why what I’m saying about life giving and about our attitude is so important and why not only motherhood is the highest calling but if you find yourself in a job or not necessarily being a biological mother at all with children but it is one of the things that we should feel like going on a mission or a war for defending or for explaining and the only way to explain and to defend total now acceptance of abortion or any kind of tampering with giving life is precisely because then what we remains of the way the world was made, what remains of the woman who has the talent and then all of a sudden she use it for what…
Question:Shouldn’t we be going on a march or a war against parents who abuse their children physically, sexually. They murder their children. It’s a terrible situation and getting worse. Excuses people say, “Oh this always went on.” I don’t believe that went on when I was a child.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:I don’t either, by the way. I agree with you. I might be wrong but I think the amount of abused children and the amount of neglect that it needs and receives is due to the fact that precisely, ‘well, you see, they’re excused because they were raped in their childhood, they were abused etcetera,’ all that is fine and dandy but nevertheless nothing less than active participation on our part in any kind of propaganda for these children and against the parents who abuse their children.
Sometimes what we read in the papers, has it always been like that? I don’t know. I think that in more so-called ‘primitive societies’ there was more respect for children. It comes with a surplus of civilization. We are so civilized so we’ve become. We have abortion. We have this. We have that. We have all this things and abused children just go as a packaged plan to go with it because we are overly civilized, precisely. We forgot contact with nature. We forgot contact with life, precisely, yes, absolutely.
Question:We’ve heard a lot about the negativism of society just in the past hour and the difficulties and this terrible war. How a child can learn from society verses our orthodox Christian perspective, which is so directly in acquisition with our society yet I find myself pondering this on a daily basis, which is better? Is it better to remain strong in your faith and continue to face the adversities risking that you may eventually lose that war with your children or your family or yourself or do we retreat to some extent?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:Retreat in what sense?
Question:Retreat in the word of not participating so much in the world, not exposing oneself, one’s children, to things that could eventually become tempting to them or do we teach them from early on up this is what the world is?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:Stay away.
Question:This is how we see them in it?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:I know what you mean. This is a very difficult question. Do we just retreat in a little cocoon that we protect? We have home schooling. We just keep on building big walls or do we continue? I personally, but that’s a very personal thing, the choice to make. I don’t blame people.
I know many families who have home schooling and who do that, who go away who want to protect the children. Quite frankly I think that our duty is we live the world. We’re responsible for it. We can’t say, ‘Oh we are the orthodox. We know it all. We have the truth. The others, too bad, let them just perish the way they want.’ I personally believe very much, maybe because of my personal career.
I was a teacher and then a head of a big school, which had no church connection whatsoever. A very New York, liberal, wealthy so that they make life easier etcetera, so all my life I fought with this. I believe very firmly in my own way of life until now that one should and one has some civic obligation, a beginning.
We’re voting and the rest of it, the schools, but sometimes those who decide to, I can understand that, isolate. Because first of all, what’s important I think and that’s again what I personally think. I think that society is not so bad, at all, and that women for instance by and large are wonderful talented people who actually now with this new way for the women of working on their talents, of using their talents, they are showing how wonderful they are, how precious they are to society.
I think that women who participate actually in whatever by the jobs if they have to or at home in society these new trends of realizing your worth, not just existing, it’s a good thing. Why abandon them to their fate? One can live in a world and make the most of it. Others will choose to get away but I think that there are many good things to be found in society.
For instance there was a time that on the spur of the moment you would go to war and kill, kill, kill. Now the war is being questioned. Should we kill or should there be another way? All of Europe is unifying with bad things also in their minds.
But nevertheless the Euro, Franc, the this and that, so there is unity. It becomes varied between the United Nations. All these things are new things of society now, so I want to give you hope that it’s not such a bad society and it’s not a bad time to live. If you choose to be active and fight, go.
I think that children actually, they like to be heroes. For instance I know that children not all of them, but in general, they are in school and its lent and they are fasting, and I know of children who are very proud and the others actually somehow becomes envious because it becomes something special. It’s a Davey Crockett type of thing.
Children like that and being a hero for one’s faith, of one’s traditions, of your own house, what you do what you don’t, for a child for instance, for a boy to refuse to go to football practice because it’s usually football practice is always scheduled at the time when we have our Sunday liturgy.
They don’t need everything that they are offered, given by TV. They don’t need it. I remember once I had a discussion with some seniors in my school about capital punishment and they would say ‘Oh, capital punishment of course it will cost less.’ Our world has come to the stage where you justify abortion because there will be less child abuse.
Question:It seems that we have all this problems in society with the abortion and child abuse I think that one of the strengths that motherhood calls upon is actually fatherhood and without a good father figure then motherhood is not able to bloom. I think talking about motherhood maybe you want to just mention a little about that alone.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:About fatherhood?
Question:Yeah, I think that you can’t talk about one without the other because without the father we have mothers who are married who have abortions because there is no one there to support the responsibilities. Without a good father figure there to stop a stressed out woman from abusing her child, [inaudible] we have child abuse. It is a very significant role that fathers plays and they are not playing today their roles and legally are getting away with creating babies and walking away and I think this is a problem in society.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:Definitely. You are right but you can’t put it all on the mother. Abortion and child abuse and all of this, obviously, but when you say father it already means that there is a father and a mother, and usually when one mentions abortion and child abuse etcetera, it means that there is no family.
What you are talking about is sort of the rebirth of a family because if there is a father and if the father is responsible then in all probability there won’t be an abortion, maybe, or at least there will be something normal.
Fatherhood definitely but that would be a whole new Mother Alexandre lecture for fatherhood because indeed it’s a lost thing. What I consider, what I was talking about today and what I consider the ultimate catastrophe, is still the woman who kills that particular talent.
Maybe it’s because the father doesn’t do what he should do or does it much too much etcetera. That is certainly responsibility. I agree with the fact that fathers are to blame, but nevertheless, no absence of father or about father or insufficient care of the father could or should be an excuse for abortion. Whereas neglect of children it goes obviously for both, for the absence of family.
Question:As you were talking about motherhood and you were saying specifically about spirituality and how important it is that as mothers one of our most important roles is to teach our children spiritually in the home. I am thinking of Saint Sophia and her three daughters and I’m just wondering myself what kind of mother it must have been for her to be able to teach her children so that they are so strong in faith that they all gave up their lives for Christ and Saint [inaudible] is my patron saint, but I’m even relating to her mother even more because I was just curious as more specific things from you maybe or from other mothers in here we at home we do our morning and our evening prayers.
We do these and then we go to church and I am just thinking specifically more things maybe that other mothers in here could share or that you could share that we could do to help in our homes give that kind of devotion and love for Christ, that perfect atomosphere… do you have any ideas?
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:The idea is it’s a whole way of life. There are some practical ways one could have. In order to create that atmosphere, in order to create that … To have in your house hold, you say you have a morning and an evening prayer, to create for the children to let them be acquainted with saints, my Saint Juliana I recommend to everyone.
She is such a precious and an enormous source of precisely that. Again she never taught anybody anything, but she had nine children, but she was and what remains of her life and what we know of her life and it was the fact and actually in one of her toparion or one of her hymns it says ‘in spite of the fact that she was married, she became a saint, which I don’t go with that at all.
Nevertheless, that was an ancient way of expressing which was so used to martyrs and monks and nuns period. She and Saint Sophia are aware, so find those sayings and make them like a household presence. You are asking an impossible question. How does one in the home achieve whatever … It has to be achieved to make them more, etcetera …
Well maybe the best way I could find at this point to answer you is this. Make church feasts, fasting, celebration, mainly celebration, which I would put over fasting for the children, more importantly. Celebrate a holy week by fasting, but celebrate it. Make that a household item. You have in your house this and that and all the things, and then comes Sunday and you go to church and then you come home and continue life.
Whereas your inner peace to begin with and all the things of life can become just the usual, not necessarily at the time of prayer, but always. A meal is a celebration. Not just because you pray before and after but because you are together. It’s not ever separating what is sacred and spiritual from what is daily life. It’s making it the same. The daily life for the children especially is sacred and is joyful and is respectful. It’s the only way and the gospel and the saints and the icons and you cross them when you go to bed and all that, it’s life. It’s part of life; it’s part of what it is.
The danger sometimes in a house, in a family, is to separate the two. Whereas really, there is such incredible riches in the pace of our church. In the feast, the preparation for the fest, the after feast, and there is so much there that if it’s part of our life it’s, I was going to say it’s fun, and it is. It’s enjoyable, it’s joyous, it gives joy. And then each family finds his or her own way. It depends. Sometimes it’s the oldest child, sometimes it’s the grandmother, sometimes it’s the father, sometimes it’s a friend who brings that.
Question:How can we help our children to overcome the fear of speaking the truth? Like confront a certain bad situation that they got themselves into. How can we help our children to own up and speak the truth? In other words how we can help them take away their fear.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann:I will tell you what I think. The most awful thing for children is guilt. The whole guilt thing, which we abuse, is our way of abusing children, which is very subtle.
Guilt is not healthy and it will not help them to stop lying, the guilt trips. Instead of guilt, forgiveness that is giving even if you don’t stop lying and that in my book I make it very simple, I know. Much simpler than it is in reality but I think that if a child knows that he or she is already forgiven, he might still lie but it will be very unpleasant for him to lie.
Rather than cover him with guilt, ‘you are guilty.’ I was told when I was a child that the ‘the Lord sees you wherever you are.’ I remember quite well, age three, hiding in a corner and doing like this saying, ‘the Lord can’t see me now.’ I wasn’t even lying.
That’s the sort of attitude, ‘the Lord is there. He knows what you’re doing’ is not helping, is not really helping. Thank you.