The Priest as Father and Mother

Venerable Paul of Thebes

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


[Saint John Chrysostom]

I am not worthy, O Master and Lord, that you should come under the roof of my soul: yet, since You, in Your love toward man, wish to dwell in me, with boldness I draw near. You command; I will open the gates which You alone have fashioned; and You may enter with love toward man, as in Your nature; You may enter and enlighten my darkened nous. I believe that You will do this: for You did not shun the harlot who came to you with tears, nor cast out the publican who repented, nor send away the thief  who acknowledged Your Kingdom, nor forsake the repentant persecutor as he was, but all those who had been brought to You by repentance, You counted in the assembly of Your friends, O You, Who alone are blessed forever, now and unto the endless ages. Amen.



On January 15th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preacher, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Paul of Thebes; Saint John, who became poor for Christ's sake, and is also called the Hut-dweller; Holy Martyr Pansophius of Alexandria; Holy six Fathers reposed in peace; our Father among the Saints Maximus, Bishop of Nola; our righteous Mother Ita (Ida), Patroness of Killeedy, Limerick; our righteous Father Gabriel of Lesnovo in Bulgaria; Our righteous Father Prochoros of Pshina in Bulgaria.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Bishops, O Christ our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

OUR HOLY FATHER JOHN KALYVITES (THE HUT-DWELLER). Saint John was born in Constantinople in the early part of the 5th century, of rich and eminent parents whose only child he was. Drawn by inclination to the spiritual life, the young John fled with a monk to a monastery in Asia Minor. He spent six years in this Monastery in the greatest restraint, prayer and obedience to the Egoumenos (Abbot). Then the devil attacked him with the temptation to leave the monastery and return to his parents, to live with them as a nobleman. He indeed returned to his parent's home, but dressed as a beggar. He saw his parents, but, not wishing to reveal himself to them as their son, remained as a beggar in their courtyard, living off the crumbs that the servants threw him and enduring much ridicule from all. He lived thus for three years, praying to God that He would save the souls of his father and mother. When he fell ill and felt death approaching, he revealed himself to his parents. They recognized him by a precious Gospel-book which they had given him in childhood and which he had kept with him as his sole possession. And so this young man, albeit so rich, saved his soul and those of his parents, overcame the devil and entered into rest in the Lord in about the year 450 A.D.



"Never think that God does not hear you when you pray to Him. He hears our thoughts as we hear one another's voices and words. And if He does not act at once in response to your prayer, that is either because your prayer was unworthy, or you were seeking something that would be dangerous for you, or, again because He, by His wisdom and Providence, delays the fulfilling of your request until the right moment. Saint John Kronstadt writes: 'As we are able to communicate quickly by means of the electric telegraph with people far away from us, so, through a living faith, as through such a telegraph, we are quickly in contact with God, the Angels and the Saints. Send your requests to God and the Saints by the telegraph of faith, and you will immediately get an answer.' And again, in another place: 'God and His created souls and spirits, the living and the dead, are thinking beings, and thought is swift and somehow omnipresent. Think about them with your whole heart, and they will be present with you. God will ever be with you, and, by His gift and power, the others will be also.' (The Prologue from Ochrid)


Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 12:32-40


Abba (Father) Xanthias said, 'The thief was on the cross and he was justified by a single word; and Judas who was counted in the number of the Apostles lost all his labor in one single night and descended from heaven to hell. Therefore, let no-one boast of his good works, for all those who trust in themselves fall.'

by His Eminence, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

The concept of the priest as father is found throughout Holy Scripture and the works of the holy Fathers. I could add that the notion of 'father' is bound up with that of 'mother'. The spiritual father's behavior towards his spiritual children should have elements of both fatherhood and motherhood, and express both.

The term 'father' is the hypostatic characteristic of the first Person of the Holy Trinity, Who begot the Son before all ages and sends out the Holy Spirit. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Father's Son by nature, and indeed He was obedient to the Father, and became man also by His own will, in order to save the human race. However, since Christ is the Son with Whom the Father was well pleased, according to the Father's voice, "This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased" (St. Matthew 3:17), He too became a father to Christians who have been reborn through Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation. In any case, the energy of the Triune God is shared in common by all the Persons. Notwithstanding the hypostatic characteristics of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Trinity's outward energy is shared. This means that the creation and recreation of the world and man is the outcome of the shared energy of the Triune God.

Saint Gregory Palamas speaks in one of his homilies about Christ becoming our father through Holy Baptism, whereas through Holy Communion He becomes our bridegroom. Of the fatherhood of Christ he writes: "But He also became our Father through Holy Baptism in His name" (Homily 56, Vol.11, Ellines Pateres tis Ekklisias). When He taught the people, Christ reminded them of the concept of the Father who loves human beings and is concerned about them. He taught us in the Lord's Prayer to address God as Father: "Our Father, which art in heaven..." (St. Matt. 6:9). He urged us to be merciful as our Father is merciful: "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (St. Luke 6:36). He revealed to us that the heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air (St. Matt. 6:26), as He directs the world through His uncreated energies, and also that "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (St. Matt. 6:32). The image of the father who is concerned for his children is well suited to God, Who cares for, and takes an interest in, the children whom He created and recreated. Man is not on his own on earth; he is not a victim of fate.

In Holy Scripture and the Patristic texts God is presented as both father and mother.

We are familiar with the fact that in many texts the term 'Father' is applied to God. However, in the Song of Songs in the Old Testament the image of mother is used for God. It says: "My mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards." (S. of S. 1:6). Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in his commentary on this passage, says that here the image of the mother is applied to God, Who created the world. His actual words are: "There is one cause of all beings, like a mother to them all. Therefore all intelligible beings are brothers one to another" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Works, Vol. 7). In other words, all beings have a single cause, God, as their mother, and so all intelligible beings are brothers.

From everything written by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, it is obvious that there is no distinction between male and female in God. There is no gender in God, since this is an attribute of created human beings, but names such as Father or Mother are human images applied to God by men, corresponding to those energies of God in which they share.

When we speak about God we also speak about His energies, His love. His peace, His Righteousness. His longsuffering and so on. The Divine vision of the Three Lights and the deified (theosis) person beholds, and the communion that he feels with God, are conveyed in his teaching by using various images from created reality. Saint Gregory Palamas refers in one of his homilies to the Church nourishing us, as a loving mother feeds her nursing child, with her two breasts: Baptism and Holy Communion.

Christ's motherly love for human beings is obvious from His words shortly before delivering Himself up to martyrdom: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (St. Matt. 23:37). Whereas the image of the father is used to represent steadfast protection, the image of the mother represents God's affection, concern, tenderness and love for man.

The Holy Apostles are conscious of both fatherhood and motherhood. The Holy Apostle Paul, for instance, wrote to the Christians in Thessaloniki: "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His Kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:10-12). It is clear from this passage that the Holy Apostle Paul felt himself to be the Christians' spiritual father, who had begotten them in Christ. It is also apparent that this spiritual relationship has material elements, hence the reference to exhorting and comforting. This quotation is linked with the preceding passage, where the holy Apostle says: "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" (1 Thess. 2:7). Moreover, this relationship is shown to be pure, free from any symptoms of fallen man, the so-called garments of skin, which is why the holy Apostle says "holily and justly and unblameably."

The well-known passage in the Holy Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Galatians is characteristic of his attitude: "My children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). The Holy Apostle's motherhood is more obvious here, as he is in labor and about to give birth to his spiritual children. This birth is very closely linked with the formation of Christ in Christians, which is the same as man's deification (theosis). Acquiring the form of Christ is equivalent to making our likeness to God a reality, which corresponds to deification in patristic terminology. The concept of spiritual childbirth is connected with man's regeneration, which is not something static or magical, but dynamic and sacramental. It is a matter of man's continuous ascent from the sensual and psychological level to the spiritual and theological level.

Please note: The daily emails that I send to all of you, both within as well as without the parish, is an outreach and an effort to enrich your knowledge and strengthen your faith in Christ. Also, to prove to you that Our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith and Church is much, much, more than what you may think you know about it. For many it is enough just to grow up in the faith and to attend the divine services from time to time. Others may desire to learn more but they just don't have the time as they say. So, I have taken it upon myself to instruct you through email hoping at least that you will appreciate my effort and too, to take the time to read it and learn something more about our Holy Church and make your faith in Christ  a living faith!

No other Christian Church or tradition has the spiritual wealth that our Holy Orthodox Church possesses. What I am exposing you to is not even a crumb of what exists within our Christian Holy Tradition. Therefore put away your ego and pride and become a humble Christian and admit that your knowledge of the Faith is very little.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George