“How are you feeling,” I asked the new mother.
“Just… very much in love,” she replied.
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
One of the greatest blessings I have as a parish priest is being near a family when they have just welcomed a new member into it. When a child is born, life changes completely for the baby’s immediate family and everyone around them: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, even neighbors and friends! Absolutely everything changes. There is a newness, a rebirth, a beautiful new beginning, a different context to one’s story. We not only love the new baby, but we are in love with the new baby.
Because of our infatuation and being in love with the new member of the family, we do everything we can for the new child. We clothe the baby, change the baby, prepare a new room of the house, change our schedule, and we give the baby the best, most nourishing food we can possibly give it. It would make little sense to begin feeding the child when they are old enough to speak, even less to clothe the child when they are able to pick out an outfit when they can decide what they themselves like or dislike. The care for the child begins from even before it is born, and it is immediate and all-encompassing.
In the same way, as Orthodox Christians we do not wait to give our children spiritual care or nourishment when they grow older, but from right away! The Prophet Jeremiah asserts that God has told him, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (1:5) The Psalmist says, “From my mother’s womb, you have been my God.” (22:10) A mother brings her new baby to the church forty days after giving birth that both may receive a blessing, and infants are baptized shortly after to begin receiving Holy Communion, the ultimate spiritual food! Truly, our tradition, going back to Biblical times, has affirmed that every step is taken to begin the care of the child’s soul and body right from the moment of conception.
On February 2, we commemorate the great feast of the Lord’s Presentation into the temple, in which His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, brought the baby Jesus forty days after His birth in order to fulfill the Mosaic Law, as recorded by the Apostle Luke. The spiritual care displayed by Jesus’ parents began early on in His life because of their love for Him, and we continue this tradition by doing the same for our children out of our love for them. Yes, this month we do celebrate a holiday often associated with romantic love in Valentine’s Day, but we also celebrate another beautiful feast of love in our Church on February 2. In doing so, we affirm that we love our children from even before they emerge from the womb, doing everything we can for them, both their little body and their little soul.
May we continue to endeavor to love God in such a way as He loves us, and spares nothing for us and our physical and spiritual care as human beings. Amen!
With love in Christ,
Fr. Nikolaos Bekris,