St Nonna

Wife of St Gregory of Nanzianzen, mother of St Gregory the Theologian

A Pious mother, worthy to be emulated by Christian Women in the World

August 5

"You know the woman by the house she makes. Some homes have always a somber air. Some people's religion seems to make them severe and ungentle. But that is not the Christian way. The religion which the word of Christ inspires is sunny and songful." Royal Martyr Empress Alexandra

St. Nonna is one of the saints in the Prologue for August 5. From the Prologue: "The mother of St. Gregory the Theologian, she was a Christian and a mighty wonderworker through prayer. By her prayers, she brought her husband back from the folly of idolatry to the Christian faith, and he later became bishop of the city of Nazianzus. By her prayers, St. Nonna also saved her son, Gregory the Theologian, from a storm. She entered peacefully into rest as a deaconess in 374." ...

Blessed Nonna, mother of St. Gregory the Theologian, was the daughter of good Christians, and her parents raised her according to pious Christian principles.

But then came misfortune: her parents married her to a pagan. How terribly bitter it was for her, an ardent Christian, to see her husband honoring dumb beasts and bowing down to flame and lamps. What must it have been like for her when they prayed, she praying to God and her husband carrying out his pagan rites - simply appalling. But it was only appalling at the beginning.

Nonna was a women of great wisdom and strong character, she soon found the solution to her problem - turning a bad husband into a good, and a pagan into a model of Christian piety.

How did she do this? Nonna prayed to God day and night. With fasting and tears she asked Him to grant salvation to her head, her husband, whom she untiringly worked on, using every means available to bring him around - reproof, persuasion, help of various kinds... and most of all by her life and the flaming ardor of her piety, the most powerful agent of softening and turning the heart, making its beneficiary willingly turn toward the benefactor.

She had to work with the patience of water wearing down a stone drop by drop in the course of time; and in the passage of time she was successful. She expected this not with the ardor of youth but with persistent strength of faith. In her knowledge of God's bountiful love she trusted in her expectation more confidently than others trust in tangible objects.

Her husband's mind slowly began to heal, and the Lord began to draw him to Himself, even in dream visions. Once it seemed to Nonna's husband that he was singing this verse of David's: I was glad because of them that said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord (Psalm 121:1). The singing filled his heart with sweetness and, arising in joy, he told his wife of the vision. She understood that God Himself was calling her husband to His Holy Church and started to teach him the Christian Faith even more energetically, leading him on the path to salvation.

At that time St. Leontius, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, stopped in Nazianzen on his way to Nicaea. Blessed Nonna brought her husband to him and Gregory was baptized by the hands of the saint. After receiving Holy Baptism he led such a righteous and God-pleasing life that he was later selected as bishop of that same city of Nazianzen (Monthly Readings, Jan. 25).

From the book The Orthodox Christian Family, a collection of sermons, thoughts, stories and poems. Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, 1958. (Translated by Paula Lahdemaki and Christopher Gait for The Orthodox Family.)

On a Mother's Prayers

St. Nonna was herself the mother of a saint, Gregory the Theologian.

The following quote on motherhood is from the Spiritual Journal of Royal Martyr Empress Alexandra (Orthodox Word, Jan-Feb 1993),also a saint and the mother of saints:

"No work any man can do for Christ is more important than what he can and should do in his own home. Men have their part - a serious and important part - yet the mother is the real homemaker. It is her sweet life that gives the home its atmosphere. It is through her love that God comes first to her children.

The rabbis used to say: 'God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers.' The thought is very beautiful.

Mother-love is God's love revealed in an incarnation which comes so close to the life of infancy that it wraps it about in divine tenderness and broods over it in divine yearning. Some good mothers live for their children most devotedly, but think only of, or chiefly of, earthly things. They watch over them tenderly in sickness. They toil and deny themselves in order to have their children clothed in a fitting way. They begin very early to teach them little lessons, and cease not to train their minds in order to fit them to shine in the world.

But they do not give such thought to their children's spiritual education. They do not teach them about the Will of God. There are homes in which children grow up without ever hearing a prayer from their fathers or mothers, or receiving any instruction whatever concerning spiritual matters.

On the other hand, there are homes where the fires always burn brightly on the altar, where loving words are spoken continuously for Christ, where children are taught in their earliest years that God loves them, and where they learn to pray with their first lispings. Far down into the years the memory of these holy moments will abide, proving a light in darkness, an inspiration in discouragement, a secret of victory in hard struggle, an angel of God to keep from sin in fierce temptation."

All from a post to Orthodox Christianity, Date: Thu, 18 Aug 1994

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