While we are still thinking about mothers and Mother’s Day, having just looked together at the Theotokos as Mother, it seems apropos to take a look at one of the Akathist hymns, The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children.
The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children is a prayer for children which should be prayed by mothers to the Mother of God. (Simple word changes can make it a prayer fathers can pray for their children, or that parents can pray together for their children.) My husband and I pray a part of this Akathist together every evening until we’ve prayed the whole thing and begin again, and I pray the entire hymn several times a week as I am able. The more times I pray this prayer, the more I ask the Theotokos for help, the more I realize how carefully she cares for my children, for me, for the Church, for all of us. I also realize how much we all need her intercessions. Glory to God for providing a Mother for us all!
The hymn begins with this kontakion:
Victorious Leader and Good Nurturer of the Christian race, we Thy servants, delivered from evil, sing out grateful thanks to Thee. But as Thou hast invincible might deliver my children from all dangers that with tears I may cry to Thee: Raise my children (names), to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and make them heirs of eternal blessings.
Let’s ponder what this part of the hymn says, phrase by phrase. The Theotokos is truly a victorious leader! She has set the example to us all of how to live one’s entire life in submission to God, as she was victorious over her own passions. She leads us humbly, by her own example. She nurtures us by providing sustenance to us all in the form of her Son, Jesus Christ, and also by her intercessions on our behalf. Because of her willingness to become His Mother, we are all delivered from evil and therefore it is appropriate for us to thank her. She truly does have invincible might – she has the ability to pray without interruption, to pray perfectly, directly before Our Lord Himself, and therefore she is the perfect person to ask to pray for our children’s deliverance from all dangers! Who better is there for us to ask to raise our children – both physically and spiritually, as she raises them in prayer to Christ Himself – than the Theotokos? She knows what they need in order to be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. She knows how to ask that they become heirs of blessings that last forever. She is truly our best ally in prayer for our children!
The hymn continues with this ikos:
Intercede with Thy Son and God, O most Holy One, that an angel from heaven be sent to my children, just as to Thee was sent a most mighty protector, the Archangel Gabriel; and vouchsafe me to cry to Thee thus:
Raise my children to be earthly angels.
Raise my children to be heavenly men.
Raise my children to be Thy servants.
Raise my children to cry out to Thee:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord with Thee!”
Raise my children (names), O Lady,
to be made worthy of the Kingdom Of Heaven
and make them heirs of eternal blessings.
This part of the hymn not only asks that the Theotokos pray that God will grant spiritual protection to our children, but also that they will act on that protection. It asks her to pray that an earthly change takes place in our children, so that they live not just “protected” spiritual lives, but physical lives in which their very bodies reflect the protection that God is granting them. It asks her to pray that our children live in a way that shows the world that they belong to God; that their lives be full of praise to God; and that their lives be directed towards the Kingdom of Heaven and towards blessings that are of true value.
The hymn goes on with 11 other kontakia and ikoi. Each is unique and focuses on a different theme important to the Theotokos and her intercession for our children. Each verse asks the Theotokos to take our children under her protection, to ask her Son to enlighten their lives, to raise them to live the Beatitudes, to travel with them throughout their earthly life, to unceasingly pray for them, etc. We will not look at all of them in depth, here, now. Rather, as we pray the Akathist, let us study each verse as we have time, and really think about what we are praying!
I especially love Kontakion 13. Repeating it three times helps me to focus on what I am saying, and gives me the opportunity to pay attention to what I might otherwise have missed. If you have no time in your schedule to pray the entire akathist, at least consider praying this kontakion for your children. It summarizes the rest of the prayer well, and succinctly puts our desire for our children’s salvation into the Theotokos’ capable hands:
O All Hymned Mother of our Sweetest Jesus! Accept this small hymn of supplication for my children as a sweet fragrance and take them under Thy compassionate protection. Grant them to think, know, hear, say and do, only that which brings them close to Thee and Thy Son, and helps them attain eternal salvation. And send them in this present life all that is profitable for the salvation of their souls, that they may cry to God: Alleluia.
The older my children become and the less I can physically do for them, the more I realize how much I need to pray for them. I wish that I had begun praying this prayer much sooner, asking the Theotokos to mother my children. After all, she is the best mother that ever was! And my children have needed her prayers from Day 1. (Mind you, she has been praying for my children since Day 1! But praying this prayer reminds ME of that fact.) Every part of this hymn speaks to a need in our children’s lives, and the Theotokos knows how to perfectly pray for those needs. I am so grateful to her for her intercessions for my children and for all Christians, and so glad for this way to participate in that intercession.
Most Holy Theotokos, intercede for our salvation! Amen.
Find the Akathist at http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/nuturerofchildren.htm so that you can pray it for your children, as well!
Here are additional links about the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children:
Find a printable copy of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, set as a service to be prayed in church, here: http://www.stgabrielashland.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Akathist-to-the-Mother-of-God.pdf.
Buy the booklet The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/akathist-to-the-mother-of-god-nurturer-of-children/
Listen to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green’s reading of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frederica/akathist_to_the_mother_of_god_nurturer_of_children
Purchase a cd copy of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/cd-akathist-to-mother-of-god-nurturer-of-children/
“About nine years ago, a group of mothers in my parish discovered an Akathist to the Mother of God, called “Nurturer of Children.” We banded together to pray these prayers and were greatly comforted and encouraged. While spontaneous prayer from the heart is always blessed as well, the supplications of the Church are particularly good for verbalizing exactly what it is we need for our salvation.” Read these words by Virginia Nieuwsma, and more on her take of the Akathist, here: http://pemptousia.com/2012/07/praying-the-akathist-for-our-children/.