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Raising children in faith

When parents at the time of Christ brought their children to Him for a
blessing, the disciples rebuked them. However, our Lord commanded
them, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for
of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them
(Matthew 19:1315). Christ did not dismiss the children because of
their youth and inexperience; instead, He brought them close and
gave them His blessing.
Children are the greatest blessing in life and indeed are a gift from
God. Everything about a little child speaks of his innocence and trust.
Their innocent spirit inspires us as parents to live a life that honours
their trust. Children love with their whole heart, a love that inspires us
to see Gods unconditional love. And little children believe completely
in their parents ability to protect them, which inspires us to live a life
that provides the direction and security required for their healthy
growth and maturity.

A childs very nature provides a context in which parents are inspired


to provide the best possible life experiences for them. A natural
synergy develops in the parent-child relationship. As the parent loves
and provides for the child, the child returns that love and motivates
parents to do their best in representing Gods love in the context of this
intimate human experience. *

Living a life n Christ in the family


Parents are for the child the first door to the Kingdom of God. By
living a life that is pleased to God they provide the first example of
Gods love and care. Setting a right foundation, then, is the first
priority of the parent for the child. When an infant has such a
beginning in life, there is little that can change his belief later as he
grows up to become an adult himself.
Parents have a aim to provide an atmosphere of grace in the home to
surround the child that is born into the family. The family is the soil
into which the soul of the child is planted and out of which the childs
character develops. Therefore, it is critical that the home environment
reflect the sanctity of life that God has placed within its walls. The
family should strive to be that image of godliness that will preserve the
holiness that is intended to be its identity.

Surrounding the child with the Holy Sacraments and sacred images, a regular
life in the Church, and strengthening the good in the child are what instill this life
of grace. A life style or ethos in this type of atmosphere imparts its grace to all
who witness it. A child has the advantage of becoming a true witness to the love
and holiness of God. *

There is a mysterious way that children have communion with Christ


and learn from Him. Their capacity for spirituality is grounded in this
very communion that they have with Christ the Lord and they are more
sensitive to the Holy Spirit than most adults, the purity and innocence of
their hearts makes them receptive to the Grace of God.

Educating our children means that we must be educated in the Faith ourselves.
We should immerse ourselves in the life of the Church, worship and pray in as
many of the Divine Services as possible, attend adult education classes, read
the Holy Scripture, and consult the commentaries and sermons on the Scripture
by the Holy Fathers.

A child is baptized into life in Christ. The child becomes a child of God, a member
of the Body of Christ, and an heir of eternal life Or do you not know that as many
of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus, says St. Paul, we also should walk in
newness of life. (Romans 6:34)
This newness of life is what we all participate in through baptism. Children
participate differently than adults, but no less authentically. Learning to pray, to
read the Bible, to understand their inheritance, to walk in the way of the Lord,
eating and drinking of the Eucharist, being trained in righteousness - this is
walking in newness of life and they also receive the benefits of that life - the
Grace, the forgiveness, the Fatherhood of God, the nourishment of the Body and
Blood of Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The godparent the parents choose is responsible for the spiritual and moral
growth of the child and their responsibilities should continue for a lifetime.
There are many ways to maintaining and strenghten a relationship with your
Godchild such a celebrating the anniversary of the baptism, receiving Holy
Communion together.
Along with learning about the childs patron saint, learn about the saint whose
feast day is celebrated on the date of his or her baptism and share the story of
that saints life with the Godchild.
They should remember
their Godchildren on their
name days, birthdays and
other special times n their
lives. All this should be
accompanied by loving
counsel and concern in
reference to the various
stages of their lives with a
view to the Christian
formation of the Godchild.

Celebrating the name day of the children with a celebration that will make them
feel special and will honour their patron saint. This will help connect the child
with his own baptism and the continuing life and intercession of the heavenly
patron. On this day children could attend the divine service at Church and join in
the veneration of his patron saint. At the family icon corner we could have an
icon of the childs patron Saint alongside the icons of the parents patron Saints.

The guardian angel is a heavenly companion to our child, they are are always
surrounding him and even if they are not seen they are present. Every child
has a guardian angel entrusted by the Lord from baptism to watch over him/
her, offer protection and guide our child to Christ.

We can read to our children the bible stories and a good story to start with is the
birth of the baby Jesus, the Nativity story. The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus is one
of the most joyful days of the Orthodox Church. And so from the very beginning,
our child will understand the true meaning of Christmas and that is not just about
receiving presents. On Christmas Day the service commemorates the birth of
Christ in Bethlehem, the adoration of the Shepherds, and the arrival of the Wise
Men with their gifts.
Children love the stories of some of the heroes, such as Samuel, David and
Goliath. These make great bedtime stories and by reading to the children, they not
only learn about Holy Scriptures, but they also learn to love books and reading.

In the home, we could set up a family altar or icon corner and pray together as a
family every day, at least in the morning and/ or evening.

Our own spiritual life is an important role model to our children. If the children
see that God and the Church is an important part of our life, this will make a
great impact as children grow older and one day, accept this faith as their own.

The Church of Christ


The aim of education in the Orthodox Church is to nurture, instruct, and direct
the children in christian living, so that they may grow in the grace and
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and become a
partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
Christian education it is not so much acquisition of information but also living
according to the precepts of that information. The knowledge of faith also
involves being able to appreciate its content, to consider how it influences our
life, to participate in it, and to respond to its call of commitment to faith in
Jesus Christ and His Church.
The purpose of our Sunday School is to teach our children how to live their
Orthodox faith. By teaching them about the life of Christ we give them the
foundation to live christian lives, to go into the world and do good works. As
teachers and educators we should recognise the image of God n each child
and discover and honour their personalities to help each child to recognise his
role as a member of the Church.

How children learn?


Playing allows children to find out about things, try out and practise ideas and
skills, explore their feelings, think imaginatively. Playing is an important centre
of learning for young children. At the rear of church there is an extensive
children and parents area. Here the children can find toys, games, a range of
books, and lots of paper, colouring things and other great activities. The area is
there for children and parents to use during the services.

Being with other people


- As well as developing
emotional security and
social skills, being with
other people - other
children and adults stimulates ideas and
involvement that move
learning forward.
Participation to Divine
Liturgy, reciting the Creed
and Lord's prayer and
also receiving the Holy
Communion are excellent
ways of being together
with Jesus and the
communion of His Saints.

Being active - Young children need to


move, and learn and remember things
by taking experiences in through the
senses as they move.
Children are encouraged to actively be
involved in the service by holding the
candles during the reading from the Holy
Gospel, participate in the procession
with the altar servers, the boys can
become an altar boy assisting the priest
during services (they might carry the
cross, candles in processions and
entrances, maintain the censer, ensuring
it has enough live charcoal, loading it
with incense and handing it to the priest
or deacon when required), the girls can
join in singing with the choir.

Exploring new things and


experiences - Children's deep
curiosity leads them to use all their
senses to explore and then put the
information together in their own
minds to form ideas and make
sense of the world. The service of
the Divine Liturgy can be elaborate,
solemn, and lengthy, it is the
expression of a deep sense of joy.
In order to enhance this feeling and
to encourage full participation, the
service of Liturgy is always sung or
chanted and children are invited to
join in. Worship is not simply
expressed in words. In addition to
prayers, hymns, and scripture
readings, there are a number of
ceremonies, gestures, and
processions. Worship involve
chidren's intellect, feelings, and
senses.

Representing ideas and experiences - Children deepen their


understanding as they recreate experiences or communicate their
thinking in many different ways - in role-play or small world play, pictures,
movements, models, and talk. Participation to the Divine Liturgy and to
the church life offers our children the occasion to acquire the living
experience of Gods kingdom through communion with Jesus Christ Who
is present in his people by the Holy Spirit.
They become more and more able to represent things or events
(worship, prayer and partaking of the Holy Communion) they have
experienced in a symbolyc manner. This can be in the form of
representational thought, images and ideas that are internal or external in
the form of drawing, models, speech or symbolic play. Children
simbolically draw on and represent or re-present (which means to present
again) objects or events they have experienced. Representing
experiences and ideas is an essential way in which children can explore
ideas and feelings, thoughts and emotions.

Communicating about what they are doing with someone who responds
to their ideas - Even before they can talk in words, children are keen to share
their ideas through sounds, gesture and body language. Talk helps children to
understand what they experience. It is important that they have a chance to
express their own ideas, as well as have conversations to hear other people's
ideas, extend their thinking, and use language about learning.
Children can participate in worship through entering into it responsively. The
language of the Liturgy contains a number of dialogues in various parts of the
service that include "litanties" as for an example "Let us pray unto the Lord", in
which the priest names a petition, and the choir responses - either "Lord, have
mercy" or "Grant this, O Lord." The words of the Liturgy in these dialogues
invite us to involvement and participation and children can make this prayer
their own prayer.
There are two places in the holy Divine Liturgy where we generall say the
words, instead of singing or chanting them - the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.
The people say the Creed and the Lord's Prayer together. The challenge for
children is to make the prayer their own, so that it truly expresses their thoughts
and feelings.

Meeting physical and mental challenges - Working out what to do, trying
hard, persevering with problems, finding out and thinking for themselves are
opportunities for developing real understanding. These challenges may occur in
play, or in real-life or planned activities. Children participate in worship through
physical actions. Instructions such as "Let us bow our heads to the Lord" require
all of us to worship with our body. There are many ways children use their bodies
in worship in the holy Divine Liturgy. The most important way is when we make
the sign of the Cross. Making the sign of the Cross is one of the most profound
things a Christian can do. To make this sign of the Cross is to mark outselves, to
identify ourselves as Christians.
Practicing, repeating, applying skills - Rehearsing skills in similar tasks or
new contexts helps children to build mastery, to enjoy their own expertise, and to
consolidate what they can do. Children experience of Christ and His Church
during the Divine Liturgy and the it will go with then wherever they are, their faith
in Christ Jesus becomes a living faith and they are taking it in the society. Even
when they are at home or at school or at play children will remember that Jesus
whose presence they have experienced in partaking of the Holy Eucharist is still
within their hearts.
By regular attendance in church, children learn and notice more than we will ever
know in the short term but this knowledge and habits will become a reality and a
part of their existence in the long term.

Whenever we say to
each other, Christ is in
our midst! we need to
remember that little
children are that image
of Christ in our midst.
They are the kingdom
of heaven humbly set
before us as a witness
to Christs unconditional
love, and their
presence provides us
the inspiration to love
God as freely and
naturally as they do.

And at that time the


disciples came to Jesus,
saying, Who then is greatest
in the kingdom of heaven?
Then Jesus called a little
child to Him, set him in the
midst of them, and said,
Assuredly, I say to you,
unless you are converted
and become as little children,
you will by no means enter
the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore whoever humbles
himself as this little child is
the greatest in the kingdom
of heaven. Whoever receives
one little child like this in My
name receives Me.
(Matthew 18:15)

We should ask our


Gracious Lord God to
watch over our beloved
children, as well as we
turn to the Mother of God
the Most Holy Theotokos
to as well pray for our
children. The Mother of
God hears our prayers
and shall indeed take our
prayers to the Throne of
Our Lord God on our
humble behalf.

(Akathist to the Mother of God,


Nurturer of Children
Compiled By Archimandrite Nektarios
Serfes)
Ikos 6
With rays of grace teach my children so
that enlightened by Thee on high they
may see they path leading to life eternal
and follow on it, nourished beneath
Thine all-powerful protection in the
Church of Thy Son where there is
unending light. For the sake of this, hear
me who dost cry to Thee thus:
Raise my children to be the light of the
world, that their light may shine before
men, and that seeing their good deeds,
men will glorify their Father in Heaven.
Raise my children to be enlightened by
Thy Son, that in His light they may see
light and direct their steps towards Him.

Raise my children always to turn


the eyes of their heart to the
Redeemer of all.
Raise my children to be guided to
the habitation of the Righteous by
the Morning Star which is Thy Son.
Raise my children to be meek and
silent and to tremble before the
word of God.
Raise my to love Thee and Thy
Son not only with their minds but
also with their Hearts.
Raise my children (names), O
Lady, to be made worthy of the
Kingdom of Heaven and make
them heirs of eternal blessings.

Children love the icons


of the Holy Theotokos,
the tender, loving
expressions of the
Mother and Child. The
Icon of the Mother of
God on the front wall
behind the holy table
has an important
message to children. It
tells them that their
purpose in life as
christians is to have
Christ come and live in
them as he came to live
n His Mother.

Orthodox Mother's Prayer for Her Children

Holy Father, Immortal, from whom all goodness and gentleness comes, penitently I pray
Thee for the children whom Thou hast given me to bear. Keep them in Thy grace and
holiness, that Thy name may be glorified in them. Direct me by Thy grace to raise them
toward the glory of Thy holy name and the benefit of other people. Grant me the gift of the
patience necessary to do so. O Lord, enlighten the mind of my children with Thy Wisdom
to learn to love Thee in their souls and thoughts. Instill in their hearts the fear and
abhorrence of every vice, that they may be able to go the right way without sin. Adorn
their souls with purity, goodness, humility, diligence, patience, and every virtue. Guard
their lips from all slander and lies. Bless my children, that they may progress in virtue and
holiness, and grow under Thy care into honest people. May their guardian angels be with
them and protect them in their youth from misleading thoughts, from the evil and sinful
temptations of this world, and from the traps of all unclean spirits. And when my children
sin before Thee, do not turn away Thy face from them, but according to Thy great mercy
be merciful unto them, for Thou alone art the one who cleansesth people from all sin.
Reward my children with worldly good things and everything they need for salvation. Keep
them from wrath, anger, misfortune, evil, and suffering all the days of their lives. O good
Lord, I pray Thee, grant me joy and happiness from my children. Keep me in
righteousness and justice, that with Thy children I may stand before Thee in the day of
Thy dreaded judgment, and that without fear I may say: Here I am, Lord, with the children
whom Thou hast given me, that together with them I may praise Thy most holy name of
the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen.

* Blessed Are the Pure in Heart, For They Shall See God
by Kh. Maggie Hock, Originally published in The Handmaiden, Vol. 11, No. 4
http://www.antiochian.org/node/18483