Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Orthodox Family…

Our lack of wholeness also affects our concept of the family. In our culture each member of the family is primarily concerned with his own private interests. Parents nurture a spirit of individualism which, in our day, has spawned such ideas as "Women's Liberation" (a term which Kireyevsky knew and analyzed) and "Gay Liberation". This lack of cohesiveness in the family has produced the most lifeless and sterile of environments for our children to grow up in: most homes are dominated by a television, which is often used to baby-sit children even when parents are at home. At the time of writing, 40% of American mothers work full or part-time outside of the home. As a result, children are encouraged to develop more and more outside interests which take them away from the home and the rest of the family as they "do their own thing." In the 20th century, the home has really become only a "house"-a place in which people take their meals and sleep.

Kireyevsky contrasted this with the Orthodox home in which parents are actively involved with the rest of the family and where children are taught to live and work for the good of the whole family; where parents put selfish or private interests after the goal of creating a warm, living environment in which children actually learn more from the parents than from school or their peers.

In a western family, the members rise in the morning and quickly scatter to their separate pursuits, returning home at different times in order to eat a quick dinner before again leaving to spend the evening elsewhere, in worldly pursuits. In the Orthodox family, the members awaken and gather before the household ikons while the father reads all or some of the Morning Prayers. Meals are taken together, with the parents presiding over and directing conversation. If there is a television at all, it is used with the greatest caution and parental control. Most evenings are spent quietly, either preparing for a feast or a fast, or in some other productive and family oriented activity. Parents read aloud the lives of the saints to their children.

Some have the pious custom of encouraging a child to read a saint's life aloud at a meal (often at Sunday dinner).

As Saint John Chrysostom writes:

"For just as with a general when his soldiery also is well organized the enemy has no quarter to attack; so, I say, is it also here: when husband and wife and children and servants are all interested in the same things, great is the harmony of the house. Since where this is not the case, the whole is oftentimes overthrown and broken up by one ... and that single one will often mar and utterly destroy the whole."

Above all, the Orthodox home "is the abode where the members of the family will spend the majority of their lives. It is here, not in society, nor at the market place, where individuals will learn of the important things of the Christian life. It is in the Christian home that individuals will be able to work out their eternal salvation. It is in the Christian home that children will be raised and taught by word and action what it means to be a Christian. It is in the Christian home that all of the teachings of Christ and of the Church can be practiced."

A Man Is His Faith, p 40
by Rev. Fr. Alexy (Hieromonk Ambrose) Young About the writings of Ivan Kireyevsky 1806-1856

The True Slave and Freedom in Christ ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )

"For the slave called in the Lord is a freed person in the Lord, just as the free person who has been called is a slave of Christ" (I Corinthians 7:22).
The great news that Christianity daily announces to the world is that nothing is evaluated at full value according to its external appearance but by its essence. Do not evaluate things according to its color and shape but by its meaning. Do not evaluate a man by his position and property but by his heart – by his heart in which are united his feeling, his reason and his will.

According to this, for the world always a new teaching, he is not a slave who is outwardly enslaved; neither is he free who possesses outward physical freedom.
According to secular understanding, the slave is one who enjoys the world the least and a free man is one who enjoys the world the most. According to Christian understanding, a slave is one who least enjoys from the living and sweet Christ and the free man is one who enjoys most from the living and sweet Christ.
Further, according to secular understanding, the slave is one who carries out his own will less frequently and who carries out the will of others more frequently, and a free man is one who carries out his will more often and even less often the will of others. However, according to Christian understanding, the slave is one who carries out his will more often and even less often the will of God, and the free man is one who carries out the will of God more frequently and who carries out even less frequently, his own will.
To be a slave to the Lord is the only true and worthy freedom of man and, to be a slave to the world and to one’s self, sin and vice is the only fatal slavery.
Of the kings on the throne, a man would think: Are there any more free men on earth than those? However, many kings were the most base and the most unworthy slaves of the earth.
Of shackled Christians in the dungeons, a man would think: Are there any more miserable slaves on earth than they? However, the Christian martyrs in the prisons felt as free men and were filled with spiritual joy; they chanted Psalms and raised up prayers of gratitude to God.
Freedom which is tied to grief and sorrow is not freedom but slavery. Only freedom in Christ is tied with unspeakable joy. Lasting joy is the mark of true freedom.
O Lord Jesus, the only Good Lord, Who grants us freedom when You tie us stronger to Yourself, make us Your slaves as soon as possible that we would cease to be slaves of cruel and unmerciful masters. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich


Developing a Child's Conscience


Key to the Orthodox way of Life is an active conscience. But for many, this sense we are given in our Baptism is lost or dulled by our separation from God. At a young age it is important to nurture a child's use of their conscience. How do you do this?

I knew a school principle who was very effective in maintaining discipline in an inner city school. There was an incident where boys were cutting up on the bus and in their zeal to be "smart" they mutilated one of the bus seats. The boys were identified by the supervising teacher, but she did not see them actually mutilate the seat. She sent them to the principal. Faced by the principal, the boys of course denied doing anything. What did the principal do? He began by explaining to them that they have a conscience. He told them that this is a quiet voice inside their heart that tells them right from wrong. And, if they had done anything wrong, later in the day or that night they would have a feeling coming from inside that they had done something wrong. He explained to them that once you get this feeling you want to get rid of it. He did not accuse, threaten or punish them, but told them to go home and that he would be there in the morning before the school bell rang to talk with them if they wanted to meet with him. That next morning the boys showed up in his office early and explained to him that their conscience was bothering them and that they could not even sleep very well that night. They then told him what they had done and asked for his to help to get rid of this bad feeling they had. He then led them in a discussion about how they could make up for the bad deed that had done.

He was teaching them about conscience and how to use it. This is the same task we all face with our children to help them develop a good Christian moral sense.
The biggest task for parents is to instruct their children in such a way that they do not force them to go against what they know is best for them out of rebellion. Like the principal, parents need to guide children in using their conscience so they develop a God oriented will and learn to recognize the work of God within themselves. When they learn to recognize their own sinfulness, then they can be introduced to the concept of repentance and eventually the sacrament of confession. A parent who is successful in this regard while become an open conduit for their repentance. A child will see their parents as the loving father of the story of the Prodigal son. Children will know that when they are honest with their conscience, their parents will always welcome them with gladness.

Paul points out that Christians have more than the law of the Jews. They have a law in the heart. He tells us that those "who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them" will be justified when that final judgment come. (Romans 2:12-16)

Saint Greogry of Nyssa tells us the following;
What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the lustre of the precious stone.
On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonized in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behavior. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.
Its essential to lay a sound foundation in our children so they learn to trust in their conscience knowing that it's impulses come from God.