Many parents teach their children the arts that serve the temporal life, and spend no small sum on it, but they neglect the Christian teaching and are remiss in teaching their children to live as Christians. Such parents beget their children unto the temporal life, but close the door to the eternal.
St. John Chrysostom, in considering the misfortune of both parents that neglect the good upbringing of their children and of the children not well brought up, says this, "Parents that neglect to bring up their children as Christians, are most heinous murderers of children" (Homil 3 "Against Those that Slander the Monastic Life"). For child-killers separate the body from the soul, but these parents cast them both soul and body into the fire Gehenna. It is impossible to escape from the former death according to natural law, but would be possible to escape from the latter death were the negligence of the parents not to blame for it. Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (cf. Eph. 6:4).
A Gardener binds a newly planted sapling to a stake driven and fixed into the ground lest it be uprooted from the ground by wind and storm, and he prunes unneeded branches from the tree lest they harm the tree and dry it up. You should also act likewise with your small and young children. Bind their hearts to the fear of God let they be shaken by the machinations of Satan and depart from piety, and prune away the passions that grow in them lest they mature and overpower them and so put the new, inward man to death that was born in holy Baptism. For we see that as children grow up, then sinful passions also appear and grow with them as unneeded branches of a tree. Therefore, lest these iniquitous branches matrue and harm and kill the man washed, sanctified, and justified in holy Baptism, it is absolutely necessary to prune them away with the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Then, beloved prune away these shoots from your children and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). As soon as they begin to understand reason, even a little, and to know good and evil, you should begin your work and teach them. Do thus with them:
1. Remind them often of holy Baptism and that at that time they promised God to live decently and steadfastly, to serve Him with faith and righteousness, and to keep away from every evil and sin.
2. Repeat to them as often as possible that we are all born and begotten in Baptism not for this temporal life, not for the sake of obtaining honor, glory, and riches in this world - that our very death indicates that we should abide otherwise than forever in this world - but that we are born and begotten for eternal life. All our life in this world, from birth to death, is a journey on which we travel to our promised homeland and eternal life.
Remind them often of this, lest they give themselves over to the vanity of this world, and so that they may learn to philosophize on higher and not on earthly things.
3. Let them understand Who is the God of Christians, and what He requires of us, that He hates evil and loves good, that He punished man for evil and rewards him for good, and although we do not see Him, He does see us and is invisibly present with us everywhere and sees our every deed and hears our every word. It is necessary, then, to fear Him and to do what is pleasing to Him.
4. Enlighten their inward eyes as to Who Christ is in Whom we believe, and for what cause He came into the world and lived and suffered and died. Our sins were the cause of this, and our eternal salvation, so that being delivered from sin we might obtain eternal salvation.
5. Teach them the Law of God, and tell them what the Law demands of us: That is, that we should love God and every man; that everything that is contrary to that Law is vice and sin, while everything that is in agreement and accordance with it is virtue.
In holy Baptism we promised God to keep the Law of God and so depart from every sin and live virtuously. Whoever lives otherwise does not keep these vows and is found to be false before God, and if he does not truly repent and correct himself, he will appear false at the Judgement of Christ.
6. Set before them the last things: death, Christ's judgement, eternal life, and eternal torment, that the fear of God may so abide in them and preserve them from every evil. Pour these and other things like milk into their young hearts, that they may mature in piety.
They call you parents, then be true parents. You gave them birth according to the flesh, then also give birth to them according to the spirit. You gave them birth unto the temporary life, beget them also to eternal life.
Young children pay greater attention to the actions of their parents than to their teaching. Therefore, if you wish your children to be pious and good, you yourselves should be pious and good, and show yourselves as example to them, and so Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (cf. Eph. 6:4). And so you and your children together shall receive eternal salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
The Orthodox Duties of Parents and Children by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Compiled By Fr. Demetrios Serfes