Christian Education of Children

Apostle Titus of the Seventy and Bishop of Crete

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

(Saint Symeon the New Theologian)

Come, O Life of delight, Eternity and All-Power, the All-Holy, Life-Giving and Creative Spirit, Who are of equal Honor in Authority with the Father and the Son, Whose convergence and unity into One is through the identity of worth and of the Will in the Three Persons of the Divinity.

Come, O my Lord, my anguished soul has yearned and still yearns for You. Come, O yearning that is in me and causes me to desire You Who are altogether inaccessible. Come, O my breath, my life and the consolation of my soul. Become one spirit with me, O Most Benevolent Lord, yet without confusion, without change, without alterations, since You are God above all.

Become for me the One Who is everything to all, inexpressible nourishment, totally free, constantly flowing on the lips of my soul and streaming in the fountain of my heart, a shining garment that burns the demons, the catharsis that washes me with incorruptible and holy tears that are granted by Your presence to those You approach.

Become for me, O Lord, the Light with night, the Unsetting Sun that illumines me in every place, the One Who turns away from no one at all, so that we may not be overcome by the darkness of our sins and be unwilling to come to You.

Grant me the gift of seasoned discretion to be able to discern which thoughts and whose judgments to prefer. Grant me also the ability to discern the machinations of the devil and to reject them and him. And may I cut off altogether my own will so that I may rely upon Your Providence, hoping to receive from You whatever is beneficial for me. For my life is dependent upon You, Who are my Light, my Salvation. And I bless, glorify, and worship You, together with the Father and the Son, with Whom You are Co-Eternal and Co-Existing, always, now and forever and to ages of ages. Amen.


by Archpriest Josiah B. Trenham

Part III


The proper education of children was something that Saint John gave much attention to. Though he himself profited greatly from classical Greek education (εγκύκλιος παιδεία), he made a frontal assault on the educational norms of his society as he argued for an authentic Christian education (έν Χριστώ παιδεία). The educational goal is to be no longer what had been established by Hellenistic rhetoric, but rather the Christian formation of the child as spiritual athlete...He lamented that so many parents knew how their children were being morally polluted, but tolerated it as the Status Quo:

"But the parents of the children who are being violated bear it in silence; they do not bury themselves in the earth along with their children, nor do they think of some remedy for that evil. If it were necessary to take the children to a foreign land to save them from this sickness, or to the sea, or to the island, or to an inaccessible land, or to the world beyond us, should we not do and suffer all these things so as not to allow these defilements?...But now, when such a great plague has spread everywhere, not only do we ourselves drag them down into the depths, but we drive away those who wish to set them free as if they were corrupters. What rage, what thunderbolts do these crimes not deserve?

Saint John lamented the fact that so many parents direct their efforts to insuring that their children become rich, instead of wise. Typically, parents took great pains to give their children training in arts, literature, and speech, but paid no heed their acquisition of virtue. Just as some conscientious parents show immense care to insure that their children are progressing in secular learning, so they should show the same care to insure that their children are making progress in the school of the Church and in Christian development.

The pedagogical task is the responsibility of parents. They are the ones ultimately accountable for the education of their children. If they are to enlist the assistance of tutors and pedagogues, they must take thorough care that these are positive influences and helpful in the goal of acquiring virtue. Parents are to regard themselves as artists. Like painters (Ζωγράφοι) or sculptors (λιθοξόοι) they must fashion their children. As painters place their canvas on the easel and add to it day by day, so parents must inspect their children daily, giving their leisure time to the improvement of the artwork, adding what is lacking and removing what is superfluous.

Christian education must begin from the earliest age, for the lessons learned in early youth remain with the child for good or ill. Parents must make good use of the beginning of their children's lives. When children are young they are like warm wax and the impress (κηρός) that they receive will soon harden and remain. As young plants need the greatest amount of care, so do young children. Toward this end parents should give them an incentive to goodness to their children from the start by giving them Christian names. It is not proper to name our children after our forbearers. No righteous man in the Scripture did this. Rather, we are to name our children after the righteous martyrs, bishops and apostles, so that every time they hear their names they will be encouraged to emulate the Saint.

Saint John Chrysostom considered the most important instruction to be that concerning the Church's feast days. As God commanded the Jews to do so Christian parents must teach their children the significance of the Christian feasts. To fail to do so is to be condemned as a neglectful parent, and to be such is to be worse than a murderer of one's own children. There is nothing worse than to corrupt the soul, and to harm the soul of a child is far worse than to harm his body. Some parents allow their children to be formed by listening to satanic songs (διαβολικά μελίσματα). Such parents need to be severely chastised. It is these neglectful parents who do not teach their children the Scripture stories. Therefore, in order to fulfill their educational tasks, the parents must have a Christian education themselves and know the laws of Christ, in order to pass them on to their children. If parents wish their children to be disciplined and well educated in virtue, they must be so themselves. Basic ethics (Christian values) must be taught thoroughly at home so that the priest at Church can teach the deeper truths of Scripture.

The proper education of children requires the consecration of all their senses to God. Saint John Chrysostom begins with the tongue. Children must be trained from the beginning to speak only words of reverence, giving thanks, singing solemn hymns, speaking about God and 'heavenly philosophy' (περί φιλοσοφίας τής άνω). Children must be taught to use their tongues not to criticize others, but to pinpoint their own faults. Banishing evil speaking, the parents must teach the child to sing hymns to God instead of shameful songs. If the child is accustomed to foul speech the parents should not despair of improving him. On the contrary, if parents follow the advice Saint John is offering them, the child will be thoroughly reformed within two months and his good habits will have become second nature.

Next, attention must be given to the education of the ears. Nothing harmful should be heard by the child. Parents are to imagine that their child is a great and holy house being erected for God. Builders do not let just anyone approach their building while it is in process. Only those that are well fitted to contribute to the building are allowed to draw near. Such should be the standard employed by parents for permitting associations with their children.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George