Raising Children According to St. John Chrysostom (Part II)

Greatmartyr Procopius of Caesarea, in Palestine

Greatmartyr Procopius of Caesarea, in Palestine

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE SEVENTH PRAYER OF VESPERS

+In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O great and exalted God, the only One Who is Immortal and dwells in Unapproachable Light; Who has created the whole universe in wisdom; Who has separated the light from the darkness, and has set the sun to rule over the day and the moon and the stars to rule over the night; You have made us sinners worthy once again at this hour to stand in Your presence and to offer to You our evening prayer of praise. Direct our prayer, O Loving Lord, like incense before You, and accept it as a sweet-smelling fragrance. Grant that this present evening and the approaching night will be peaceful for us. Vest us with the weapons of Light. Deliver us from nocturnal fears and from everything that lurks against us by night. Grant us sleep, given for the renewal of our weakness, that is free from every diabolical fantasy. Yes, Lord of All, and Provider of good things, grant that even as we rest upon our beds, we may remember Your Name through the night. Enlightened by meditation upon Your Commandments, may we in time arise in gladness of heart to glorify Your Goodness. Amen.

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TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):

On July 8th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Great Martyr Procopius of Caesarea in Palestine; St. Theodosia, mother of Great Martyr Procopius; New Holy Martyr Anastasios at Constantinople; St. Theophilos the Myrrh-gusher of Pantokrator Monastery; St. Mirdat, king of Kartli; St. Procopius, Fool-For-Christ of Ustiug (Vologda); St. Procopios, Fool-For-Christ of Usya; Holy Martyr Abdas; Appearance of the "Kazan" holy Icon of the Mother of God; "Our Lady of Sitka" holy Icon of the Theotokos.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fools-For Christ, Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR PROCOPIOS. He was born in Jerusalem of a Christian father and a pagan mother, at first bearing the name Neanias. After his father's death, his mother brought him up entirely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When he had grown up, the Emperor Diocletian saw him at some time and was so pleased with him that he took him to court to serve in the army. When this evil pagan emperor launched a persecution of Christians, he ordered Neanias to go with a detachment of soldiers to Alexandria and exterminate the Christians there. But on the road, there happed to Neanias something similar to that which happened to Saint Paul (Saul). At three o'clock in the morning there was a violent earthquake, the Lord Jesus appearing to him and saying: 'Neanias, where are you going, and against whom are you rebelling?' In great fear, Neanias replied: 'Who are you, Lord? I cannot recognize You.' Then a brilliant Cross, as of crystal, appeared in the sky and a voice came from the Cross: 'I am Jesus, the Crucified Son of God.' The Lord went on: 'By this sign that you have seen, overcome your enemies, and My peace will be with you.' This event utterly changed Neanias's life. He caused a cross such as he had seen to be made, and, instead of moving against the Christians, set off with his soldiers against the Agarians, who were attacking Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem victorious and told his mother that he was a Christian. Brought to trial, he took off his army belt and sword and cast them before the judge, demonstrating by this that he was a soldier only of Christ the King. After harsh torture, he was thrown into prison. There Christ the Lord appeared to him again, baptizing him and giving him the name Procopius. One day twelve women came to the window of his cell and said to him: 'We also are the servants of Christ.' Arrested for this, they were thrown into the same prison, where Saint Procopius instructed them n the Christian faith and carefully prepared them to receive the crown of Martyrdom. These twelve women were then harshly tortured. Beholding their sufferings and courage, St. Procopius's mother also came to faith in Christ, and then all thirteen were put to death. When Saint Procopius was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands towards the East and prayed to God for all the poor and needy, the destitute and the widowed, and especially for the holy Church, that it might grow and spread and that Orthodoxy might shine to the end of time. He was assured from heaven that his prayer was heard, after which he joyfully laid his head under the sword and went to his Lord, to eternal joy. Saint Procopius suffered with honor in Palestinian Caesarea, and was crowned with an eternal wreath of glory, on July 8th, 303 AD.

(Please note: Therefore those in the married state ('crowned') invoke Saint Procopius, together with the God-crowned Saints Constantine and Helena). We are also reminded when we see around the heads of Saints and Martyrs a halo to signify the state of holiness. In Greek the halo is called photostephanos (the "Crown of Light") that the holy and righteous men and women followers of Christ attain by living the Christian faith.

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Timothy 4:9-15
Holy Gospel Lesson: Luke 6:17-19, 9:1-2, 10: 16-22

INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:

"Concerning your body, and the passions which afflict its members...reverence the honor with which God has dignified the body, and do not reduce it to the vile conditions of sinful lust" (St. John Chrysostom).

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RAISING CHILDREN ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (Part II)

By Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis, Professor Emeritus of the School of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

The Selection of Educational Influences

For the ordering of a child's soul to be successful, it is important that particular care be taken to control what enters into it, what influences it is presented with. The selection of influences is vital. Saint John Chrysostom graphically represents this control as follows: In the spiritual constitution of the child's soul, the walls are the body and the gates are the five senses. All impressions and stimulants enter inform the outside world through the senses. If the gates are left unchecked, and all manner of impressions are allowed to pass through, havoc will be wrought because the child's ability to resist is limited.

One might ask, then, how is it that each sense is to be guarded particularly? What should the child see, hear, say, taste and touch? This will be the topic of the remainder of this article. The presentation of all the possible recommendations would be an enormous task, so only a few will be presented here.

Strictness is an essential element of success in pedagogical work. It must, however, be measured and consistent so as not to end in sheer roughness but neither should it leave the impression that it is only an idle threat. Continual beating, then, is not the right way to impose punishment. The child gets used to being beaten, but is no wiser for it. The more appropriate method of imposing punishment is to make use of the threat of punishment, occasionally putting it into practice, so that the child fears the punishment and does not think that the threat is empty words. Continual strictness cannot be permitted because man, by nature, needs forbearance and tolerance: "Yet when thou dost see that he has profited by fear, forbear, seeing that our human nature has need of some forbearance."

Particular care must be taken concerning what a child sees and hears. What Saint John Chrysostom says on this point is infinitely relevant in the raising of today's children. All the mediums of communication and information--books, radio, and television--besiege the hearing and vision of children which are gates into the inner world of the child. These gates, left completely unchecked, will allow the entry of things of low quality or even ethically dangerous material.

As plants need more care when they are soft and delicate, says Saint John Chrysostom, so it is with children. We must be attentive to who they keep company with in order that we might control what is said in their presence and what they learn. We must not abandon them to just "anyone", allowing that person to become the sharper of our children's souls. They need not hear babbling and useless stories, for example. "This youth kissed that maiden. The king's son and the younger daughter have done this." There exist within the Holy Scripture engaging narratives which, if offered in the correct way, will captivate a child's interest and will teach him virtue. Saint Chrysostom himself offers examples of how one might properly offer these stories.

Sexual Education

What Saint John Chrysostom teaches about the youth's "sexual education" is also interesting, and is entirely at odds with today's liberal and unbridled philosophies regarding the matter. Fleshly desire begins to appear around the fifteenth year of age and it attacks forcefully. It is only restrained with great difficulty. Children must, therefore, be kept away from obscene sights and sounds, which serve to excite this desire. As a counterbalance, to replace the above types of entertainments, we must shift children's interest in other directions, toward trips and excursions, visits to cities and museums, and spending time with spiritual and saintly people.

In our era, the state of this problem is well out of control. If the shower of impressions and aggravations which our children are exposed to in the form of the prevailing shameless manner of dress, the provocative nudity of men and women which has developed into an institution, as well as the pornographic craze particularly of television channels and internet, are not enough, the wise pedagogues of our times--the destroyers of youth, actually--introduced "sexual education" classes into schools. The wise pedagogical tradition of our Holy Fathers advocates the control of irritants and impressions so that the youth, as calm and as undistracted as possible, can productively pursue their studies. This control also encourages that the enjoyment of the pleasures of this plane be left within the context of the blessed institution of marriage, which thus even on the natural plane remains a source of joy and delight.

Today's uneducated educators forsake their responsibility to instill stillness in children even in school, where temptations and provocations ought to be kept away so that education might function as a good outlet and a place of study and learning. How many amongst these educators are spiritually cultivated persons, so that they might undertake this work soberly and responsibly? And how many parents are willing to allow this, the most important, sacred and personal aspect of their children, to be abused and perverted by the lips and teaching of just any teacher, who approaches this theme with his own bad experiences and perversions? What will remain for young people to learn and to taste within marriage, when they learn and taste it outside? For this reason marriage and family have lost all allure and attraction in our days, after all, this holy, unique and personal bond between two heterosexual people has been reduced to one of many unions which they have already experienced. This new union may be comparatively considered as even worse than the others, once the married couple starts to experience the problems of "obligatory co-habitation" and the various worldly obligations and family stresses.

Children do not need to be taught about marriage by teachers or experience it ahead of time. Nature is a self-sufficient teacher. We do not need to learn how to eat, how to drink and how to sleep. All others are from the evil one. Generations upon generations of men have married and made families successful and stable ones at that, without "sexual education," which composes yet another torpedo to the foundation of education and the family. Finally, Saint John Chrysostom believes that marriage at a younger age is a very suitable medium not only for confronting the problem of sexual desire but also for success in marriage.

Conclusion

Gleaning only a few of the elements from Saint John Chrysostom's pedagogical treatise, which has no equal in its wonderfulness and usefulness, displays the great sensitivity of the Holy Father towards the theme of the education of youth and his deep knowledge of these problems. The influence of environment, the timeliness with which education is approached, the way punishment is laid down, the selection of what youth see and hear, and caution in his sexual education are themes which today's parents and teachers must also consider. The counsels of the illumined pedagogue are indeed useful for all of us. [Source: Orthodox Heritage. Brotherhood of Saint Poimen]

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"Wherefore, as children of Light and Truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the Shepherd is, there do ye as sheep follow. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captives those that are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place." [Saint Ignatius of Antioch]

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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

+Father George